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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Island Hopping BALICASAG and VIRGIN ISLAND Bohol #BoholSummer2014

First-timers in Bohol? Chances are, you end up

1. Doing land tour which includes the world famous Chocolate Hills and the close encounters with tarsiers, not to mention my favorite, Loboc River Cruise. Or,
2. End up in Alona Beach.

For repeaters, chances are, you will either end up doing #1 or #2 again.

But Bohol is more than just Alona Beach or the Chocolate Hills. Off Panglao are a few small islands worth checking.

Rent a boat for as low as 3,500 php (capacity of up to 6 pax) and you can already hop to Balicasag Island and Virgin Island otherwise known as Pungtod Island.

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The last time I was here in 2008, we stayed in Bohol Bee Farm which is just a few minutes away from the bridge connecting Panglao Island to mainlaind Bohol and effectively, Tagbilaran. We intentionally didn't go to Alona Beach which is by far the representative name when you mention Panglao. Beach = Alona = Panglao. For day tour, we went to the Western Side instead in a resort they call Panglao Island Nature Resort. Fast forward 2014 and we again stayed on a resort located West of the island of Panglao.
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When we left the hotel early morning therefore and were taken by car to a beach where our boat was waiting, I realized that there are other beaches on the Eastern Side other than Alona. And this beach which I can't remember what it is named is located somewhere at the Eastern central portion of Panglao Island that on our way to our first island destination, I saw many other beaches. I was convinced at that time that Bohol has indeed a lot of potential to handle massive number of tourists in the future. It's gonna be a new tourism frontier for the Philippines. 

Might not be the best that our country can offer but with the International Airport on the works and hotel developments including International brands slowly coming in, not far from now and Bohol/Panglao will be another massive income generator for our tourism industry. Bad news for some but if it means jobs and food on the table for locals then let's go for it.
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BALICASAG ISLAND

Back to the main topic of this post which is Island Hopping, our first destination was Balicasag Island, a circular shaped island on the South Eastern portion of Panglao which you could easily be remember because of the lighthouse at the center of the flat island.
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Balicasag is big enough to support a small Barangay. I saw a couple of aerial pictures prior to going here and I noticed a lot of structures especially at the central areas of the island. It's interesting because when you go here, you see nothing from the boat upon your approach to the beach and once you are already docked but trees and shrubs. We were guided by our boatman and walked a few meters away from where our boat was stationed passed many other boats and along the sandy beach and then into the vegetation where inside are stores and karenderyas where you can order food or refreshments. 

Interesting, me mga establishments palang nakatago sa mga halamanan at puno. The trees offer a cool respite against the scorching sun. It was the end of March when we were here and the summer sun was in full force at that time.
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EXPENSIVE FOOD
Since we didn't bring in any food which I heard you can do, we had no choice but order food in the store we were taken in. Food is expensive so if you are travelling on a budget, I suggest you bring your own snacks instead. And very limited choices too. The usual Filipino breakfast or continental breakfast, the usual set meals you can find in those cheap city hotels except that this one is outrageously expensive. 

Imagine a cup of rice, 2 slices of (ordinary) ham, a sunny side uo egg and half mango for 200 pesos. Yeah, that's $5 baby! Then again, we didn't have much choice so we enjoyed it instead. A lousy 200-peso meal in this setting is not something you can't have everyday.
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If this is the view from where you are eating at, why not! ^^
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Then there's snorkeling which the island is famous for but we didn't try.haha. I've had so many snorkeling experiences that not trying this one doesn't make me less happy. Or maybe that's the excuse for being lazy, afraid of the sun and/or thinking that the rent of 300 pesos for a small boat to take you to the snorkeling area + the 150 rent for a snorkel is too much of a pain after that lousy 200-peso meal.
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We simply appreciated the beach, although the sand is not powdery, and the clear water. Snapped a few photos here and there and we were good to go to our next island destination ---Pungtod Island --which is popularly known as Virgin Island.
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PUNGTOD ISLAND aka
Virgin Island

This part was what I was excited for. Camiguin has always been elusive to me so I thought this would be the closest I could get to experiencing a sandbar similar to the shape of that of Camiguin although of a less grand scale. Well, this island had a long sandbar which looks like a sperm from the air. And the perfect time to go is during low tide. Unfortunately, it was high tide during our visit. #Fail.
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Even so, the place is nice. It was here where we stayed long. We didn't bother walking to the core of the island as our boat was docked at one end of the sandbar and there were many other docked next to us blocking the sight but we found our quiet little space.

