Bohol's epic ecotourism
1. Tarsier Sanctuary
*A note on the Tarsier Conservation Area*
2. Habitat Butterflies Conservation Center
Bohol is also home to dozens of butterfly species. Along the road to the Chocolate Hills is a small butterfly garden and conservation center. The 50 piso entrance fee includes a guide to accompany you through the garden. During the tour, you learn about the different species of butterfly endemic to Bohol as well as their reproduction and growth processes. You can spend as much time as you want in the garden enjoying the butterflies and taking pictures.
3. Countryside Tour and Chocolate Hills
Probably the most iconic landmarks on Bohol are the Chocolate Hills: a series of hills in the center of the island that dot the countryside for miles and miles in all directions.
The hills are best viewed from the Chocolate Hills Lookout, which costs 50 pisos to access if don’t go with a tour. The viewpoint made for some nice pictures but I honestly wasn’t all that impressed with it. Basically, you drive to the top of a hill, climb up some stairs, wait for your turn to get a clear picture, ooh and aah for a couple of minutes and that’s it. It all just felt very touristy to me. What did blow me away was the drive leading up to the hills. The scenery is unbelievably breathtaking.
One minute you’re driving past dreamy green rice fields and palm groves, and the next you’re winding through towering forests. As you approach the viewpoint, you get to see some of the iconic hill formations up close; they pop up out of the surrounding countryside like little islands in a sea of rice fields. If you feel comfortable with driving a motorbike for a few hours, I would recommend driving to the Chocolate Hills yourself. That way you won’t be on anyone else’s schedule and will have the freedom to stop and take pictures whenever you want.
4. Firefly Watching Kayak Tour (Abatan River Community Life Tour)
5. Waterfall Trekking
Panga Falls- located near Bilar, Central Bohol
6. Cave Spelunking
Located on Bohol are thousands of limestone caves. This geographical feature is unique to Bohol; we didn’t experience such a bounty of caves on any other island we visited in the Philippines. They come in all shapes and sizes. Some are so small you can merely peak your head in, while others are massive, and others still have pools of crystal clear water that you can swim in. Here are the caves we visited plus some other notable ones that you can check out
Anda is a sleepy beach town on the west coast of Bohol. It’s about a 5hr bus ride to Anda from the Tagbilaran bus terminal. Along with beautiful white sand beaches, Anda also has dozens of cave systems dotted all along the coast and surrounding hills.
1. Cabagnow Cave Pool
This isn’t so much a cave as a hole in the ground, with deep, mesmerizingly clear water inside. To get to this cave you turn off the Anda Provincial Road (main road in Anda) onto a bumpy, unpaved road. After driving down that road for a while, you turn right onto and even more bumpy and less paved road which you drive as far as your vehicle will allow before parking and walking the rest of the path to the cave. There are signs guiding you the entire way so it’s really easy to find. When we arrived, there was no one there except a few locals and their kids, who were happily jumping and swimming around in the pool.
The locals told us it was free to jump in but the only way to get out was via the red ladder and that would cost us 50 pisos to use. We chuckled, happily paid the money and spent the rest of the afternoon jumping, swimming, and enjoying the local company. This cave pool is an awesome local secret and the perfect place to cool off and beat the Bohol heat.
2. Combento Cave
This is actually a series of three caves all located in close concentration to each other. After seeing Cabagnow, we were not very impressed with these caves. They’re all very small, one is completely dry, one has a tiny trickle of water, and the third has a small pool of admittedly mind-blowingly clear water. The only cave you could manage to get inside is the third one which you could crawl in and lay in the pool if you were feeling brave. The cave was dark and damp and seemed like the perfect home for all manner of creepy-crawly bugs. Needless to say, we passed on going inside.
3. Lundag Caves
*Warning: Hard to get to*
The caves just outside of Lundag village are off the beaten path. I’m talking waaaaay off. We were driving down the highway outside of Anda one day when we saw a brown sign that said “Lundag caves and trekking 3.5km”. Filled with an injection of spontaneity we decided to go in search of the caves.
Not soon after turning, the road became more of a bumpy goat path and was getting increasingly steeper. We were starting to regret our decision but pressed onward into the mountains. Every time we saw a local we would stop and ask “Lundag, Lundag?” They would nod and motion us to continue up the hill. Each time, we would gulp and continue driving. Finally, we came to a little village with a school, a community center, and a few houses.
We parked in front of the only shop and asked once again about the caves. The lady who owned the shop immediately smiled and in perfect English, told us to wait while she went to find the man who could show us the caves. We hung out with her four granddaughters and grandnieces who went to the local high school while she found the guide and rounded up some flashlights from other homes in the village.
By the time everything was ready for our spelunking expedition, the girls had decided to come with us, so we took off in a three-motorbike caravan for the entrance of the cave. As we walked up to the cave, I asked the girls if it was a “scary-cave”. They assured me that the cave was “not at all scary”. The cave ended up being two separate caves with cavernous chambers, some towering 40-50feet above us. Though they were really cool, I’d be lying if I said they weren’t a little scary.
Inside the caves were huge stalagmites and stalagtites and awesome crystal formations; but there were also thousands of bats, crawly bugs and huuuuuuuge cave spiders. All-in-all it was worth a few moments of terror to see these enormous caves that are rarely visited by tourists.
To put into perspective how rarely these caves are visited, upon signing the logbook in the community center, we saw that the last tourists to visit Lundag came in February; almost 7 months earlier.
These girls are fearless!
4. Other caves of Anda
There are dozens of other caves around Anda that we didn’t have time to explore. All along the highway you see brown signs for different caves. If you are hungry for a day of splunking, just rent a motorbike and drive up and down the coast looking for brown rectangular signs. Who knows what epic caves you might find!
5. Lamanok Island
Located a short drive from Anda, Lamanok island was once home to an ancient Philippine civilization. On the island are caves where you can find remanants of burial coffins and clay jars, along with petroglyph-like paintings on the walls.
6. Hinagdanan Cave
Located on Panglao, Hinagdanan cave is the easiest cave to access, and therefore the busiest. From pictures I’ve seen, it looks really cool. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you are short on time.
One-Day Bohol Ecotourism Itinierary (from Panglao)
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