We woke just after sunrise and gorged ourselves on the delicious
breakfast spread laid out for us. Arriving the night before, it had seemed we
had the entire hotel to ourselves, yet here at breakfast, a handful of people had
joined to eat their way through the morning.
The local driver arrived at our agreed time and the staff sent us on
our way towards the center of the island, where the jungle is at it’s thickest.
We drove out of the big iron gates, waved on by the security guard and zoomed
through Filipino countryside, our noses pressed right up against the windows to
make sure we didn’t miss anything. Our excited squeals seemed to amuse the
driver, who kept shaking his head and laughing at us through his mirror as we pointed
everything out to each other on each side of the car.
Vendors sat at the sides of the roads lazily, until tourist laiden
buses would pull in. They would suddenly spring to life, expertly balancing
boxes upon boxes on each unsuspecting person, hoping to make enough money to
live off for the rest of the week. Soon,
the small hamlets gave way to steeper roads that wound into the forest like a
snake coiling round its prey.
The road wound and wound until we pulled in at an unsuspecting
turning and parked the car on top of cracked and tree-root split concrete. The
Gentleman and I climbed out of the car, being careful not to twist our ankles
on the hazardous ground and walked up to a shack. You see, the island of Bohol
is home to the smallest monkey on the planet. We had gone to see the beautiful
tarsiers in a reserve built especially for them. It’s
practically impossible to see them in the wild because they’re so small, and
actually safer for them to be in the sanctuary.
At first, I thought the conservation was a joke as I saw a piece of
string tying one of the tarsier’s legs to the tree it was sitting in. When you
speak to the Filipino people however, they explain that sadly there is one
awful thing about tarsiers… they sometimes commit suicide. Unfortunately, these
beautiful little wide-eyed creatures will either hold their breath until they
die, or bang their soft skulls against the tree until they kill themselves, if
they feel threatened or in danger.
The tarsiers being tied to the tree, we found out, was to keep them
a safe distance away from the visitors, so that they came to no harm. The
conservation area is a large fenced off piece of jungle where the tarsiers
(being nocturnal) can roam wherever they want at night, but during the day,
they’re safest in certain spots so the tourists don’t get too close for
When we’d caught a glimpse of the lovely little creatures, we
grabbed a snack of Peanut Kisses and jumped back in the car to continue the
journey to the Chocolate Hills.
Before long, the jungle split off to the sides again, making way for
marshland and random hills between. These were the rice fields. Beautiful green
paddies with buffalo grazing within them surrounded big round mounds where farmers
had placed their houses. I’ve never seen such a variety of scenery on such a
Climbing up once more, we circled round and round one of the hills
until we reached the peak where we continued our trek on foot to the very top.
The view was worth it. The Chocolate Hills, so called because during summer the
grasses burn in the sunlight turning the entire hill brown, spread as far as
the eye could see. It looked like giant marbles had been poured across the
ground, before a carpet of foliage had been placed on top. We were told that you
should never try and climb one of the chocolate hills, as they’re a favourite
breeding ground for the vicious King Cobra. We were quite happy to gaze at them
however and soak in the beauty of the green mounds.
Neither of us wanted to leave, but our stomachs were telling us
otherwise, so we climbed back down the hills towards some food.
We found it along the river, on a floating boat. Buffet style once
more (what else) and cheesy music as we floated beside the reeds. Eager not to
be stuck with all the other tourists and more cheesy music, we ate as quickly
as we could before saying our thank you’s and disembarking. Our poor driver had
just about had time to have a drink before we piled back in.
I don’t think we’d ever been so excited to spend time in a hotel,
but The Peacock Garden really knew how to cater for their guests. With grounds
to get lost in and a pool to spend all day in, plus service that meant we
constantly had a cocktail in hand, it was difficult not to want to spend time
When the sun started to dip below the horizon line, we decided it
was cocktail hour and when we were gifted with another beautiful sunset, we thought
it would be criminal not to get a few pictures in the golden glow.
It was at precisely this moment that I heard a thud on the ground
and Ben asked if my sunglasses had fallen off my head. I put my hand to my hair
and felt the familiar plastic of the Zara lenses. Sunglasses on my head, what
on earth fell on the floor…? I glanced down, as the snake bumped against my
foot. Darting to the side with such a scream, that I frightened myself even
more I sprinted into the middle of the lawn away from the 6ft of wriggling
scales making their way up the tree line. It had been a close call, so much so
that we both spent the rest of our time on the island walking a lot more
carefully and looking up wherever we went!
Dinner that night was another al fresco affair, watching the huge
bats swoop into the gazebo and back out, hanging from the chandeliers and
seemingly watching the diners curiously below them.
A whole plateful of squid was placed in front of me, while Ben went
for the Pork Adobo (unsurprisingly).
We drank in the atmosphere and quite a few
more cocktails that evening, soaking up the beautiful view and listening to the jungle come alive with unfamiliar noises. The nocturnal creatures awaking, as we took our cue to go to bed.