The water was knee deep but the sandbar is still prominent and walking through it is a unique experience. Would have been nice if it were completely exposed but it was okay. Especially because just next to our boat is a coconut vendor who set up a temporary shed against the sun. 
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Under it were his trades, coconuts, clams, sea urchins. It was one of his colleagues who greeted us as our boat docked and immediately offered us sea urchin. Gad! Of all things that could be eaten, why sea urchin? I never tried it of course. Just leave it to those who think it is palatable because I have not the slightest plan of trying. I might end up in a hospital. Arte lang. Lols


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Back to the buko vendor and his shed. We did enjoy our stay because of him, for the casual talk, his delicious coconuts and his talent for taking photos. Kuya surely has some tricks on his sleeves. He offered to take my picture using my dslr and he did some tricks with the starfish. Me talent si kuya!

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We stayed for a while swimming along the tip of the sandbar. From afar is the familiar view of Balicasag Island with the lighthouse at its center still visible at this distance and on the other side is the core of Virgin Island. Such a lovely view. I was seated on the sandbar with the water chest deep in this position. Nearby is a dear friend. We were both appreciative of the view and of each other's company. On a lovely summer day of 2014, memories were made. One that I will keep for years to come.
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ALONA BEACH
Then back to Panglao. We requested our boat service to drop us at Alona Beach. We had lunch in a restaurant they call Trudis Bar. Food is okay and reasonably priced. 
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Stomach full and recharged, we found our way to our hotel in the mainland overlooking Panglao, a hotel which was one of the few surprises of this particular trip. 

Will blog about the place on the next installment.
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Planning a trip to Bohol? There are so many things to see and do here. May it be land tour to the famous Chocolate Hills, a close encounter with the tarsier, a refreshing river cruise buffet in Loboc, waterfalls encounters, historical immersion, having a tan by the beaches of Panglao or Island Hopping, there is something you will surely enjoy.
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AirAsiaZest has four (4) trips from Manila to Tagbilaran daily so it was easy airline of choice for me.
Be sure not to miss on their promo fares by logging in to http://www.airasia.com/ph/en/home.page and download their mobile app so that you can always check and book flights even on the go.


Happy travels!!!!!

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8 comments:

  1. Ang ganda ng sand bar!!! Hehe hope to visit this island soon...

    ReplyDelete
  2. I always wanted to visit Balicasag island, thanks for the info!

    ReplyDelete
  3. You missed a lot when you skipped Balicasag Island snorkeling... They had one of the best coral garden and fishes around comparable to Palawan, Batangas and Oriental Mindoro... sobrang ganda ng underwater sanctuary nila kung nakita mo.

    ReplyDelete
  4. @Ian--gad! nagkatamaran na. Sayang. Mukhang kailangang bumalik.hahaha

    ReplyDelete
  5. Idol, napunta ka na din ba sa Boracay? Ikumpara mo yung Panglao Beaches dun, halos yun na yun no, galing!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Been to Panglao twice at iba naman ang Charm ni Panglao, in terms of beaches, I am yet to see yung ibang beaches na sabi magaganda. Been to Alona palang and Panglao Island Nature Resort. So far good naman. Although kasi Boracay is Boracay. If you want a more quiet beach experience though --Panglao. Except Alona ha.hehe

    ReplyDelete
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  8. hi. Do u have any idea wer to rent a boat in bohol?

    ReplyDelete

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