6 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Panglao (HINT: Wild Dolphins and More) Plus Bohol Travel Tips

Panglao-white-sand-beach

How I miss Bohol, every inch of it - the beautiful countryside, the amazing beaches and islands, the culture, the people, the food; all of it!  Whenever I think about this first income class province of the Philippines, memories flood again. Instantly I’m reminded about the rush of excitement and admiration that overcame me during my stay there.

So I’d like to reminisce by writing about it; in fact, since there’s so much to say and share about this place, I decided to write a series. Well, why not? It’s the country’s tenth largest island! My goal is not only to tell my tale, but also share useful information you can use once you decided to pack your things and create your own memories in this wonderland.

Here’s an overview of this blog’s Bohol travel series: (1) 6 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Panglao (HINT: Wild Dolphins and More) (2) Balicasag Island (3) Virgin Island (4) Chocolate Hills (5) Loboc River (6)Countryside Tour. I’ll update this post once the next one is published, you can either subscribe to the feed or mailing list or check my posts on social media sites (see the right side panel for the links).

I know you’ve heard or read the frantic news about the 7.2 magnitude 2013 earthquake that struck this beautiful province; but I assure you there's still so much to see in this place that even a catastrophe can't destroy.

Island-hopping-tours-in-Panglao

You may be wondering why I’m starting the series writing first about Panglao. Why not the hills that closely resemble mounds of chocolate? Or the cute bug-eyed tarsiers, the world’s smallest primates? Or the famous Loboc river where restaurants float gently serenading its guests and comforting them with appetizing seafoods? I mean, this island province is almost exclusively promoted by these fantastic sights; why start with Panglao?

My take is, once you’ve been to Bohol, it’s almost impossible to forget Panglao. Not just because it homes stunning dive sites that were world renowned, but goodness, how can one forget such pretty beaches! The crystal-clear, pristine waters so blue; white sands, astonishing marine life, incredible wild dolphins - you’d wish to stay there forever!

I’ve confirmed this to be true also to strangers, who have become friends, I’ve met during my random travels. One of them, Steve, a scuba diver slash diving instructor slash marine surveyor who have lived on the island of Boracay for a few years, and in Puerto Galera also for more than a decade. He used to work in other countries as a vessel surveyor and marine surveyor alternately. As a licensed scuba diver, instructor, and technical diver, he’s been to numerous beaches, rivers and lakes. I asked him what his top picks in the Philippines were; Panglao was one of them. In fact, he said that Boracay and Mindoro’s beaches cannot be compared to Panglao’s beauty and marine biodiversity.

He talked about it so much so that I see myself, because I too, have much respect in this unspoiled island. Despite urbanization and a growing number of tourists from all over the world, Bohol has managed to live up their reputation as a first-class province. And the best thing about this province too is that every locale polices their protected resources, especially their beaches.

Dolphin-watching-boats-in-Panglao

Anyway, before heading to Panglao, first, let’s talk about getting to Bohol. I did not directly booked a flight to Tagbilaran because I have to fetch my sister who’s a lil’ pregnant at that time and her husband and brother-in-law. So from Manila I flew to Dumaguete and from there we bought ferry boat tickets to Tagbilaran Port. There are ferry trips every day, if you’re coming from Dumaguete travel time is around 2-3 hours. Price range is Php700 for open-air/tourist class and Php910 for business class. You can check this link for schedule, ticket outlets and promos - http://www.oceanjet.net/dumaguete-tagbilaran.

I would not suggest doing this, however, Dumaguete bound flights tend to be expensive especially without promo fares. Not to mention, it’ll take more time going to Tagbilaran and the boat fare is costlier. I recommend the quick ferry trip from Cebu instead.

For those coming from Cebu, here’s a guide you can use - Domestic Flight Schedules | Fast Ferry Schedules | Regular Ferry Schedules.

To save time, I suggest booking a direct flight to Tagbilaran Bohol. However, since the airport is small, it can only accommodate a few airlines and schedules. Check AirAsia, CebuPac, PAL for schedules and promos.

Though in my opinion, Cebu to Tagbilaran still wins the cheapest expense. This is because the Mactan International airport is larger, thus fitting more planes and schedules causing the flag carriers on a competitive position. My recent trip to Cebu only cost me around PHP 2,000 round-trip tickets (including taxes and other fees) using promo fares.

Before heading to Panglao we spent a whole day touring the countryside which I’ll write on a separate post, hopefully in the next few days if I have plenty of time, if not in the next few weeks.

We were able to get there by renting a car. But you can also opt to ride a local tricycle which will take approximately an hour. Panglao is the south island of Bohol and the same name is called on the southernmost part of the two municipalities on the island. You will first pass Dauis, the other municipality.

I would suggest, for a more convenient trip, to rent a car or a van. Besides, I feel the price is also reasonable, you can check rates online simply by typing rent-a-car in Bohol. Even if you're not inclined to do so, this shouldn't cause you to worry since there are plenty of operators that hang around at the Tagbilaran Port. If I can recall correctly, ours only cost Php 2,800 for a Vios car. The package includes a whole day city-tour, driver/tour guide fee, and buffet lunch in Loboc river.

I pre-booked our accommodation in Bohol, which only cost a total of Php 3,104.90 (including taxes & other fees). We’re a group of four, but the place I've rented was good for 6-8pax. Panglao Tropical Villas, is a beachfront beautiful villa, homey and a bit rustic. It has a swimming pool, a Jacuzzi, billiards, and a few more facilities you can use. What made our stay pleasant too were the very friendly, polite and accommodating staffs.

