Published: June 28th 2011June 28th 2011
Our final week in the Philippines was spent on Cebu, an island that is part of the 'Visayas' in the middle of the country. But first we briefly stopped over at Bohol, a tiny island next to Cebu that is home to the Philippine tarsier, one of the smallest primates in the world. This was our primary reason for visiting but we incorporated it into a day tour of the island where we also went to see the 'chocolate hills' and a local butterfly sanctuary. We hired a tricycle for the day, complete with a very moody driver! He seemed really nice to begin with but we soon realised he was taking us to the wrong place! We wanted to go to the tarsier centre (a centre dedicated to protecting the tarsier and establishing a breeding population), but our driver had other ideas: he was taking us to an area where you can see tarsiers that have been captured by locals from the wild that let's tourists hold them (for a fee of course). This was the last place we wanted to go, not only is it bad for the individual tarsier, with their life expectancy greatly reduced due to stress
and poor nutrition etc, it can also have devastating impacts upon the remaining wild population and is putting them at risk. We therefore told the driver that we definitely did not want to see the tarsiers kept in cages, we wanted to see them in their wild habitat at the protection centre. He was not happy. He huffed and puffed the rest of the way and told us that the protection centre was too far away (which it really wasn't as we'd researched the distance the day before)! He obviously gets commission for taking tourists to the local places. Anyway, he reluctantly agreed and said we would go on the way back. First we went to a small butterfly sanctuary where you can see them at all stages of their life cycle, from the egg, to the caterpillar, to the pupae to the butterfly. It was really lovely and we were able to see some beautiful species, they are so gorgeously coloured, so pretty! We then went to see the 'chocolate hills', Bohol's most famous site. They are basically a collection of perfectly rounded hills that in the summer months turn a chocolate brown colour and resemble chocolate drops. They
were supposedly formed from coral deposits but scientists still disagree on their exact origin, how they were formed and why they're found there. It's quite interesting and neither of us have seen a landscape like it before so it was worth the trip (even with a grumpy driver). After the driver had hurried us along, we headed back via the tarsier centre and it was amazing! They are such cool creatures, so odd looking with their bat like ears, their rotating owl neck and their huge aye-aye like eyes- all three being perfect adaptations for their nocturnal life style. And they are just so tiny- the size of an index finger, but all of their little limbs are so perfectly formed! We were taken around the centre (an area of forest that is fenced off so they are still in their wild environment but can't get out) by a guide who pointed out 4 individuals for us to see. We saw one really close and were able to really study it in great detail, incredible! Well worth putting up with the tricycle driver for! From there we headed back and were shocked as the driver suddenly became really cheerful again,
only to realise he wanted a tip- no way was he getting one! When we refused he stormed off in a strop without saying goodbye! A charming character!
That evening we caught the ferry back to Cebu where we spent the night before catching the bus to Malapascua island the next morning. Cebu wasn't our favourite of places; a big city with lots of traffic and the disparity between rich and poor was very obvious. There were many street kids which really got to us, it's hard to see it and not be able to do anything about it, we felt like we should have been helping them in some way.
We therefore got out of the city very promptly the next morning and headed to the island paradise that is Malapascua. Malapascua is north of Cebu; a tiny island, just 2.5km long and famous for it's diving; more specifically, thresher sharks. We spent 5 days here, chilling out on the beach, exploring the local fishing village and of course, diving. When we arrived however the weather wasn't great and we were told a typhoon could be on it's way. Luckily the typoon changed direction and the clouds
began to disappear but we left diving for a couple of days to let the water settle. We did 4 dives in total; one to see the thresher sharks, two to Gato- a great macro site, and our final one to try and see some manta-rays.
Dive one was great- we saw a thresher shark!! It was very cool despite the 4am wake up! The dive is so early because the sharks ascend from the depths to a cleaning centre at 24 metres, where we were knelt, waiting in anticipation for a a sighting. We watched in awe for 10 minutes as one graciously swam in front of us. Although we have seen white and grey tip sharks before, the thresher shark had much more of a presence with it's gun-metal colouring and huge tail fin. This majestic and unique feature can be up to 50% of it's entire body size, and it can be used to propel itself out of the water in addition to using it to stun it's prey. It was great to admire this creature, and although we did not feel scared, it had an overwhelming, dominating presence which gained our complete respect.
2 and 3 were at "Gato island". Here we saw a variety of great macro-life as we passed some beautiful coral, navigated through a small cave tunnel with a torch, and battled a very strong current! We were also treated to some more sharks; this time white tips sleeping in small coves. A pleasant, but tricky pair of dives.
The following day we tried our luck at searching for some manta-rays again, but after our disappointing first attempt in the Philippines we were unlucky again. Third time lucky ay? We did however see a really cool (and big) octopus curled up amongst the coral. At first it was difficult to see as it was camouflaged perfectly, but as we got closer it flared it's warning colours at us. Pretty impressive.
On our final night we were invited to eat with a Filipino family who were staying at the same guest house as us. They kindly cooked us up a feast of different local food that we ate with our hands! It was a really nice meal and we had a great time talking with them about Filipino politics.
With a flight to catch to Singapore, we sadly
had to leave the Philippines. But without a doubt we will definitely be coming back!
There are more photos below