Onto Bohol… the 13 May 2013 was declared a ‘Special Non-Working Day’ by the Filipino Premier in light of the fact that it was election day. Since it was a Monday, and a lot of the public holidays here are mid-week, we thought we should make the most of the long weekend and go away somewhere. On the Sunday we arrived back from Puerto Galera, we started checking flights and found remarkably good valued flights to Bohol. It was somewhere we had wanted to visit, so we went ahead and booked them.
Once again, come Saturday, we had to be up at the sparrow’s proverbial to head out to the airport. This time I think I was just as grumpy as Mr H (I need to give a balanced view here!). We arrived into utter chaos (a slight exaggeration – probably because of said grumpiness) with no clear queue for our flight and people everywhere. I joined what I thought was the queue only to be told, in no uncertain terms, that the end of the queue was another 25m behind us. So we joined that. At this point there was about an hour left before our flight was due to leave. The queue was not moving very fast at all. We were near the front at about the scheduled time of departure. Still, we all got checked in, and boarded the plane with only a 15 minute delay.
The delay was due to system migration – the day before we flew, Zest Air had joined forces with Air Asia (or were taken over, I’m not sure of the technicalities).
Tagbilaran airport is teeny. But that meant we were out the other side very quickly. We met a driver, Ramon, who took us to our hotel on Panglao island. He was full of information about the island and a really pleasant chap. The drive took about 25 minutes along lovely quiet island roads.
Our hotel – Panglao Regents Park – was great. It looked just as it does in the pictures, which was encouraging. And they let us check in at 10am! So we checked in and headed round the corner to Arts Cafe for breakfast.
At Arts Cafe, there was a distinct ‘travellers’ feel, the first time I had experienced this in the Philippines. If you’ve been elsewhere in South East Asia, on the backpacker trail, you’ll know what I mean. We had a smashing breakfast of muesli, yogurt and freshfruit (for me) and bangus (smoked milkfish) with scrambled egg (for mr H). It was delicious. So delicious that we went back there for breakfast on the following 2 mornings. Sitting outside, with the wind gently rustling in the coconut trees nearby… it was perfect.
We wandered down to Alona beach, about 7 minutes away if you walk, later in the day. We’d taken our snorkelling gear with us because we planned on doing a boat trip. It wasn’t difficult to find someone offering a boat trip, so we agreed our price (1400 Pesos) and headed out to find the boat. The water off Alona Beach is turquoise and crystal clear. The beach is sandy and pleasant, but it couldn’t be described as quiet. There are resorts, restaurants and bars all the way up the beach.
The boat trip took us to Balicasag island (about 40 minutes away) where we hopped into a much smaller boat (a further 400 Pesos – 100 each for the conservation fee and 200 for the boat and boatman). Typical Brits, we spent some time debating whether or not to spend the extra 400 Pesos. It was the best extra 400 Pesos we’d ever spent. When we jumped off the boat into the water, it was like being in an aquarium. I have never seen so many brightly coloured fish in one place (even in an aquarium) before. I don’t think I can fully describe it. But it was just amazing to see Clown Fish and Angel Fish and fish which looked like zebras or luminous purple fish etc. Balicasag is on a reef, and we were right at the edge of the reef. It was an odd feeling as the ocean floor just dropped away beneath us. Even though we were buoyant in the water, it still somehow felt as though you might drop over the edge. Mr H was lucky enough to glimpse a turtle swimming into the depths. I was too busy counting how many Clown Fish I could see.
From there we headed to Virgin Island. It’s uninhabited, and from a distance looks like a tropical paradise. It was lovely to be able to walk along the sand spit with the crystal clear waters lapping up on either side of us. It was low tide when we headed out there so we had to take it easy on the boat. But this meant we got to see even more marine life – starfish in all sorts of colours and even the odd jellyfish. I’d never seen jellyfish so big. I was so relieved I hadn’t seen any of those whilst snorkelling.
Maybe I do write too much… I was going to write about Bohol in one post, but I feel that Day 2 might require a separate post!