After arriving in flooded Manila in the middle of a typhoon, I worried that my entire trip to the Philippines would be overcast and rainy. And it was… until I arrived in Bohol. Because this island is surrounded by 70 smaller islands, it’s often protected from bad weather experienced in the rest of the Philippines during rainy season.
We were greeted with blue skies and sunshine (although we did experience the occasional short rain shower), and booked three day tours to see the top Bohol tourist spots with the experts. If you love adventure and want to experience the Chocolate Hills, fireflies in the mangroves and marine life on the best day tours in Bohol, stick around… it’s about to get exciting!
Adventure in Bohol’s Countryside
Before arriving in Bohol, I’d seen the photos on Instagram… rolling Chocolate Hills (of the non-edible variety), high-flying zip lines and the beautiful Loboc River. I wanted to see it all… so I got in touch with an expert! BetterMan Tours put together a full day customized itinerary of the Philippines’ 10th largest island to ensure that we got to experience all the beauty and adrenaline Bohol has to offer.
The smallest primate in the world lives right here in Bohol! To me, the tarsier looks like a cross between a gremlin and a Furby… cute, but a bit mischievous! Don’t worry, though. These tiny animals with huge eyes only eat insects.
The Tarsier Sanctuary offers an opportunity to see there adorable animals in their natural habitat. I love that each tarsier has an employee standing by to protect it from any tourists who try to get too close. A little distance guarantees these nocturnal creatures their beauty rest.
Loboc Ecotourism Adventure Park
Wind your way into the hills for a ride on Loboc Eco Adventure Park’s zipline. Hike up a hill to your departure point, where you’ll be strapped into a sling (no uncomfortable wedgie-inducing harnesses). From here, it’s time to take flight almost 600 feet over the Loboc River facedown in the Superman position. This is the best zipline I’ve ever ridden. The view is incredible and the set up of the sling ensures you the perfect position to see everything around you!
Loboc River Cruise
Adventuring builds up an appetite, so it’s time to unwind with a river cruise. After seeing it from above, we boarded a Loboc River cruise for lunch. Cruise the turquoise waters, past children laughing as they swing from rope swings and climb trees. The boat stops for a cultural song and dance performance and we listened as we chowed down on pork adobo and other local delicacies.
Each boat has its own on-board entertainment, and our singer and guitarist knew just what to play! We sang along to ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘I’m Yours’ as we came to the end of our lunch, savoring the sweet ube halaya and mango tapioca.
Man Made Forest
In 1958, a 1.2 mile stretch of land was set aside by the government for nature preservation. Thousands of Mahogany trees were planted on 40 square miles of land and the end result is amazing! The trees stand like sentinels over the winding roads and tourists clamor to have their photo taken in the road, shaded by the leaves of the trees.
The trees are planted by men, but the peace you feel in the midst of them is genuine! (I wouldn’t recommend taking a photo in the middle of the road, though. Between falling branches and buses that won’t slow down, it’s probably best to view this one from the safety of a car!)
When I was younger, I’d visit my grandparents in Florida and have fond memories of our visits to Butterfly World. It was fun to explore the Simply Butterflies Exhibition Center with our guide, who showed us many different kinds of butterflies, including a half male/ half female butterfly!
He also knew just how to capture the perfect shot! I’ve always wanted to be a butterfly…
Don’t miss their unique homemade ice cream as you exit! I loved trying the soursop flavor!
Chocolate Hills Adventure Park
I’ve been zip lining and I’ve been on a bicycle, but never in a million years did I think I’d get to do both of them at the same time! Chocolate Hills Adventure Park is clearly more adrenaline-focused than I am!
After climbing steps for several minutes to reach our launch point, we got our first glimpse of the Chocolate Hills. The beauty of the landscape quickly erased any disappointment that I couldn’t actually eat them.
After getting harnessed and helmeted, we climbed more stairs to the top of the Bike Zip platform. The bike is connected from the bottom and you’re connected from the top, so unlike traditional ziplines, you determine your speed. I pedaled to the middle and stopped. I needed a moment to take in the beautiful scenery and the unbelievable fact that I was sitting on a bike in the middle of the air on an island in the Philippines. Three years ago, I was leaving Dallas, and couldn’t believe how much has changed!
Once I’d had my moment, I continued pedaling to the next platform, where they reconnected me so I could pedal back. Do not miss this unique activity in Bohol!
Get ready to get muddy! Seriously… I’d recommend a change of clothes and shoes you don’t care about for this activity.
Hop on your very own ATV and follow your local guide through puddles and dirt tracks. Our guide was incredible… his panoramic photo skills were second to none and we walked away with lots of fun photos!
This activity is the perfect way to see the Chocolate Hills up close!
Chocolate Hills Park
You’ve seen them from below.. it’s time to see them from above! Climb to the top of the Chocolate Hills lookout to see the hills in all their glory. As many as 1776 conical hills cover 20 square miles with hills ranging from 98 to 390 feet above sea level.
During the dry season, the grass-covered hills change in color from green to brown, creating the effect of rows upon rows of chocolate kisses!
Twin Bamboo Hanging Bridge
Once made of rope and bamboo, the twin bamboo bridges have now traded their rope for steel, creating a much safer alternative for those who dare to cross the Loboc River by foot bridge. Rumor has it that even small motorcycles pass on this bridge from time to time!
