You may have noticed that this blog has become increasingly monkey-obsessed of late, what with posts on the cheeky macaques of Bali, the amazing orang-utans of Sumatra, and the naughty Small Monkey in Palawan. If you’re not a fan, you’re going to have bear with me a little while longer, as travelling from Palawan to Bohol gave me the chance to see a rather unusual relative – the world’s smallest primate, the Philippine Tarsier.
Getting to Bohol is pretty easy – a short flight to Cebu City, two hours on a fast ferry and half an hour on a motorised tricycle and I was swiftly at home in a beautiful little room right on the beach, above the Genesis dive shop. Wreck diving in Coron had been fun, but I was looking forward to getting back to a more traditional coral and fish environment, and the reefs of nearby Balicasag island didn’t disappoint.
My second dive in particular was stunning – we came across a huge school of jackfish, swimming in very tight formation. As I swam in towards the school it parted around me and started swimming in a tight funnel with me in the middle. It was absolutely beautiful, and for a moment it felt like I was in a scene from the Blue Planet. The different experiences I have almost every time I go diving are incredible – deciding to learn as part of my trip is one of the best decisions I made.
With the diving out of the way (sadly, on a budget, I have to restrict my diving only to places that are supposed to be fantastic, and no more than two dives per location), I was free to explore the island a bit more. So with a few friends from the dive shop, we hired a driver and set off round the island.
It all started pretty well, as our first stop was the Tarsier Research Centre, the easiest place to see (protected) Tarsiers in the semi-wild. Round the back of the centre is a fenced-off part of the forest. They are pretty damn tiny, but luckily the centre provides a guide who knows where the little critters like to hang out, and within a couple of minutes we came across the first one – and they really are tiny – about the size of a fist – and absolutely adorable. They sit there, gripping tightly onto tree twigs with their cute little fingers (proper big branches would be way too big for them) and staring at you with their enormous eyes – proportionate to their body size they are apparently about 150 times bigger than human ones, and take up most of the Tarsier’s head. They don’t do much, admittedly (being largely nocturnal) but hey, when you are quite that lovable then you can get away with it.
Things started to go a little bit downhill after that. We stopped off at a little restaurant / backpackers place nearby called Nuts Huts, planning to a little walk through the jungle down to some falls, but unfortunately the heavens opened and we were stuck inside for a while. The rain eased off for a short while, allowing us to run back to the car and on to the next spot, the famous chocolate hills. Someone at the national tourist board must have decided that the hills are the country’s most beautiful asset, as I’d seen them countless times on posters and postcards since being in the country. And they sure do look good in the pictures. Unfortunately I am unable to confirm how good they look in real life – as the whole area was covered in thick cloud, so instead of seeing a landscape of dozens of odd little green hills, tightly packed together, all we could see was the two directly in front of us. While we got soaked.
After sheltering some more in the cafe, we were soon on our way to the last attraction of the day – the oldest church in the Philippines. Unfortunately some faffing about on our part in the morning, along with the intervention of the weather, meant that we’d overrun our schedule quite a bit, and got there only to find it was closed. And getting dark. So we gave up and headed back to the beach.
It could have been quite a disappointing day – but luckily my newfound monkey-love meant that seeing a few Tarsiers made it all worthwhile. All I have to worry about now is how to feed my addiction when I get back home.
You can see all of my photos from Bohol here.
Next stop: Malapascua, and attempting to dive with Thresher Sharks.