We’ve had an action packed day with our very own chauffeur. Having booked the trip yesterday, we were told that a day trip around the island would only be possible with the rental of a car and driver for the day. As arranged with the tour agency, our driver turned up at our hotel nice and early in his own posh car which had leather seats and, more importantly, air conditioning!
Our first stop was an underground cave. Our driver, who spoke barely any English, was there to take us to each of the tourist stops and then take us to the ticket booths for each attraction. On paying our entrance fee for the cave, we were provided with an english speaking guide who was there t show us around in the hope that we would give them a tip.
He took us inside the cave where he proceeded to explain to us about the stalactites and stalagmites inside the cave which we had previously learnt about from our trip to the Waitomo Caves in New Zealand. Towards the end of our tour in the cave, the guide became insistent in helping to take photos of us and made us do numerous cheesy poses including a superman pose with a beam of sunlight coming down on us. (Un)fortunately, our pictures haven’t come out so well.
After the 15 minute tour or so we headed back out of the cave, gave the guide a little tip, and were driven to our next stop – the Baclayon Church, one of the oldest churches in the Philippines. Walking around the Jesuit church, you could see some of the Spanish influences though a lot of it has been reconstructed.
After the church, we headed to a snake sanctuary which was home to several pythons. The pythons were kept in cages all appeared quite docile, enough so that they were happy to be surrounded and handled by hundreds of tourists a day. It was kind of cruel but I had my photo taken with a white and yellow python anyway. John, on the other hand, has a slight phobia of snakes and the only photo he had there was with a large statue of Dora the Explorer. Cute!
We didn’t really want to stay long at the python sanctuary as neither of us were that comfortable there and decided it was a bit cruel and all. Now, it was lunch time! Our driver took us to a dock by the Loboc river where there were several ticket booths. I guess each tour agency has a deal with each one and our driver guided us to a specific booth where we bought a ticket for a buffet lunch on the river Loboc. Our driver would remain in the car whilst we ate lunch and went on our boat trip.
There were several companies operating such lunch boat trips and we easily found ours. We boarded and were shown to a little table for two on the edge of the boat. Before long, the boat started to float down the river and the buffet was served. There was quite a large variety of food including prawns and chicken, and we took our time eating. During the boat trip, we made a stop off (though we all stayed on the boat) at a floating station where there were a group of dancers who performed a little song and dance for us, and then expected a tip from us all. The boat journey was relaxing and smooth and ideal for a lunch. By the end of lunch, we were both stuffed but we kind of got bored towards the end of the boat trip which was about an hour and a half or so.
With our bellies full, we found our driver on our return and headed to a penultimate destination – the tarsier conservation. I’ve never really come across a tarsier on TV or even in books and was surprised at how small these creatures were. They really reminded me of a tiny gremlin but they were so cute. They are nocturnal creatures so it was probably a bit disturbing for them with us tourists all traipsing around their home. Inside the sanctuary, we were put into groups of around 10-15 and lead around the conservation area by a guide who would point out the tarsiers and offer information about the tarsiers. It was an interesting tour and I fell in love with the tarsiers.
At the end of the tour, we visited the little shop and sucked into their marketing ploys, I purchased a yellow T-shirt with a cute cartoon picture of a tarsier.
Now for the final stop and the highlight of the trip – the chocolate hills! Spread across more than 50 kilometres of land, the area is covered in hills which during the wet season is covered in green grass but turns brown during the dry season, hence the name chocolate hills. The geological formation is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the Philippines. Our driver took us to the start of a viewpoint where we climbed to the top which gave us an amazing view of the chocolate hills.