Visiting Bohol Island, The Philippines

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After leaving Palawan (reluctantly I might add!), we headed to the second of our paradise islands: Bohol Island. It was my second visit to this lush island and I was happy to be back. I was last here in 2011 and it was only a fleeting visit so I was eager to explore parts of the island I had not visited.

Bohol is famous for its landscape, wildlife and diving. The main island is the 10th largest island in the Philippines and has a coastline of 261 kilometers. There are another 75 minor islands off the main island, I guess that is how the Philippines has over 7,000 islands!

In 2013 Bohol was hit by a massive 7.2 magnitude earthquake devastating a lot of the infrastructure and destroying many historic churches. The earthquake claimed over 200 lives and injured over 1,000 people. Most of the tourist infrastructure is intact so this will not impact your trip. On the contrary, if you are visiting the Philippines, I urge you to visit the island. The more tourists that visit the island the more the locals can prosper.

After checking in to our amazing hotel (more on that later) we quickly headed out again to go on a tour with a difference. We went firefly spotting along the Loay River. I had never heard of a firefly tour before but after seeing many of them in Sri Lanka I was excited to see these little glowing beetles again. Unfortunately, the weather turned cooler and wetter on our way to the river so the firefly’s decided to shelter instead of putting on a show for us. There were a few about though and I am sure in the right weather it would be an amazing sight. Just check the weather forecast before booking.

I love water sports, especially diving and kayaking. However, there was one water sport that I was not too keen on and that was Paddle Boarding. It always looked so tiring and pointless. That was until I tried it in Bohol. We went paddle boarding on the same river as the firefly tour, the Loay River. You know what? I loved every minute of it. It just goes to show you that until you try something you can’t really have an opinion on it. I found the exercise so relaxing. We gently went down the river with lush vegetation all around us, the only sounds were of the paddle hitting the water or the local children playing in the river. Travel opens you up to things that you would not normally try. Now I know that I like paddle boarding. Thank you Bohol!

By far the highlight of my trip to the Philippines was the lunch we took on a river cruise. (There are lots of river activities in Bohol.) We were all expecting a nice traditional Filipino lunch as we slowly went down stream. Well we did have a delicious lunch and we did go down stream but we also had a band on the boat belting out hit after hit. After our magnificent feast we were all up dancing to Western hits and a few Filipino hits too. When I say all up dancing, I mean all. The chefs, the waiters, our guides, everyone was dancing like nobody was watching. My favourite part was when we learnt the moves to a local dance and all mimicked each other. For me this lunch is a perfect example of what the Filipino people are like; warm, hospitable and fun. It is no coincidence that the Tourism Boards slogan is: It’s more fun in the Philippines. It really is.

Half way through our lunch we came up to a small jetty on the river. At first I thought it was like a boat stop for people to go to the nearby villages. As we got closer I noticed quite a few people waiting. Again, I thought they were waiting for a boat to take them somewhere. Only when we got really close did I notice the instruments. It turned out that they were a village band/choir. At weekends when the children are off school they perform to raise funds for the village which was hit by the earthquake. The ages of the band started at around 3 and went up to around 90. It was truly a cross-section of the whole village.

It was such a magical experience. The smaller children were all singing and playing the ukulele, the older children were doing amazing dance moves between two bamboo sticks and the adults were singing and clapping. Of course we had to get involved. We all tried to dance between the sticks to the amusement of the village. The teenagers made it look so easy but it was anything but. There are times when you travel when you know that you are in a moment that will stay with you forever. This was one of those moments. I could have stayed with the villagers for hours, chatting, eating and drinking.

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