Bohol Philippines

The Island of Bohol Philippines

We met up with Christian, a friend from our Tao Philippines trip and had a great day trip discovering parts of Bohol.  We started at a statue commemorating a 16th century blood compact between the Spanish and Bohols.  Nearby is the Church of Immaculate Conception in Baclayon.  Completed in 1727 and made of coral stone it is considered one of the Philippines oldest churches.  We had a short stop at a butterfly farm before heading off to see the islands infamous Tarsier.  The tiny cute Tarsier is one of the worlds smallest primates.  They are nocturnal hunters feeding mostly on insects and apparently can jump between 3 and 5 metres!  We then travelled through forest, paddy fields and small villages to the Chocolate Hills, Bohol’s best known tourist attraction.  They are very uniform grass covered hills between 30 and 50 metres in height, geologists think they are a weathered Marine Limestone that sit on top of impermeable clay.  I prefer the legend that they came into existence when two giants threw stones and sand at each other in a fight that lasted for days.  When they were finally exhausted they made friends, left the island and left behind the hills!  We decided not to wait at the main viewpoint for sunset as the direction of light wasn’t great so we headed off-road into the surrounding Paddy fields.  A very friendly local farmer guided us to a perfect spot to watch the sun go down, he even went off and got us some fresh coconuts for us to sip!  In the meantime Sacha had met all the local children and sent them out to make sure we weren’t lost, it was such a shame it was too dark by then to take any pictures.  Running alongside our taxi they gave us a great Philippine sendoff!!!

Panglao Island

Panglao Island Central Visayas Philippines

We flew from Puerto Princesa in Palawan to Cebu City, the second city of the Philippines.  We had an overnight stop here before getting a 2 hour ferry trip to Tagbilaran on the island of Bohol.  From here it was about a 40 minute transfer to Alona Beach on Panglao Island.  We had a great week staying at the Alona Northland Resort, highly recommended if anyone is going that way.  Alona Beach is another big diving centre of the Philippines.  We had a great daytrip to the nearby Balicasag Island, watching the sunrise and spotting some dolphins as we travelled out on the boat.  Balicasag had some of the best snorkeling we had seen in the Philippines, so many fish, it was like being inside a tropical fish tank!  We also stopped off at Virgin Island, a beautiful sandbar – shame about the hawkers selling shells, corals and urchins!  We had some great sunsets on Panglao, the best when we got a local tricycle driver to take us to the end of the island.  There is no way we would have found the spot if we went ourselves so it just goes to show you can’t beat local knowledge.

Palawan Adventure

Our 5 Day Voyage of Discovery through the beautiful Islands of Palawan

We joined 24 other intrepid explorers on a 5 day voyage through the totally unspoilt archipelago between Coron Town and El Nido organised by the amazing Tao Philippines.  The group consisted of nationalities from Wales, England, France, Italy, Sweden, Germany, USA, Taiwan, Japan, Australia, Canada & the Philippines.  We were split into two outrigger style boats with A-Mazing crew on each headed by Johan and Jimboy.  We all had our main bags stowed on the boat and had daily access to a day bag which housed your essential items, including a change of swimwear and a toothbrush – what else do you need???  It was so refreshing not having access to any outside communication for 5 days, something we take for granted in our modern lifestyle.  This trip was not about first class travel and luxury accommodation, it was about sleeping on pristine beaches, adventure, deserted Islands, amazing snorkeling and swimming, drinking Rum and making new friends – not necessarily in that order!  We ate lots of bananas, rice and fresh fish which was expertly prepared by the onboard chefs.  The crews of both ships were superb, such good fun!  They did soooo much for us, nothing seemed a chore, always smiling – a huge Thank You goes to them!

