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GETTING BACK TO NATURE IN THE PHILIPPINESBehind The Bend

- Eric Stauble

We'll here we are, less then a week from our return home to the United States. It's crazy to think both how long we've been gone but also how fast the time went. Initially when we decided to go to the Philippines, we knew that it would be a bit of rest after two pretty grueling weeks of work and travel. In the end, it definitely had its restful moments but I don't think we full anticipated just how much of an adventure that it would be.

The Philippines is known for many things, but the white sand beaches were what we were most dreaming about when we booked the plane tickets. We decided to start our journey on the island of Cebu, but knowing it was going to be another big city we quickly rerouted to a smaller islands close by called Bohol. Bohol is about two hours south west by boat for Cebu, but it is truly another world apart.

Our first day on the island we booked a driver and had him show us the sights. Though all of the Philippine islands have incredibly ancient and beautiful Catholic Churches, what was most beautiful to us on Bohol was the natural landscape. Getting around the island you spend a lot of time driving through a lush mahogany forest that is unlike anything we have ever seen. With the high precipitation in the area, the green of the trees is so bright it almost seems like they are professionally lit. It truly feels like a movie set.

Next to the mahogany forest, our other two favorite parts would have to be the Chocolate Hills and a small little animal that is sort of a monkey/squirrel hybrid called a Tarsier. The Chocolate Hills are a naturally forming phenomena in the center of the island. They are hills shaped as perfect half circle domes with a tall grass growing all over them. During the dry season the grass dries and leaves them looking like domes of milk chocolate as far as the eye can see. It's pretty unbelievable.

And the Tarsier, what can we say? They are a ridiculously adorable little nocturnal creatures, but due to the over development of the island are getting more and more endangered every year. We had the chance to visit a local research facility and it will truly be a sad thing if these little guys become extinct. They are incredibly interesting and a very important part of the ecosystem on the island.

So how do you top a day like that you ask? Well having throughly explored the land, it was now time to take to the sea. We woke up the next morning and boarded a 6am boat to what the locals call the Virgin Islands. The Philippines is a country made up of 1500-1700 different islands. The number is vague, because some of them are so small it's hard to really get an accurate count. The Virgin Islands are the ones that are still habited by either locals or no one at all. There is no commercial development of any kind on them at this point.

Our first stop on our ocean voyage was a reef where we got to watch a pod of Dolphin play, breech and feed on a large school of fish. We then went another 20 minutes or so farther off the Bohol coast where we came upon a tiny island with white sand beaches. About a thousand people total live on the island and their main income is taking tourists like us out to see the local ocean life. We got the chance to swim with sea turtles and what seemed like a million of the most brightly colored fish you can imagine. From there it was off the a sand bar where we lounged in about 2 feet of water in the middle of the ocean and then took the long way back and toured the Bohol coast line.

So as you can tell the Philippines portion of our journey was an exercise in getting back to nature. If you're ever in the Philippines we definitely recommend Bohol, but we have a feeling you can't really go wrong visiting any of the countries beautiful islands and beaches.


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