Panglao-tropical-villas

It's very accessible to motorboats for island hopping, diving, and dolphin watching. The resort offer tours too, though it’s more expensive than the ones offered by the other local guides. The beach in-front the villa is called Danao beach. I don't find it suitable for children to swim though, but for the adults, snorkeling here is a fair bid. Anyway, you can check the other beaches just by taking a few minutes walk.

swimming-pools-in-Panglao-tropical-villas

I've never been a fan of crowded places and hotel lobbies, and if you've been following my posts you’ll notice my picks of abode were always where I can have solitude. Choosing a place to stay is one thing I’m so particular with. There are other accommodations with a cheaper price or a luxurious one, you should pick depending on your preference, others comes with a free breakfast too. I suggest you pre-book online to save time and manage your expectations.

hammock-in-the-beach

I’ll cut with the details for now, here's six reasons why I think you need to visit Panglao:

1) It has unbelievably clean, crystal clear waters!
Ever had an aquarium fully equipped with filters and an almost scratch-free tank? You can see everything your little fishes do, even the small particles that randomly floats!

crystal-clear-waters-in-Panglao-beaches

That's how I'd describe Panglao. It has undoubtedly pristine beaches with crystal clear waters. I remember even when we're several kilometers from the shore, we still have a good glimpse of what's under the boat. I mean seriously, who wouldn't love that?

2) Amazing marine biodiversity - READ: healthy sea bed that's great for snorkeling and diving
Of course, when the water isn't polluted one can imply that life is flourishing beneath. Panglao dive sites are world renowned. Oh, but you don’t need to be a diver just to see the underwater marvels. Just take a dip, don’t forget your goggles and relish the sight.

sea-urchins-in-Panglao

Early morning when I checked, it was low-tide, the real, obvious kind of low tide at the Danao beach so I decided to have a look around and check the seabed instead. I saw a lot of starfish, big and small, resting in the sand looking as if enjoying the warmth of the sun. Sea urchins, small live fishes left, a variety of sea grass, and other sneaky creatures can be found in just a few steps!


starfish-in-Panglao

3) Calms waves to quiet your restless soul
Ah, the soothing waves… It was telling me to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view. How about that for a reason? This tells you that the reefs and vegetations were in great condition, it’s thriving. There’s no need for artificial breakers, no need to fear for tidal waves. Really, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy.

calm-waves-in-Danao-Beach


4) White sands. White sands. White sands.
Who doesn’t like white sands? Fine sands? Gee, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t. Welcome to Bohol! A place where you can find scores of white sands without difficulty.

white-sands-Panglao

P.S. Alona beach is the most popular of them all, not to mention it’s 1.5 kilometers long stretch of white sands lined with coconut trees too.

5) Chasing sunrises and sunsets

sunset-in-Panglao

Travelers are chasers of the best sunrises and sunsets! If you call yourself one, then aloha, Panglao won’t disappoint you. I’ve managed to watch the sun go down and rise up here.


unobstructed-sunrise-in-Panglao

Two words describe it: unobstructive, dramatic.

sunrise-in-Panglao


6) Watching wild dolphins have their breakfast and morning play

Dolphin-watching-boat-hire-Panglao

One fisherman offered us a reasonable Dolphin watching and Island hopping package for only Php 2,500! The boat was big enough to suit ten people comfortably, but of course, since we’re only four in the group plus mister fisherman-turned-adventure-guide and his companion, we’re able to enjoy the extra space.

tourists-boats

If my memory serves me well, it took us approximately 5 minutes to get to the point where the tourists’ boats were crowding. As we approach, I was a bit skeptical with the commotion and hoped that we weren't possibly a target for an ambush. Thank goodness they’re just tourists, mostly Japanese and Koreans, who woke up early to watch the wild Dolphins have their breakfast.

dolphins-in-Panglao

wild-dolphins-in-Panglao

Our guide told us that Dolphins are regularly spotted in this side of Bohol during the early months of the year to catch fishes. They swam in school, a big social group really, as soon as the sun shows up. On the second half of the year whale sharks can be seen here too.

wild-dolphins-playing-in-Panglao

It’s my first time to see a lot of wild Dolphins swimming so close; jumping and playing too, as if enjoying the attention we homo sapiens were giving them. One instance, three young mammals swam so close to our boats I swear if my hands were long enough I could touch them! We all felt like jumping and wanting to swim with them instead of racing and competing with the other boats just to have a good glimpse. But you can’t do that, unless you’re okay being trampled by those eager tourists’ boats!

wild-dolphins-playing-and-playing-in-Panglao

dolphins-playing-and-eating-in-Panglao

It was ecstatic, beyond words can describe. I never thought such adrenaline rush one could feel simply by watching them. It was too bad we didn't have a decent photo of them, besides how could we do that? We didn't even know where to point our camera, they’re just all over the place. And I would definitely trade watching them for hours with only my eyes recording and engraving it to my memory than to waste several minutes trying to have a good shot.

dolphins-catching-fishes-in-Panglao

For more than an hour, I think they finally grew tired and swam so fast and dived too deep that they just disappeared without a trace. I didn't want it to end, no, not too soon. But I had had the experience at its very best, and it had had me too; it was time to go.

We then head to visit another gem, literally, obviously a marine sanctuary called Balicasag Island. And so my despondency disappeared and came another fond moment to cherish.

boat-tours-in-Panglao

How many are your works, O Lord!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number -
living things both large and small.
(Psalm 104: 24-25)

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