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One of the must-do activities in Bohol is watching the dolphins swim in their natural habitat near Pamilacan Island. It’s recommended to get the Bohol Island hopping tour from the resort you’re staying at, but you can also book a boat elsewhere depending on how big your group is. We prefer the island hopping speed boats used by Bellevue Resort, which are ideal for getting close to the dolphin action and are much faster than the bancas. Here is a photo essay of our dolphin watching and island hopping experience… Dolphin Watching Call time is 5:30am. We left at 6am to catch the dolphins swimming and feeding on the surface while the water was still cool. It takes about an hour to reach the viewing spot. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see all the bancas gathered in one area. They say you only get a 40% chance to see them. (Tip: We dipped the GoPro under water while they were swimming beside the boat.) The kids were so excited by the playful dolphins swimming beside our boat. If you’re lucky you’ll see them do a triple somersault. After Dolphin watching, we headed over to Balicasag Island and ate packed breakfast on the boat. This can make you dizzy as the boat sways with the waves. We had a serving of either tocino, tapa, dangit, or longganisa paired with garlic rice and fresh fruits or yogurt on the side. We had lots of water and juices to stay hydrated. Balicasag Island Sanctuary Balicasag Island Sanctuary is a small island off the coast of Panglao, Bohol with a healthy and preserved coral reef full of fishes and even sea turtles! We had snorkeling gear, fins, and life jackets for safety. We’re very thankful to our guide who assisted us the whole time. We were lucky enough to spot a turtle while snorkeling! A turtle is a sign of a healthy eco system. Family snorkeling bonding moment. It’s an honor to teach the boys and watch them snorkel for the first time on open water. The kids enjoyed snorkeling and feeding the schools of fish. Virgin Island Sandbar After snorkeling, we made our way to the Virgin Island beach. The wide flat sandbar makes it an ideal place for kids to swim. Be adventurous and try their exotic selection of freshly caught seafood from the vendors. We had freshly caught sea urchin for P20 each. They cut open the bottom and scrape the inside with a spoon. I love the umami flavors. They typically use suka (vinegar) to sterilize it, but I prefer eating it fresh so as not to lose the flavor. They also have freshly caught abalone that’s very popular in the Asian market. A small one costs P50 while a big one P100. (Tip: You can bargain to get a better deal for the abalone. Make sure you also tell the vendors to give you a fatty sea urchin.) You can have the abalone cooked for free adobo style. But do it at your own risk, since their beach shack setup is not that sanitary. The abalone was cooked perfectly, very soft with no hard, chewy rubbery texture. We prefer their simple bananacue (P20) and refreshing fresh buko (P50) for merienda. Isola di Francesco Our last stop was Isola di Francesco, a place of meditation and reflection owned by the Philippine Centre of St. Pio of Pietrelcina. The beautiful sandbar is open to the public with free boat shuttle service going to and back from the island for those who wish to pay tribute or simply just want to visit the place. At the middle of Isola di Franceso, the statue of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina stands tall over the pious guests and devotees to our beloved Italian saint. It is a quiet place for relaxation and meditation with art installations of scenes from Jesus’ life and ministry. It is a place for prayer so make sure to observe silence and respect the other people who go here for the solitude. It also features a mini-museum of the stigmatist Padre Pio, who is known as the as saint-confessor for Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. It’s also a place to venerate the relic of Padre Pio whose feast day is commemorated every Sept. 23. You can stay as long as you want. You can even swim in peace on the vast sandbar shoreline. The island has the best restroom facilities so make sure to make a stop during your island hopping tour. Here’s what you should consider when you go on this tour… What we like: – We love the use of the Bellevue speedboat instead of the banca – Dolphin Watching is a must and it’s so fun seeing the wild dolphins in their natural environment – Isola de Franscesco is a must-visit for Padre Pio devotees and a better stop than visiting Virgin Island What de don’t like: – It’s crowded already with too many boats (during dolphin watching, the boats are cutting the path of the dolphins; make sure to go early) – Virgin Island is a tourist trap; go at your own risk. Balicasag and Virgin Island Tour Bellevue Resort Bohol Rates 2 person package for P3000/head 3 person package for P2600/head 4 person package for P2350/head 5-6 person package for P2150/head Note: Guests can book the tour at the lobby for the dolphin watching and island tour. Guests have a different speedboat model, the one we used is for hotel use only. Live an Awesome Life,
Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com Disclosure: Our tour is courtesy of Bellevue Resort. I wrote this article with my biases, opinions, and insights. P.S. After experiencing the Virgin Island, we read this NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC in Isola di Francesco. Be warned!