After spending the night in an overpriced, seedy hotel, we happily left Cebu City on the ferry with a plan of things to do in Bohol. This relatively small island made our itinerary for two reasons: tarsiers and the Chocolate Hills.
After wading through touts and repeatedly saying “no” to the list of locations tricycle drivers could take us, we found motorbikes for rent on Palma Street. There was only one problem: all they had were semi-automatics left for rent and Mindy was only familiar with driving an automatic. Wanting the sale, the owner was all too enthusiastic to teach Mindy how to drive her bike and eventually Mindy got the hang of it and we rented the bike for 450 pisos ($US 11) per day.
The next hurdle was riding the bike with all our stuff along the main highway on Bohol to Loboc, about an hour away. After trying a couple ideas we finally agreed on Ligeia carrying the heavy bag on her back and Mindy carrying the small bag on her front. Although we were weighed down, this worked quite well and after filling up on gas we were off to find a place to stay.
We settled on a private bare-bones hut on the Loboc River, which was a beautiful aqua-marine color.
The 1.4 kilometer bumpy motorbike ride off the main road to the Nipa Hut Village was very much like playing a video game, dodging roosters as we past a cock farm, driving right in the middle of a school’s basketball court and carefully riding through the maze of brightly colored tarps filled with drying rice that filled the street. Our ride also included lots of friendly faces, “hello’s” and waving children to the left and stunning views of the Loboc River, palm trees and wooden boats to the right.
After a peaceful night’s sleep, we set out for one of the adventures we had come to this particular island for in the first place. Stop number one was the Tarsier Conservation Area, definitely one of the things to do in Bohol if seeing cute animals is on your itinerary. Small enough to sit in the palm of our hand (don’t worry, we didn’t test this), tarsiers are one of the smallest primates in the world. Perhaps because their eyes are immovable they have the ability to rotate their heads 180 degrees.
Having heard awful reports of tarsiers being tied to trees for tourists to look at we made sure this was not the case before paying the 60 pisos ($1.75US) admission fee. We were told the guides would show us where they were once inside the wooded area. Upon entering we saw signs warning us to be quiet because tarsiers are nocturnal and thus are sleeping during the day. We then heard loud talking and laughing from what we had assumed was a group of tourists who either hadn’t seen the “Silence” signs or chose to ignore them. As we turned the corner, however, we were dismayed to discover that is was the guides making all that racket and right in front of a tarsier struggling to keep her eyes open.
As we continued, we realized that due to noise the tarsiers were not getting the sleep they needed because they kept getting woken up every time a tourist came by. Having taken an overnight bus only days before we were particularly sensitive to sleep deprivation. So Mindy started singing a lullaby at each sighting to lull the tarsiers back to sleep, even if only for a few minutes.
After only a short while up the road, a sign directed us to the right where we were promptly met with a ticket booth to pay the 50 pisos ($1.25US) heritage fee. As motorbike novices, the steep road up to the lookout point was a test, but both we and the bike managed fine. Due to the recent rain the hills were a little less chocolate-y than expected and instead were covered with a pale lime-green foliage. The rounded hills seemed to go on forever in each direction.
Except for the touts at the beginning of the trail trying to sell T-shirts of tarsiers and what not, it was a leisurely stroll through the forest, reminiscent of a northern boreal forest. About half a mile into the hike, the trail ends at a clearing and a posted sign explains the surroundings. Apparently, during WWII many people had retreated to the forest to escape the bombing, each family clearing some of the forest for themselves. After the war was over a project was started to regenerate the forest and we must say that it turned out beautifully.