Exploring Panglao: Dolphin-watching, Balicasag Snorkeling and the Virgin Island (with a side of Alona)

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I posted a blog about our Bohol Countryside Day Tour back in early 2013 to document our awesome excursion to see the best that Bohol has to offer. What you didn’t know was that a day after our countryside tour, we had our scheduled dolphin-watching, and island hopping in Balicasag and Virgin Island.

Now, why no blog post you ask? Well, for starters, we didn’t see any dolphins during our supposedly dolphin-watching activity. They were just very elusive at that time of the month (it was September 2012). The second (major-major) reason was that during our Balicasag underwater snorkeling, my old underwater camera (Sony TX5) completely bailed on us. Its lens were shaking and the shots were just too blurry to be useful. My heart sank. As great as the underwater view was in front of us, there was nothing I can do to share it with other people because I didn’t have usable underwater shots to begin with. Even our Virgin Island photos were mediocre (from my standards, at least).

From that day on, Kaye and I vowed to return to Bohol for three major reasons: to see swimming dolphins in the wild, get some decent underwater shots in Balicasag and do justice to our photos in Virgin Island. And thank God, we scratched all of those a few weeks ago.

Beautiful day to voyage the seas

Blogger’s Note: For our island hopping activity, we contacted Naldix for our boat arrangements. We paid Php1,600.00 for the boat rental. You can contact him at 09173241511 or e-mail him at naldix07@yahoo.com. You can also find him on Facebook at Naldix Bohol Tour Packages.

We started our activity early, at around 6:00 in the morning. The activity starts early because it is during the morning that dolphins are often seen swimming around the seas of Panglao.

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My body is ready (to see some wild dolphins)

Dolphin-watching

After a few minutes into the sea, we passed by other tourists having their own dolphin-watching activity as well. I think we’re in good spots of the ocean.

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After a few false alarms and a couple of teases from these fine sea creatures, we finally found a group of them floundering around. It’s a different feeling seeing these dolphins freely swimming in their natural habitat, rather than seeing them at zoos or conservatories. The experience is more organic, and dare I say, heart-warming.

Our first glimpse of the ever elusive Boholano dolphin!

The tricky part about the wild dolphins is that they only appear in the surface of the ocean for a few seconds and then instantaneously disappear without warning. They are that elusive. There were a couple of dolphin chases our boat had to do before I got to have close and decent shots of these cuties.

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Playing around at the tails of our boat

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I had to zoom the photo in order to have close shots of the dolphins

Hi there humans!

Here’s a short clip of these dolphins in action. Watch!

Balicasag Island

After being satisfied of our quench to see those cute dolphins in action, our boatmen decided to proceed to Balicasag Island (before the other boats arrive) to secure a “parking slot” at the Balicasag shore since it can get crowded especially during vacation season. To ensure that we were going to have great underwater shots, Kaye brought in one of her prized possessions in the form of a Sony TX30.

I hope Kaye’s TX30 doesn’t bail on us like my TX5 did 2 years ago…

Balicasag Island

Blogger’s Note: Aside from the boat rental payment, each tourist is required to pay a P50.00 environmental fee and P150.00 for the Balicasag tour guide. Though the tour guide fee caught us off guard, this proved to be an advantage since not only did we have a lifeguard in case of emergency, we also had our own underwater photographer.

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After being introduced to our guide (whom I will call Manong), we were led to a small boat to lead us to the diving/snorkeling side of the island. If you are not a very good swimmer, the guides can provide you with life vests. But since we’re confident with our swimming skills (hilas), we didn’t use any life vests. The sea water’s high salinity also helped making people more buoyant (science, bro).

Manong Tour Guide giving his initial instructions

The guides can also provide you with snorkeling equipment, though for hygiene purposes, we decided to bring our own goggles and snorkeling paraphernalia. We also wore our trusty aqua shoes since per experience, the Balicasag shores and the corals below the waters can be very sharp.

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As expected, Balicasag has one of the more dynamic marine ecosystems in the country (we already did this 2 years ago, remember?). It’s amazing to see that the fish (both big and small) that inhabit the area have absolutely no hostility towards tourists swimming along with them (in short, the fish don’t give a flying F***).

I call this guy Sea Lure Moon #PunIntended

Kaye’s gonna eat you…

This is LIGHTYEARS better than Boracay’s reef walking. The fish are just everywhere!

Finding Nemo (and his dad) in Balicasag

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It is also good to note that the earthquake that occurred in Bohol last 2013 did not have visible effects on the island or the marine life in Balicasag. The corals remained in tact and the fish were as abundant and visible as before.

Not as scary as it looks

Big fish in the sea

Manong also taught us basic posing with the corals. Though he had to push us in order to be near the fish and the corals because our diving techniques was, let’s just say, “not there yet”. Haha.

