Island hopping around the Central Visayas

My second week in the Philippines really captured the essence of ‘island life’ – it was a wonderful experience of true Filipino culture. I do need to say up front though – there isn’t much variety in my pictures this week as my phone was pretty broken, only working 45% of the time, so I couldn’t actually take photos half the time!

From Cebu city, I boarded a ferry across to Bohol, where I spent a wonderful, laugh-a-minute, long weekend. As I got off the ferry, I met another backpacker heading to my hostel, Coco Farm, located on Panglao, a small island connected to the mainland of Bohol. She and I instantly got on, and met up with a friend of hers from home at the hostel too. From there, the 3 of us planned how we were going to spend the next few days, and it was non stop from then on.

For the next two days, all three of us crammed onto one bike and sped off to visit some of the sites on offer around Panglao island, including the Bee Farm, (known for its amazing ice-cream -my mango one was sublime but I wouldn’t recommend the Durian flavoured one!) and the Virgin Island. Here, you pay donations only for a local church to take you on a boat to this very small island, which is dedicated to the Catholic faith. We got kayaks (also donation only) and swam around huge statues of Jesus and his disciples in the sea, and rotary beads with the crucifixtion cross as well. It was quite a unique experience and one I wouldn’t have known about had the guy I was with not extensively researched the area! Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of the statues but the beach itself is below.

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Sand bank on Virgin Island (also extremely similar to that on Kalangaman island, mentioned later)

We also spent a fair amount of time on the local beach. If you search Bohol in Google, it’ll probably recommend you visit Alona beach (as do all of the taxi drivers that hound you as you get off the ferry), however we’d heard it was over developed now, so headed off to a beach closer to our hostel, Dumaluan beach. It is stunning. The girl I was with had just come from Boracay, and her response to the area was “this is how Boracay should be, without all of the development”. Boracay is a very popular tourist local in the Philippines, famous for its beautiful beaches, so I’m sure you can imagine how stunning this beach was. The picture below should help too.

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Sunset at Dumaluan beach

On our last day on the island, we got our own bikes and conducted our own tour of the mainland visiting the following spots: a Tarsier sanctuary, bamboo hanging bridges where we scared all the local tourists by rocking and jumping the bridge, drove through the man-made forest, and finished the sight-seeing at the Chocolate Hills. In spite of the name, they don’t grow caoco beans here – the hills are actually made from coral, from when the island was previously submerged by the sea. They’re called chocolate as during the summer, they change to a brown, chocolatey colour.

We then drove up to an activity centre on the very north of the island where, unbeknown to me, we were embarking on an extreme caving adventure. Turns out it’s more for very experienced cavers, but if one of us was doing it in flip-flops, I could manage in trainers. Free hand climbing and rappling, small spaces and wading through a river with bats flying over your head isn’t something I’d normally rush to sign up for, but despite my complaining, I did really enjoy it (once I was out!).

The next day I headed back to Cebu and headed north to hop over to the island of Malapascua, known for its diving and thresher sharks. It’s a very small island that you can walk around in about an hour, and I stayed in a hostel in the middle of the island, surrounded by the local village i.e. slightly less touristy than those on the beach, and I really loved it here.

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Bounty beach, Malapascua

I decided to complete my advancedaughter open water PADI course here, and on my deep dive, I managed to see 3 Thresher sharks, just swimming around about 7m in front of me! They normally swim at depths of 200m but come up every morning to be cleaned by fish – it was worth the 4am wake up to see them, that’s for sure. Once I’d got my certification, which included doing a night dive, I took a day trip to do some fun dives on/around Kalangaman island.  The reef there was awesome, we had a fantastic BBC lunch on the island and I spent the afternoon chilling in the sun before heading back. It was a great way to end my time in the Philippines.

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Beach at Kalangaman island

In keeping with the friendly filipino culture, on my last flight around the Philippines, I was talking to a local guy sat next to me and we got onto the subject of my broken phone. He was an IT consultant and thought he knew what the problem was, so called his local Apple repair shop, negotiated a discount on the price (Filipino price, not tourist price too) and even drove me there from the airport. For £20, I got a brand new screen, fixed in front of me in about 15 minutes. My phone is working again which is amazing – he did me a huge favour and was just the most lovely man you’ll ever meet. I won’t be getting deals like that any more!

I can’t really believe that my 3 and a half months in SE Asia are already up! My next post will be coming to you from the land down under, so until then,

E x

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