Bohol is a tiny province located in the middle of the Philippines. Countless tourists from different parts of the world find themselves loving this homey province as they spend their days away from the hustle and bustle of the city, unwinding themselves with the countless tourist attractions that Bohol offers. You can choose to lounge around the pristine white beaches of Panglao, or take countless photos at the famous Manmade Forest. The cute Tarsiers of Bohol, one of the smallest primates in the world are also a must-see for first-timers, as well as the traditional churches that serve as symbols of most Filipino’s strong Catholic faith. A day or two won’t be enough to savor all of these tourist spots.
However, amidst all these attractions, two gifts of nature remain to be the top attractions of Bohol— the Chocolate Hills that always leave us in awe, and the Loboc River that makes us feel a bit adventurous as we’re taken into an unfamiliar “jungle” vibe. These two top spots never fail to form part of tourists’ itineraries, but not everyone knows that there are different ways of enjoying them apart from the crowded viewing decks and floating restaurants (but hey, these are good to try for first-timers!). We were fortunate enough to experience both the Chocolate Hills and the Loboc River in ways that left us exhilarated with memories that continue to give us a rush weeks after.
The famous Chocolate Hills got its name from the fact that these cone-shaped hills turn from green to brown during the hot dry season, making them look like “Chocolate Kisses”. One can marvel at this wonder through viewing decks all over Carmen, Bohol, but since my friends and I have already tried this, we looked for a more unique way of appreciating the hills’ beauty. Not known to many, a few local shops offer an up-close view of these hills by riding All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs). For Php 1,000 per person, we were able to ride our own ATVs through rough terrains that ended with a climb to a really good view of some hills, seen from a different perspective—up close and from the ground, while being among the hills.
What I felt during the 1-hour ATV ride made the whole experience even more special. Due to how stagnant life has been as we’ve been stuck at home due to the pandemic, it’s been quite a while since I felt this kind of wonder—the feeling of being stunned and speechless at how surreal an actual moment was passing. While moving through rough roads, under the strong unexpected rain (which, by the way, elevated the whole experience to a new level), I found myself staring into the hills and the people around me, smiling endlessly at everything that was happening. The peaceful and undisturbed view of the hills, the strong rain that took me back to my childhood, and the exhilaration from the fast ride made this one of my most recommended life experiences to date. With viewing decks, you see the scattered chocolate hills from afar, surrounded by large crowds. With ATVs, you experience a rush of excitement on the way to a quiet view of the hills while being surrounded by their size.
After experiencing the thrill of the ATV ride, my friends and I waited for the night to fall for our next activity—firefly watching at the Loboc River. Being one of the most famous rivers in the Philippines, a cruise down Loboc River during the daytime by itself is an experience. With all the palm trees surrounding its body, this emerald river is truly a breathtaking view worthy of a spot on your Instagram feeds. However, unbeknownst to many, the magic behind this river continues, and we daresay, reaches its peak after the sun sets. With just Php1,600 for three persons, tourists are given the chance to marvel at the beauty of Loboc River’s fireflies in a very natural setting. Do note though, that not everyone gets lucky to witness this spectacle since the weather heavily affects their appearance, but to the lucky few, this is one experience you won’t ever forget.
The experience is simple— you ride a slow-moving bangka (boat) quietly, surrounded by darkness and faint lights, moving from one tree to another in hopes of catching a glimpse of these creatures. During these moments of searching, we felt desperation and excitement as we sat quietly, afraid to scare away the fireflies we were praying so hard to witness. Luckily enough, little by little, they lit up in some trees and we spent minutes gazing at how beautifully and harmoniously they danced in groups. The patient staff gave us ample time to appreciate each cluster of fireflies before moving to the next tree, allowing us to appreciate nature unfolding its beauty each time. The whole experience felt like being transported to a different world where peace, quiet, and nature untouched were the only things that mattered. This was the perfect way to experience nature in its true form while we remain bystanders to its beauty. For this experience, the photos and videos really don’t do justice, but the memories continue to spark wonder in our hearts every time we recall it.
Like we said, Bohol is filled with many tourist attractions. But if you truly want to feel the beauty of nature, we recommend trying these two activities.