TAGBILARAN, BOHOL – There is always a first time.
My trip to Bohol was cut short for a day. Typhoon Hagupit decided to have a little excursion in the Philippines. Good thing this typhoon weakened and it did not left much damage to its trail.
Nonetheless, it meant that I need to re-book my inbound flight to Bohol, call Agoda, inform the tour operator and re-adjust the travel insurance policy.
But surely this is not the first time I am adding a year to my age while being outside of Metro Manila. For 2014, a Bohol birthday celebration is in order!
First Day High: Country-side Tour
Got the Bohol Country-side Tour from RJ Intano (+63917 324 5488, firstname.lastname@example.org, 1,650 per pax all-in) of HRI Tours and Transport Services. His rate is cheaper than what Loboc River Resort has offered.
Directly from Tagbilaran Airport, we went ahead with the tour. Supposedly, there should have been a slack day before embarking with the tour. It turned out that this is not a bad idea. Touts outside the airport were many and the heat was not bearable as well.
Our first stop was the Blood Compact Shrine (spoiler: not the actual spot of this historical event) sculpted by our National Artist and a Boholano Napoleon Abueva.
The interesting part of this was that we were able to get a sneak peek of Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel. Literally just beside the Shrine!
Prony the python died last year. RIP to the big girl who used to be fed with stray dogs. So no more Prony visit for us.
Visited next the Baclayon Church (Ruins). How a natural phenomenon (earthquake) can greatly alter the landscape and history of a town.
We passed by the town of Loay and saw the mouth of the Loboc River. You can see many Nipa here that sway (loay loay) when blown by the wind.
We skipped Loboc first since we plan to make it our last stop for the cruise and lunch. Our overnight accommodation is also located in this municipality so it was just perfect!
The Tarsier Conservation Area is just a few minutes away from the Loboc River Cruise complex. I have to admit that it really just for a show. Despite the warning and information being shared by the tour guides, you will just feel that these tarsiers are just stressed out. There is probably a better way for people to appreciate these nocturnal animals.
After buying some souvenir items, we went straight to Carmen to see the world-famous Chocolate Hills. Along this road, we passed by the man-made forest.
During this travel to Carmen, it was just too obvious not to miss those little hills outgrown with trees. They look like islands in a sea of green fields.
Get ready to climb 214 steps just to reach the top of a hill to see the panoramic view of Chocolate Hills. At this season, the hills are more “minty” as our tour guide would describe.
After getting enough of the scenery and taking thousands of pictures, we traced our way back and stopped over for a quick butterfly actions in Habitat Bohol. I admire the guide’s sense of humor here. A butterfly sanctuary may not be an adrenaline-inducing activity but they have managed to get and keep the full attention of the visitors.
I have also just known here that the caterpillar of a butterfly will not give you rashes and itchy skin. My misplaced fear was actually brought about by the moth’s caterpillar.
We skipped the Bamboo Hanging Bridge. We were hungry. A good buffet lunch while cruising in Loboc River seemed more appealing to us.
The Loboc River Cruise and the buffet lunch were included in the country-side tour package. So once we were in the docking area of the boats we just queued and our tour guide was the one who arranged all the needed payment.
I have read a lot of stuff about the quality of the buffet food in the cruise itself. Personally, the food was just okay. I was not expecting a Michelin Star dining experience.
We were early so we were able to start eating even before the boat started the cruise. The selection of food was okay as well. They have served local delicacies which I really enjoyed. New servings were also regularly replenished to the buffet table once food are running out.
The cruise itself is relaxing. The river is lined with Nipa in most places and the turquoise water is very soothing to my very tired eyes. There are local dancers that will entertain you for a short stop on their balsa. It would not be bad to give some tip. Speaking of which, the boat crew will also pass around tip baskets.
After the cruise we were dropped off at Loboc River Resort to check in.
Overnight stay in Loboc River Resort
This place was a great find. Staying in Loboc area may not be the first option for many. But I am happy we did. Loboc River Resort was a piece of heaven without giving much burden on the budget.
This place is highly recommended. You have to check it out for yourself. At most, an overnight stay in Loboc River Resort will do. The area is not near the Loboc Tourism complex.
Dining is confined to their restaurant. It is not that bad but kind of limiting (which will not be an issue if you will just be staying for a night!)
Some of the nice things on this resort:
1. Overlooking Loboc River – Your room should be facing the river (the mosquitoes though!)
2. Monkey Island – yes, a troop of monkeys jumping from one branch to another. Wait for the feeding time at around five in the afternoon.