The bridges hang 82 feet above the water and are 130 feet long. I felt completely safe, but many tourists around us trembled as the bridge shook with each footstep. With all the adrenaline of the day, this seemed to be the most fear-inducing of them all!
As you reach the other side, turn around and head back on the second bridge or stop to shop for souvenirs. Our guide Rey stood on the first bridge and took some amazing photos as we came back on the second bridge.
The day was a fantastic success, thanks to BetterMan Tours! Get in touch with BetterMan Tours to book your own private tour through Bohol’s countryside. Choose a set itinerary from their website or customize your own to maximize the adventure activities!
In a country comprised of more than 7,000 islands, getting into the ocean is a must! Book a day tour snorkeling with BetterMan Tours for a chance to see Bohol’s incredible marine life up close. We boarded our private boat in Alona Beach and set off for Balicasag, one of 70 smaller islands surrounding Bohol.
On arrival at Balicasag, we were met with hoards of tourists snorkeling in the water… this small island is known for its marine sanctuary teeming with fish and a special snorkeling spot to view turtles.
We rented masks and snorkels for 150php each, paid the extra 500php to add a snorkel at the turtle spot before jumping into a small boat with our local guide, RR.
The Sweet Wanderlust Pro Tip: Leave all your clothes and belongings on Balicasag. The boats you’ll take to the snorkel spots are small and wet. And for the love of all things good in this world, WEAR SUNSCREEN! Apply early and apply often. I say this because I care about you and because I got the worst sunburn of my life while snorkeling here.
Pontod Snorkeling Area
I was surprised when our captain dropped anchor in between Balicasag at the Virgin Island, since our day package included a free snorkel at the Virgin Sandbar. He produced two snorkeling sets and said he hoped I still had battery on my GoPro before hopping into the water and asking us to do the same. Within moments, we were surrounded by beautiful coral and hundreds of fish.
Jun brought a few packs of honey butter biscuits for an impromptu fish feeding. Who knew fish have a sweet tooth, too?! The crushed up crackers caused a feeding frenzy and soon, the fish were everywhere!
Jun remarked that we might be the first foreigners to ever snorkel this part of the reef as we snorkeled over sea cucumbers and starfish. Most Westerners go to Balicasag and the Virgin Island only. BetterMan Tours did it again… it’s those little surprise and delight moments that take a day of snorkeling from good to great.
Kayaking in the Mangroves to see the fireflies
I grew up in Texas, where the stars at night, are big and bright (clap, clap, clap) deep in the heart of Texas! The stars weren’t just bright in the sky though, lightning bugs brought the stars right into my backyard. A former pecan orchard, hundreds of lightning bugs lit up the hot, summer nights behind my house. Some nights, we went out back with mason jars, lids dotted with air holes, to catch some ‘stars’ to use as night lights.
Lightning bugs bring back happy childhood memories, and the opportunity to kayak the mangroves in the Philippines beneath a sky of them makes this big world seem just a little bit more like home.
Ecotourism in Bohol
I chose to travel with Kayakasia because of their commitment to sustainability and eco tourism. The motorboats that travel up and down the mangroves have widened the river. Over time, mangroves (and firefly homes) have been destroyed by those boats. With Kayakasia, great care is taken to preserve the natural habitat. The entire tour is conducted with the tourist knowing that we are the guest in this beautiful river.
This tour is not for the weak though.. we paddled almost 5 miles through the duration of our tour. Upon arrival, we were given a brief paddling lesson and a lifejacket before taking off down the river. We learned about the different kinds of mangroves and the milkfish that are raised in the area. The highlight of the mangroves for me was coming upon a group of women who collect oysters (or something similar) to sell in order to buy rice. They offered one of their finds to our group and one brave French woman slurped it down and declared it good— similar to sea almonds with a more hazelnutty flavor.
After our initial 4 kilometer paddle through the mangroves, we returned to the base. The friendly team greeted us with fresh coconuts. (No straws, because their commitment to sustainability is real, folks.)
As the Golden Hour approached, we set off again, paddling toward the fireflies as the sun set. Our guide is proud of his home and passionate about saving the mangroves. We learned how quickly the trees drink up water, saving the members of his village from certain death during the flash flood season.
Once darkness settled over the mangroves, we camped out in our kayaks under a tree and waited for the magic to begin. At first, we spotted one or two fireflies, buzzing about. Soon, though, the entire tree was alight, pulsing as one to some unheard melody. Sitting under those trees, basking in the silence was the most enchanting moment I’ve experienced in nature. Trust me when I say this photo doesn’t even begin to capture what was actually happening.
After stopping at five different trees to observe the fireflies, we headed back to base for a dinner of chicken adobo, rice cooked in coconut leaves, lentil and pumpkin soup and eggplant omelette. It was a day I won’t soon forget (and not just because my shoulders are still on fire).
To book your own trip or to learn more, head over to Kayakasia Philippines’ Facebook page.
Between chocolate hills, schools of fish, and a sky full of fireflies, the magic of Bohol captured my heart and will remain my favorite location in the Philippines. Thanks to BetterMan Tours and Kayakasia Philippines for the most amazing time in Bohol! I’m left with memories that will last a lifetime of experiences that are uniquely Bohol!
Note: Some of these tours were hosted or discounted. As always, I won’t recommend anything that isn’t awesome!