We were desperately in need of the beach! We had been on vacation for almost a week and still no ocean time. Alona Beach is on a separate island (Panglao), connected by bridge, to the main island of Bohol. It is very touristy, but the beach is beautiful. Our hotel was in the prime busy zone, and had only like 3 shitty beach chairs in front, sandwiched between massage ladies and a shake stand, so we headed to the far end of the beach for some peace and quiet (this was only like a 5 min walk).
One shitty thing that we have found in the Philippines is the lack of beach loungers. Most places I have been, every restaurant on the beach has a set of loungers that you can use if you eat/drink from them during the day. Here, each restaurant is in a hotel, and they only allow chair use for guests. The big fancy resort on the beach, Hennan, had great loungers, and tons of them. One day we asked the bar guy if we could use the chairs if we bought drinks from them (the most expensive beers on the beach). He said yes. This was a great day! We had comfy loungers and also an umbrella! This was important as we had sunscreen fails our first beach day, and both of us had strange patchy burns due to forgetting to pay attention to which direction the sun was coming from. However, a couple of days later on our last day we decided we needed comfy chairs again, and even though we had secured an ok from the bartender, security kicked us out like the riff raff we are. This was despite the fact that more than half the chairs were not in use. Apparently we are too beach trashy to sit in front of the fancy hotel! Good thing we brought our bright pink laybag with us to the beach, as it was much more comfy than the sand. Surprisingly, not a single other laybag was in use, and we got quite a few comments about it.
The other reason for coming to Bohol (besides tarsiers) was diving. The Balicasag Island marine sanctuary is really close to the island, and has really good beginner diving. We hooked up with a cheap, bare bones diving ship (Baywatch Divers) (we didn't realize it was so bare bones until after we had dove with them) upon recommendation from a girl at one of my clients). Despite the fact that the dive master was more interested in his sandwich than remembering the names of fish, or us really, we had a good day. It was just Steve and I with our dive master, and only one other girl (getting certified) on the dive. This was especially good since I hadn't dove in 2 years, and this was Steve's first diving outside of his open water certification dives in the Lake Chaparral residential lake. We did 2 dives, one on a shallow reef (called Diver's Heaven), and then a wall dive (Rico's wall - my first wall dive, it was amazing!). On our first dive we saw a bunch of turtles, one really big one before we even finished submerging. There were a bunch of really cool fish and other things, but I suck at knowing their names, and our underwater camera is really crappy so the pictures are not great. Or they are non-existent, since I was responsible for the camera on our first dive, and every time I try to take a picture I forget to breath and pay attention to my buoyancy so start floating around like an idiot. Our first dive was really short since apparently Steve sucks air back like a maniac. When we went up (maybe after 20 min?) Steve was in the red, and I still had 75% of the original amount of air. On our second dive, Steve once again ran out of air quickly, and I had more than half of the original tank. Luckily our dive master wasn't so on top of being professional and decided that Steve could hang out on the surface by himself and wait for the dive boat while me and him went back down for another go.
Another awesome thing we did on Bohol was to do a firefly watching kayak tour on the Abatan River with Kayakasia. We decided to do this after day drinking on the beach, so were not well prepared at all - no idea where it was, no mosquito repellent, etc. Luckily we were taken care of by a lovely Dutch couple. The tour also included dinner, which ended up being the best Filipino food that we have eaten so far. There was some fried eggplant thing that tasted like french fries... super yummy. The tour itself was fantastic - it was dark out, and you kayak down the river to look at trees full of fireflies. The company is great and the guides are super knowledgeable. I recommend them for their eco-tourism friendliness alone. The trees full of fireflies were amazing. Sitting on the river, under the super moon, looking at glowing trees, was super surreal. I of course have no pictures as our waterproof camera is not great. The only bad part of the tour for us is the actual kayaking part. This would not have been bad, except that Steve is really horrible at kayaking. He told me that he was bad because he always tipped the kayak, but I really wanted to go, so he agreed. We didn't tip the kayak, so that was fine. However, he is terrible at steering, which sucked, because he was our steerer. We went back and forth across the river in a zig zag pattern, testing our relationship the whole time! At one point we went in a complete circle. I was laughing out of control at how bad we were. I think the guides felt sorry for us as one of them kept telling us were were "almost there!". Thank goodness we only had to go 4km.
We had 4 days at Alona Beach. Besides diving, sucking at kayaking and beach days, we didn't do much. Lots of relaxing. Some other things:
- discovering cheap beer vendors so that we could have beach beers without paying hotel prices
- The filipino band at our hotel that played 90's love ballad covers all through happy hour while we drank 2 for one drinks and I sang along at the top of my lungs
- Discovering Tanduay rum - less than $3 for a 26oz bottle
- Napping every day around 4-5 pm so that we didn't see a single sunset the whole time we are at the beach!
- Bohol bee farm ice cream - we would try alll the flavours on taste tests every day but ended up with salted honey every time. Soo good. We ate this like every day.
- Pain au chocolate for breakfast from the hotel next door every morning