3. Swimming pool – big enough to do some laps.
4. Viena’s Kitchen – Above average food. Complimentary breakfast was great. Do not order though the chicken wings.
Other accommodations options you can check out in Loboc
- Nipa Hut Village
- Fox & Firefly Cottages
- Twilight N Pension House
- Stefanie Grace Paradise Inn and Resto Bar
- Hilltop Cottage Resort
We checked out and the resort gave us a free shuttle service to the highway where we were able to get a public transpo to Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel.
A room with a view: Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel
When I have read the reviews and saw the pictures of this hotel in Agoda and Tripadvisor, I knew then that I will book this one. Despite the location not being in the town proper, I just knew that this hotel will have a certain charm.
I booked Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel early as they only have 14 rooms available. My main concern at that stage is that I want to get the room facing the ocean. And my wish was granted.
Other accommodations options you can check out in Bohol proper and Panglao Island
Some of Ocean Cafe selection of food:
Ocean Suites’ complimentary breakfast. We brought the apples.
A DIY Tagbilaran City Tour
We have a day to spend to roam around Tagbilaran. Jeepneys and buses are plying the highway in front of Ocean Suites Boutique Hotel. Any public vehicle with a signboard “TAGBI” or “TAGBILARAN ICM” will do. The latter being the last stop at Island City Mall.
Fare to the town proper is just minimum. For tricycle/trike, it will cost around 25 pesos per person.
If you need to send a snail mail to any part of the world, Tagbilaran Post Office is near Garden Cafe.
The biggest malls in Tagbilaran are BQ (Bohol Quality) Mall and Island City Mall (ICM). I would rather recommend ICM than BQ Mall.
Watching movies here is also cheap compared to Manila’s 220 to 230 peso movie ticket.
We have seen a viral video of a traveler checking out an absurd toilet in one of the gas stations in Tagbilaran. I liked the idea that we hunted this place just for the sake of seeing it ourselves.
After we have found it, yes, it really looks and smells nice for a common gas station toilet with background music playing and oil essence burning.
Anyway, enough with toilets! We went to Gerarda’s for dinner. I was not sure if reservations are needed but we were accommodated even without one.
What to order: Crispy Tinadyang, Dinakdakan and Seafood Kare Kare!
Another food option in Tagbilaran is The Buzzz Cafe by Bohol Bee Farm in Island City Mall. There is no excuse not to visit this place.
We have ordered here: grilled fish, native chicken soup, guyabano shake and ginger lemonade.
Of course for desserts we ordered Ube and Dragonfruit ice creams.
Bohol Dolphin Watching and Island Hopping
This tour has to start early. To be exact at 5 in the morning! Got this package with HRI Tours as well for 1,750 pesos for person (with an extra charge for the hotel pick up from Ocean Suites). We just asked the hotel to pack our breakfast and then we ate it in the boat.
This is also our only chance to be in Panglao Island and set foot in Alona Beach.
We were drifting for about 30 minutes towards Balicasag Island before we were able to spot our first group of dolphins. Instinctively, I think these dolphins are feeding and they are also following the sunrise (but I am not sure!)
Once the group of dolphin started thinning out and they are getting farther away, we decided to proceed to Balicasag Island. We passed by boats that are anchored waiting for scuba divers to surface. And that point I got jealous for a little bit.
Good thing we will be doing snorkeling and fish feeding in Balicasag Island. Rent fee of booties is 150 pesos per pair. Masks, snorkels and vests were supplied by our boat crew. There, we needed to have a local tour guide for the skin diving activity. But I do not mind.
Fish feeding was great. Big fishes are many but not as colorful compared to those little coral reef fishes. I was able to snorkel the near edge of the cliff where scuba divers usually do a wall dive. I am not wearing fins hence it was not easy treading.
We went back to island and waited for a while for high tide before we could get to Virgin Island. This can explain the long bamboo sticks used by the crew to push our boat.
We only stayed here for just a short time. The Island has been fenced out by the Owner, closing off a big portion of the island.
We went back to Panglao Island before noon. I was happy to see Alona Beach again, this time in full day light.
Bohol Birthday Celebration: The end
To simply conclude: First is Batanes, second is Bohol.
I just love the options available here: sightseeing, history, nature, caves, beach, fauna and more without sacrificing the conveniences of modern life.
I really have to say that this has became an awesome Bohol birthday celebration!