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Close enough!

Nailed it

Manong, being the highly experienced diver, took matters into his hands to get up close shots with some of the fish and their homes. We wish our diving skills were up to par with Manong’s. Sigh.

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Having a skillful diver for a tour guide really came in handy

He was underwater for a couple of minutes with only one big breath. 0.o

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‘Sup bro?

Cute blue fish

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Kaye’s diving was WAY better than mine, thus, she had more exposure as far as underwater shots. Most of my shots were not as good as hers. 😀

Catch me I’m falling…

To cap off our Balicasag adventure, here’s a short underwater video with a special appearance from a famous animated character:

We were in the oceans for about an hour (AN HOUR) and as expected, it was very exhausting. The big sandwiches we ate for breakfast were seemingly digested far too quickly, leaving us very hungry while walking back to our boat. Thankfully, we brought some cookies and water for morning snacks.

Bye, Balicasag. Thank you for letting us capture your natural beauty without hiccups this time.

Virgin Island

We left Balicasag around 9am to proceed to our last stop of the island hopping activity, the Virgin Island of Panglao. It was low tide and a bit gloomy the last time we visited this place back in 2012 which meant that most of the island was visible and walkable (the eyesore seaweeds were also present). Fortunately this time though, it was high tide and very sunny which was perfect timing to shoot some beautiful beach photography. We were blessed to have beautiful weather throughout our Bohol trip, thank God.

The Virgin Island of Panglao

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The Virgin Island in Panglao has some similarities to the White Island in Camiguin, in that there are times of the day when the island is either in full sight (low tide) or covered with seawater (high tide). At the time of our visit, I estimated the island to be 10% visible. The island has fine white sand (though not as fine as Boracay’s) and had a very picturesque mix of green and blue hues to the waters.

Cameos from our aqua shoes, only from Speedo! (not a paid advertisement)

Since we came to the island early, we had the entire place for ourselves. It was like owning an island for a few minutes. 🙂

Shallow waters covering the island’s white sand

Obligatory selfie

No other tourists in sight

Today, we own the island.

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Since we were basically alone in the island, we didn’t feel any bit of shame when busting out our best jump shots. Don’t forget to enable Continuous Shooting Mode on your camera to get those perfect jump shots!

Nice jump shot…

But that doesn’t beat this

Such beauty. The background is also nice. 😀

After finishing our mini island photo shoot, we wrapped up our island hopping tour by heading back to Alona Beach.

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Wanna try some juicy sea urchin?

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Heading back

But wait, there’s more! As an added bonus, here are some of the activites we did in Panglao and Alona Beach a day before our island hopping tour.

Blogger’s Note: If you found this blog helpful and would like to support me in any way you can, head over to Zalora PH! Being a newly appointed Zalora Brand Ambassador, I’m sharing to you a15% discount voucher code which you can use on your first purchase at Zalora. Just use the voucher code ZBAPZGWV upon checkout and the price-off will automatically be deducted from your total checkout amount. Cool, right?! Thank you very much for the support and keep on reading!

Bohol Bee Farm

We had our lunch at Bohol Bee Farm after we checked out from The Peacock Garden. If you’re in for some tasty and organic food, this is your kind of restaurant.

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Bohol Bee Farm is popular with local and foreign tourists and with good reason. For our complimentary appetizers, we were served with their squash bread paired with their yummy pesto and mango paste. I ordered their baby back ribs (note the flower salad) while Kaye opted for their meat pasta. For drinks, we had their Peanut Mango and Choco Banana smoothie. I really liked the Peanut Mango. 🙂

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The other side of Panglao

While waiting for our car service to Alona, we had Bohol Bee Farm’s homemade ice cream for dessert. I originally had the avocado flavor while Kaye had the pandan ice cream.

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I ended up giving Kaye the avocado ice cream. Haha.

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 Alona Beach

We reached Alona Beach in the afternoon so we decided to take a stroll along the Alona strip before the sun set. Alona Beach has a vibe similar to Boracay’s White Beach. The beach strip was long (Boracay’s was longer though) and there are many hotel resorts and restaurants lined along the beach.

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Alona Beach

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It’s worth noting that summer season also seems to be algae season for Alona, thus making the beach not-so-appealing for swimming.

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After reaching the end of Alona’s strip, we decided to have an earlier than usual dinner at the Isis Thai Restaurant, just along the strip. We ordered their Thai lemongrass chicken, sizzling squid and mango shake. The food was average at best. Their mango shake was good, though.

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The difference 30 minutes can make

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After dinner, we felt the need to go for some extra walking along the rows of bars and al fresco restaurants along Alona Beach to let our bellies fully settle. LOL.

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Time for some people-watching

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Dining along the beach. Very much like in Boracay.