Coron Town Busuanga

Coron Town Busuanga Island Philippines

The island of Busuanga is about an hour flight southwest of Manila and is the largest of the Calamian Archipelago in the Northern part of Palawan Provice.  The flight approach in gave us a glimpse of some of the beautiful tropical islands that we would be exploring, WOW!  From the tiny airport terminal (no carousel here!!!) everyone is shepherded into waiting minivans for the 40 minute transfer to Coron Town.  We were staying at the Luis Bay Travellers Lodge, a great position close to the busy harbour where all the island trips depart and just far enough away from the town centre for peace and quiet.  The place immediately had a good feel with the white Coron sign above the town aka Hollywood!  Coron is a real hub for divers and has a number of well preserved Japanese WWII underwater shipwrecks surrounded with coral reef.  We, however were here to relax before our 5 day boat trip to El Nido with Tao Philippines (blog coming soon).  We did organise a daytrip on a small Bangka with our captain Angelo to the nearby Coron Island.  We moored in a beautiful inlet among the sheer karst limestone cliffs and took a steep climb over a ridge to the crystal clear waters of Kayangan Lake a perfect spot for a swim!

Donsol Philippines

Donsol Philippines

We flew into Legazpi in the Bicol region of Luzon Island in the Philippines.  We had a great view of the majestic Mayon Volcano as we landed on the runway.  We were hoping to get some better shots before we flew back to Manila but unfortunately the weather didn’t cooperate!  The hour van transfer down to Donsol on the South Coast went through beautiful palm fringed paddy fields and small villages.  The scenery reminded me of some of the Vietnam style war films which is hardly surprising as the Philippines was used in the filming of Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Hamburger Hill, Born on the 4th of July and more recently, the Bourne Legacy.  Donsol is the main place in the Philippines where you can spot Whale Sharks or Butanding as they are known locally.  We stayed at the Vitton Beach Resort which is adjacent to the registration centre and boat departures for the whale watching.  The first evening we were treated to the most amazing sunset, one of the most colourful we have ever seen.  The next morning I went out with another 5 Europeans in search of the elusive whale shark.  It was an exciting trip out into the bay and we all ended up diving into the sea on three sightings and frantically snorkeling to where the shark was spotted.  A couple of people from our boat caught a sighting of the tail but unfortunately I didn’t see a thing so I’ll have to try again another day!

Manila Philippines

Manila Philippines

Nothing really prepares you for the traffic chaos in and around Metro Manila.  It unfortunately gives a very bad first impression of the Philippines being the main entry point for most tourists and doesn’t really entice you into exploring the city properly.  We arrived on a very early flight from Kuala Lumpur so just managed to beat the morning rush hour.  We luckily scored a great deal at The Manila Hotel, described in our guidebook as Manila’s equivalent to Singapore’s Raffles!  It lived up to it’s name with amazing food and service.  We had to force ourselves to venture out from this lap of luxury and at least see some sights so visited the neighboring Intramuros, a walled Spanish city which is the historic centre and the oldest district of Manila.  We hired a pedal powered tricycle taxi to take us around the main sights such as Fort Santiago, housing a shrine to Jose Rizal, a national hero of the Philippines.  Unfortunately the Manila Cathedral was closed for renovations so we went into the nearby San Agustin Church, a 17th Century Spanish Baroque Church, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  We also went to the SM Mall of Asia which is the 4th largest in the world and houses a full sized ice rink, an IMAX theatre and the usual shops and food courts.  Before leaving the Philippines we met our Philippino friend Simon at Makati, the CBD of Manila which on a Sunday felt like an oasis of calm comparing to the chaos of the Metropolis!!!

Philippine Transport

Philippine Transport

Here are just a few of the different types of transport we experienced or saw on our journey in the Philippines.  The most famous being the iconic Jeepney which were originally made from US Military Jeeps left over from World War 2, one of the cheapest modes of transport available.  The motorised tricycles came in all sorts of sizes depending on the area you were in, some were a real tight squeeze even for us vertically challenged folk!!!!  Also a few shots of the Bangka, traditional Philippine boats based on the outrigger canoe.  Cebu Pacific was our airline of choice to zip us between the islands.  We particularly like the floating restaurant shaped like a turtle with a head that swayed back and fore!!!