Sunday, November 30, 2014

Aloha, Alona

Famous tarsiers of Bohol
We were met on arrival in Bohol with a driver to take us from the ferry port to our hotel. Just based on the size of the gate we had to go through to get in, we knew the Amorita Resort would be a really nice place to stay. With just a short day and half to spend in Bohol we checked in and headed right back out to sort out our activities. Alona Beach, while really small, seemed to have decent number of large hotel and resort properties around it, both existing and under construction. We walked along the main road then down the hill to the beachfront.

We found the Piratas Alona Dive Shop, as recommended by a friend from Dumaguete, and arranged to go on a dive trip the next day. The next order of business was to figure out how to meet up with Paul and Anne who were staying in a town called Loboc on the mainland of Bohol. We had considered renting motorbikes but knowing it would be dark and given the distance, we decided to try to find a driver. We stopped by the tourist police office and what do you know, the officer "knows a guy." So we arranged for 8 hours of his drivers' time the next day, to take us to Loboc and back. With the logistics settled, we chose from the many similar beachside restaurants for our first dinner in Alona.

The next day we could see that Queenie had done some damage to several boats at Alona Beach - a few had sank in the water and several were pulled up on shore and detached from their engines. All of this chaos made it difficult for our dive boat to get close enough to load up, so we were delayed in getting out. Thankfully, it was a pretty quick trip to Balicasag Island and we were in the water by 11:00AM. At the first dive site, the swells and current were very strong on the surface. Usually once under the water its much calmer, but this dive was an exception - the current was strong enough that we had to swim against it to avoid drifting really far away! But the visibility was good and the scenery was full of life. Our second dive was the longest one we've ever done - 62 minutes total, with lots of turtles gently paddling about or scratching themselves on coral.

Preparing to enter the choppy waters at Balicasag Island
We were late arriving back to Alona Beach, so as soon as we could jump off the boat Juli went to the hotel to get our change of clothes and I went to meet the driver. We grabbed some sandwiches and hit the road, as we wanted to make a stop before carrying on to Loboc. Tarsiers are the world's smallest primate and are an endangered species found in the Philippines. Supposedly their heads and eyes were the inspiration for Yoda from Star Wars. The Tarsier Sanctuary in Corella has 8 tarsiers living in its confines. Each morning the staff has to go looking for them, since they are nocturnal and they sleep most of the day. On the day we visited, 5 of the tarsiers had whereabouts unknown. That left 3 of them for us to see live - and while two were sleepy, one was just starting to wake up.

We continued on to Loboc and met up with Paul and Anne at their hotel, a small set of riverside cottages. It was drizzling and threatening to rain, but mostly held off. Once the sun set, we were going to get on stand-up paddle boards and head down the river to look at fireflies, which gather by the hundreds or thousands at a certain type of tree. We were told that the rain decreases the chances they would be out, but we forged ahead anyway. Although the river looked like it was going at a pretty good flow, the boards cut easily through the current and we were on our way in the dark!

Juli paddling down the river
At certain points, there was no light on either side of the river, which made the scenery a bit disorienting, given that all we could reliably see was the water right in front of us. After about 30 minutes of downstream paddling, we came upon the first "mother tree." It was an amazing sight - none of our pictures could do it justice, so I found somebody else's photo which is a great one:

Thousands of fireflies gather in 'mother trees' along the Loboc river

There was one more mother tree a bit further downstream, but that was it. Then began the harder paddle upstream, which seemed to take a while even though we didn't need to go all the way back to the cottages as a van picked us up. Fortunately, all of us survived the trip without a single fall into the river!

A successful night paddle!

We arrived back at the cottages and enjoyed dinner and a few beers together, as well as playing with a new puppy that the owners had picked up the day prior. It was good times as usual with Paul and Anne and we were all sad that this would be our last time to hang out for quite some time. Like us they are focused on more far-flung travel for now, figuring they can hit the States later…but hopefully we'll figure out a way to meet up again sometime soon. Before we knew it, it was 10pm and time to catch our ride back to Alona Beach.

Yes, she actually wanted to take him home
We had just one more half-day left before the journey home began, and wanting to be active before sitting for so long, we took a tricycle to Dolja Beach as we heard the snorkeling was good. Unfortunately to get to the snorkeling required traversing 100 yards of 2-foot deep sea with all kinds of urchins and jellyfish, and by the time we got there, it wasn't all that great anyway! I got stung by something and had a rash on my wrist for about 3 weeks after, so at least I took home a souvenir of some kind! We made it back to the Amorita and decided to try our snorkeling luck again out in front of the resort. Thankfully, we had a nice swim with good snorkeling to finish off our Philippines trip.

Numerous Nemos to be seen while snorkeling!

We went back up to the resort and Juli got a massage which was included in our hotel stay. Not a fan of massage, I just took a dip in the pool, did some reading, and enjoyed our final views of Alona Beach - which are quite spectacular from the Amorita Resort viewpoint.

NOT a budget hostel...when we splurge, we do it right!
From there it was off to the airport, for a one hour flight to Manila followed by a 13 hour trip back to SFO. Once again our adventures have come to a close for a little while, though we'll definitely be back at it as soon as we can.


grace c tullis said...

I enjoyed your journey! So nice to see photo's with your stories. You do a excellent blog,always interesting,colorful and exciting for the reader. I hope you meet up with Anne and Paul again.

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