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Bohol Bee Farm’s Buzzz Cafe also has a branch in Alona

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It was still early so the bars weren’t very crowded yet

Tarsier Botanika

Tarsier Botanika is one of the newer establishments near Alona Beach, fronting Cherry’s @ Home Too (where we stayed overnight). We grabbed our lunch here after our island hopping, before going to Tagbilaran seaport.

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We really liked the ambience of the place. The place is a restaurant-coffee shop-convenience store-souvenir shop fusion making it a one-stop shop for tourists.

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Another foosball

For lunch, we had their pork belly and Polish sausage. Their food tasted really good, certainly better than what we were served at Isis Thai Restaurant I can tell you that. I also liked their mashed potatoes.

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Food tastes good! Not too pricey either.

The biggest discovery we made here at Tarsier Botanika are their pastries. They have all sorts of pasalubong goodies such as chocolate chip cookies, assorted biscuits, cashew cookies, mocha cookies, etc. And while this is a departure from the normal Boholano delicacies such as the kalamay and the infamous peanut kisses, their pastries are really good buys for pasalubong. My officemates seemed to like their cookies very much.

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Cakes and pastries overload

Of course, with the wide array of cakes and desserts displayed at their counter, we wouldn’t pass on trying one of their goodies. Since Kaye is a lemonoid (A person who goes gaga with everything lemon. And yes, I just made that word up), we went with the obvious choice in the form of a lemon meringue.

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Tangy, crusty and yummy

That is all for my Panglao Island adventure. I hope you find this blog helpful in your future trips to Bohol. Peace! -rod-

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31 comments

  1. Hi Rod,

    Let me be the first to post here! 🙂

    Im Spez from the Bohol thread in PEX 🙂

    As always, excellent Photos and Trip Report of your Bohol Adventure.

    IMHO, your posts should be permanently linked to the various websites promoting Bohol. Your pics are much better than what you see in most of those sites!

    Im getting all excited planning our own Bohol Trip this June just by reading your Blog. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Saw your photos of the humpback whale and I must say, that is way, way cool! I’d love to have that experience too, if I get to visit Aussie in the future. 🙂

      Like

  2. Dude, I love your travel posts. They’re the best. Great photos and great intel! I didn’t do the dolphin thing when I was down on Panglao, but I’ll check it out next time. I’m not surprised they’re elusive. They probably hate the sound of those super loud boat engines. I wonder, would it be OK to throw on a snorkel and just hang out in the water and see if they come to visit?

    Also, what the heck was that white thing that had the face on it? Is it some kind of coral? Anyway, I’m well inspired after reading this to make it back down. It’s been almost 10 years since my last visit. I’m due to check it out again! Glad you had a great trip.

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    1. Hi Mike. Your compliments are really appreciated over here. 🙂

      Yah, I too think that the dolphins hate the sound of the pump boats so much that they swim extra fast (hence being elusive). Haha. I don’t think it’s allowed for tourists to go snorkeling during dolphin-watching, mainly because there are many boats chasing the dolphins. That may compromise tourist safety, not to mention the depth of the waters at that part of the ocean.

      The white thing with a face on was a type of soft coral which has memory foam-like properties. Out tour guide basically “drew” that face and took a shot seconds after. Haha.

      I think Bohol has matured more as a tourist destination, especially since after the big earthquake last year. Also makes tourists realize how strong the people of the island are with coping with the recent calamity. Looking forward to your blog post on your return to Bohol!

      Like

      1. Wow. That memory coral thing is ultra cool. I love stuff that seems to just sit there, but actually has cool tricks. Like venus fly traps and stuff like that. OK, I’ll put it on my “must find in Bohol” list. lol

        Like

  3. Hi Rod,

    Its me again, bugging you for some pointers… hehe

    (I keep looking at your blog and getting more and more jealous bec i know I will NEVER BE ABLE to take such awesome pics on our upcoming trip there!!) Thats because aside from not owning a DSLR, I am a lousy photog..hehe

    That being said, I will try anyway. Will bring 2 cameras (my wifes cybershot and my ‘semi-dslr’ mainly for zooming) + my iphone 5. My question is, you obviously used a waterproof bag.. can you recomend a good (but affordable) one for the cybershot or the iphone? In Boracay, they sell “waterproof camera bags” for this but i wasnt about to risk my gadgets on those things… What did you use?

    2nd, can I ask if in the snorkeling area there is a rope that one can hang on to? For my wife and kid. Ive seen this in other blogs but not in yours, Also, how deep was your dive area? While I do swim, Its been YEARS since I actually swam in deep ocean waters and im afraid i got too much out of shape already and gets out of breath quickly.

    3rd, I notice your wife is wearing glasses..(Like Me) Did she have prescription goggles on or Contacts? Im practically blind as a bat without glasses (partly why i dont enjoy swimming at the beach anymore) Someone suggested Prescription googles, been asking around and theyre kinda expensive.

