The central islands of The Philippines are world famous for marine life. But there are many more options for seeing wildlife in its natural habitat in The Visayas, as The Family Adventure Project’s Kirstie Pelling discovered…
Shy and wild
We peer into the trees to find a sensitive creature, who may or may not be sleeping. Our chances of finding it would be slim if we didn’t have the world’s tarsier expert as our guide. Carlito Pizarras can smell them from afar and he stops to listen and sniff as we make our way around the enclosure.
Tarsiers are one of the world’s oldest primates and can be found in four parts of The Philippines. Their eyes are bigger than their brains and their heads can revolve almost 360 degrees. You can only smile when you come face to face with one. Don’t expect them to smile back though; they’ll be dozing. And no, you won’t be able to take one home. Once hunted for use as domestic pets, they are now a protected species; thanks partly to Carlito, who begged his father to halt the trade when he was a boy.
High and wild
Not all the primates on the islands snooze in the daytime. The monkeys at the Loboc River Resort are wide awake. Every afternoon the six resident Macaus are fed on their very own island. It’s delightful to watch from the opposite bank as they swing through the trees, lift bananas and take playful swipes at each other. Wildlife is all part of the charm of this riverside resort; you can also ride a carabao water buffalo or take a boat out on a calm night and watch fireflies dance the night away.
Flutter and slither
Talking of creatures that flit about; the Central Visayas have excellent butterfly sanctuaries including Jumalon on Cebu and Habitat on Bohol where guides educate you on their lifecycle and introduce you to species . Our guide Jemer let us get up close; Hannah found herself wearing a live butterfly in her hair. And yes, it did suit her. But no, we won’t be taking one home.
We definitely didn’t wear any snakes, although it is an option at Bohol’s eco tourism attraction; the beautiful Chocolate Hills Adventure Park. (CHAP) If you take a treetop walk or bike zip, you’ll meet forest animals native to The Philippines, some more pleasant than others and most of them thankfully behind glass. You can hold a python if the mood takes you. It didn’t take us.
Duck and dive
Undoubtedly the most beautiful creatures in The Philippines live in the sea. And there are plenty of chances to befriend them. You can chase dolphins at dawn just off Pamilacan Island from boats that whale fishermen once hunted with. You can swim with whale sharks at Oslob. You can take a PADI course at Mactan and be at one with the coral and the fish.
Or you can just sit and enjoy the natural world going about its business around you. Spot bright colours of dragonfly. Trace the path of the birds as they fly through the trees. Or watch crabs dig into white sand. Collect memories, experiences and photographs, and be sure to take them all home.
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Find out more about the work of Habitat for Humanity in the Philippines.