Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Our Bohol Experience

I recently got back from a 5-day getaway in Bohol! :) My friends and I visited the island last week (June 13-17). We had a wonderful time and we had a blast! I'd attribute the success of our trip to months of planning which would not be possible without the tips and reviews available in the internet. So let me return the favor by sharing also the highlights and some insights from our Bohol trip. Hope this will come handy as you plan your Bohol itinerary :)

1. Grand Luis Lodge
I would say that staying in this lodge is the best part of our Bohol trip! :) They really live up to their tagline of being "a home in Bohol". They have all the qualities of an ideal vacation abode -
cheap rates, good and cheap food, REALLY cozy rooms, quiet and relaxing environment, warm and friendly staff, and facilities that can be used free of charge: swimming pool, jacuzzi, videoke, tennis court and gazebo. A package with them also comes with other free stuff like transfer to and from the airport, daily breakfast and use of internet. They could still improve by having an in-house generator, but then again for the price that we paid and the service that we experienced with them, having a generator will just be another bonus. We were supposed to spend only 3 nights here and spend our 4th night in Danao, but we opted to extend our stay in Grand Luis because of the superb accommodation! Highly recommended especially for group of friends!

Contact Details:
Website: www.grandluislodge.com
Email: info@grandluislodge.com
SMS: 0908-643-3065
Rate during the time of our visit: Php 1,800/room/night (room is good for 2 and can cater an add'l pax with add'l charge)

The facade of Grand Luis Lodge

2. Countryside tour with Tatsky
While drafting our group's itinerary, I came across a number of sites and forums recommending the service of Tatsky for our Bohol tours so I immediately contacted him and inquired about his rates. Of all the tourist guides that I've contacted (I've probably communicated with more than 5 guides!), Tatsky offers the lowest rate with most number of tourist attractions covered. Upon arriving in Bohol, we encountered some glitches (PAL left Crystal's luggage in Manila!) so I informed Tatsky that there will be changes in our itinerary, he was flexible enough to accommodate the changes in our plan and assigned a different driver/tour guide for us. As it turns out, he owns several vehicles and employs several drivers so he can cater to different groups. The driver assigned to us was Kuya Dennis, he seems to be as equally kind and knowledgeable as Tatsky. Although we were not able to personally meet Tatsky, I can highly recommend him for your Bohol tour needs.

Contact Details:
SMS: 0915-794-5556 / 0912-747-2737 / 0922-367-1051
Rate during the time of our visit: Php 2,500.00 for a tour with 5-12 pax

The sight is lovely and so are we!

3. Van Rental with Kuya Ritchie
One of the tour guides that I've talked to while planning our Bohol trip is Kuya Ritchie. Although we didn't get his services for the Bohol tour, we hired him for our trip to Danao. He offered the lowest transfer rate from Panglao to Danao and vice versa and his Starex van is relatively new. He delivered us to Danao and Panglao safely and on time, while slowing down once in a while when there's a clear view of Chocolate hills. He also accommodated our changes very professionally and modestly when we decided to go back to Panglao on the same day and earlier than the planned time considering that his schedule was really tight that day because he was booked by another group for their Bohol countryside tour. Two thumbs up for Kuya Ritchie! :D

Contact details:
SMS: 0919-765-4571 / 0923-931-5121
Helpful link: http://www.calvinshub.com/2009/02/bohol-tour-on-a-budget-with-ritchie/
Rate during the time of our visit: Php 2,500.00 per way (Panglao-Danao)

The main man - Kuya Ritchie Vasquez

4. E.A.T Danao
I don't know if I will call this highlight or what because until now I can still feel how my soul was seemingly detached from my body during the plunge! :P But one thing for sure, my Bohol experience wouldn't be complete without the Danao plunge, suislide, rapel and root climb. It was nerve-wrecking, but trying it out wis really worth it. Like what one of their signages read: "You are not only paying for the ride, you are paying for the experience." Indeed, the Danao adventure is a real must-try! My soul dropped and was left in Danao, but I brought back home a really worthwhile experience! ;-)

Contact Details:
Website: www.eatdanao.com
SMS: 0917-302-1700. Contact person: Ms.Weina Sagud
Rate during the time of our visit: Php 1,500.00/pax for a day tour package (add 600.00 to change Wall Climb to plunge)

No matter how distorted I look in this photo, I don't hesitate sharing it because that right there is not an ugly face, that is a BRAVE face! A very brave face! :p

5. Island Tour - Dolphin watching and Snorkelling
Our island tour was also arranged by Tatsky, he contacted the boatman, Kuya Vito, who met us in one of the resorts in Alona Beach. I don't know if it was sheer luck or Kuya Vito's skill that frequently led us to spots where we had a direct view of the dolphins. Our boat was near the dolphin hot spot for more than 70% of all the sightings! That's really awesome considering that there are around 10-15 boats patrolling the area with us in the hopes of seeing the dolphins jump and gasp for air. :D A tip when watching, or should I say, chasing dolphins as discovered by Nikki and Herlin: the dolphins come out every 4 minutes (or a little less than 4 minutes)! :D

After the dolphin watching, we headed to Balicasag Island for the snorkelling activity. BALICASAG REEF IS REALLY A SIGHT TO BEHOLD! I would consider this reef as the best snorkelling sight that I've seen so far (I'm expecting that only reefs in Palawan can top this). I say that it's best because in the five years that our group has been touring around the Philippines, it is only now that I anticipate each dive not only because of the fishes but also because of the "landscape" underneath! Life under Balicasag was really diverse as there were lots of schools of fishes and live corals (I was able to touch one of the corals and Nemo's home! ^_^), but more than the diversity, I was awed with the coral formation and underwater cliff! I don't know how to further describe it, but for me, it was really astounding! So if you can, go snorkel in Balicasag and be awed. :D

Contact Details:
SMS: See Tatsky's contact details
Rate during the time of our visit: Php 1,500.00/boat good for a minimum of 7pax (I'm not sure about the max headcount per boat)

The show-off dolphins! :D

Those are the remarkable experience that we had in Bohol. As for the not so good side, I would say it's the part where we visited Bohol beach club after the Balicasag tour. Don't get me wrong, Bohol beach club's facilities are good, the view is great and the resort is good for family or group with kids, the major downside for us is their food. Their food is costly but bland and the serving is small. So, if you're working on a really tight budget or craving for really delicious food, dining in Bohol beach club may not be a good idea. Crystal also mentioned that their beach is not that good for swimming. Although the water is clear, the sea floor is quite rough and there were jelly fishes around.

Bohol Beach Club - where food is tasteless but the sight is picturesque! :)

There. I really hope that this will be helpful. :) Feel free to leave a comment for additional questions or more details. Happy planning! :)

Credits: All photos above courtesy of Ronald Calulo and Crystal Gonzalez. :) Friends, I really love our pics, nakaka-inspire i-blog. :) Looking forward to seeing more wonderful photos in our future trips! ^_^

More pics in my Picasa account:

Bohol Getaway - Day 1: Hello Tagbilaran!

Bohol Getaway - Day 2: Countryside Tour

Bohol Getaway - Day 3: Island & Sea tour

Bohol Getaway - Day 4: Danao Adventure

Bohol Getaway - Day 5: Huling Hirit sa Bohol