    Hehe sorry for making you the go-to guy to ask questions about Bohol, but you just have so much good information! Your blog (and others too) are a good resource for people like me who are planning to go somewhere knew. Like I just learned about “AQUA SHOES” so went out and bought em already.. little things like that.

    Thanks again and once more, Youve got a GREAT BLOG!! 🙂

    Like

    1. Hi Spez. First of all, no biggie on the questions. As long as I can answer them, I’m very much willing to.

      Thanks for the compliment on my photos, though I think you’d be surprised to know that my shots do not come from a DSLR. I own a Sony Cybershot RX100, a high-end pocket camera (yes, pocket camera!) which can shoot photos that rival even DSLR cameras. I found it perfect for me since I’m very much on the go and bringing a DSLR would be too bulky and heavy for my liking.

      As for the waterproof bags, we bought the Outdoor (brand name) bags for P1,000.00 (comes in 3 sizes: S, M, L). The small bag, though not custom-fitted to gadgets, seem to get the job done. But for my RX100, I used my slightly more expensive Sea to Summit waterproof bag for extra assurance.We also bought a big 10L waterproof bag (the orange one) for P700.00. We used this to house the smaller waterproof bags for double protection.

      Yes, there is a rope to hang on on the snorkeling area. I just didn’t upload the pictures with the ropes. Hehe. The depth can range from 4-10 ft. inside the rope boundary. Beyond the ropes however, the depths can go as deep as the ocean floor.

      My girlfriend didn’t wear prescription goggles or contacts. Not really too knowledgeable on prescription goggles so I’ll leave it at that. Haha.

      Like

  4. Hello Rod,

    I am planning to go Bohol with my family (2 adults and 12yo and 9yo kids) February next year. It is our first time. I am still deciding if we go back to Boracay (2nd time) or try Bohol (first time).

    Can you give me some advice?

    1. Which hotel/resort would you suggest? I am comparing Amorita and Bellevue at the moment. Or any other place to consider?

    2. Would 3D2N be enough or 4D3N is better? PAL flights arrives 11am and departs 4:40pm back to Manila. We like to enjoy the resort facilities (massage), go countryside tour, and dolphin/snorkeling/island-hopping. Can you suggest an itinerary for 3D2N and 4D3N?

    Thanks,

    Mike

    Like

    1. Hi Mike,

      I’ll try to answer as much as I can.

      1. I haven’t been to both Amorita and Bellevue but I have read rave reviews about both hotels. from what I’ve read, I guess I’ll go with Amorita since it is near Alona Beach (which is comparable to Station 2 of Boracay, lots of bars, restos and nightlife along the beach strip).

      2. Judging by the flight skeds, it’s ok to have 3D2N stay. Here’s a sample itinerary.

      Day 1 (half day) – Hotel facilities, stroll along Alona

      Day 2 (whole day) – Countryside Tour – Read my post here:

      https://rodifiedopinion.wordpress.com/2013/07/30/bohol-uncut-part-1-hinagdanan-baclayon-loboc-river-and-zip-line/

      https://rodifiedopinion.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/bohol-uncut-part-2-tarsier-atv-chocolate-hills-and-bohol-bee-farm/

      Day 3 (half day) – Island hopping, dolphin-watching, snorkeling

      Like

  5. Thanks for this blog. i’m deciding where to go for our honeymoon: Boracay or this on a Dec season. I’m not sure though how much has changed since this is from last year…

    Like

  6. Hi Rod!
    Nice shot!
    I want to ask if how long is the island hopping and dolphin watching takes? because I plan to take the tour on my last day in Panglao, My flight will be 3pm, is it possible that I can take the tour?
    I’ll be in Panglao on October 3-5.
    Can you recommend good but not too expensive restaurant in Panglao, I will be staying at Alona Kew.
    Thank you and Have a nice day

    Like

    1. Hi LJ. Our island hopping started around 6am and ended by 10:30am. If you can manage to get ready and be at the airport by 1pm, I think the island hopping is doable. Just make sure you inform your boatman of your schedule. Restos I tried along Alona are Isis Thai and Tarsier Botanika. Also try Buzzz Cafe by Bohol Bee Farm at the far end of Alona beach’s stretch.

      Like

  7. Hi! Nice blog! Just want to ask some questions pls:
    – Is the boat rental (1600) paid per head or is it a group expense?
    – Can you recommend any cheap accommodations in Alona Beach? We’re planning to stay for 1 night after the countryside tour then have our island hopping tour the next day.

    Thank You!

    Like

  8. Great Blog! 🙂 I have a question regarding the tours. Did you shoulder the entrance fees, food and all others of the tour/driver? Thanks! 🙂

    Like

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