The Philippines: Creatures great and small

I can’t belive the time has come for my last post from South-East Asia. It means we’re about half way through our trip which I have mixed feelings about. Part of me feels we’ve been away a long time and would love to go home, just briefly, to see family and friends. The other part of me is alarmed at how fast almost 5 months can go and wants to slow down time so it lasts forever!

Here’s part 2 of the map:

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The Philippines has definitely been one of our favourite countries so far, along with Thailand. Although we’ve spent longer here than most places, I think we could easily have stayed longer. The people are fun and friendly (and mostly speak English), the countryside is beautiful and there are so many islands to explore and things to do.

Since my last proper post, we’ve had a few chill out days, a few travel days and a few days sound stuff. Starting with ‘creatures small’, on Bohol island we did a day tour around a bunch of sights, in the rain. Most inmates at the butterfly garden were hiding from the weather but here are the alive things we found! I love the golden chrysalises!

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Although these aren’t live, I thought it was a nice way of displaying them. Apparently, the top right is a ladyboy butterfly (so said our ‘tour guide’): half male, half female. I have no idea if that’s true or not!

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This is why we took the trip: tarsiers. One of the world’s smallest primates, they are very cute with their huge eyes and spindly fingers. They were also the inspiration for E.T.! Our experience was tainted a bit as we’d been told we could visit a conservation centre but it turned out to be a different place where there were 7 tarsiers, who had clearly been plonked in 7 separate man-made shelters, trying to sleep (they’re nocturnal) next to noisy employees and tourists using their flashes. Here are the best of my flash-less attempts:

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Another must-see of the area are these, the Chocolate Hills, which are hundreds of brownish mounds which create quite the unique landscape.   Unfortunately the rain and mist prevented us from seeing them properly but you can kind of get the idea.

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This is one of the many churches destroyed by the earthquake on October 15th 2013. The top photo shows the whole middle section is missing and, in the second, you can make out the organ’s pipes and the painted ceiling.

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So that day wasn’t exactly all it was cracked up to be but the day I’m about to describe, in Dumaguete on the island of Negros, was a pretty much perfect day! The only less-than-perfect aspect of the day was the 5:40am alarm!

We signed up with Harold’s Mansion to do two dives off Apo island, using a wedding gift from Hannah Elliott. The visibility was by far the best I’ve ever experienced and I finally felt completely confident and comfortable in the water, even (wo)manning the camera for a whole dive. We used our air more efficiently than others in our group so we had about 20 minutes at the end of the second dive of just us and our divemaster which was great.

The underwater terrain was amazing with loads of interesting, colourful flora and fauna:

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There are only so many poses you can do diving and its impossible to smile; we’ll try to come up with some new compositions for next time!

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One of Dean’s favourites – tiny harlequin nudibranches:

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Seal faced pufferfish we think:

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Some little reef fish:

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Some kind of anemone fish:

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Not sure what these bigger fish were except the bottom right is a titan trigger fish. The two in the top right (possibly a type of parrot fish) were chasing round in circles, kissing!

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A sea cucumber and its tracks:

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Starfish – I reckon the top one might have been the inspiration for Patrick on Spongebob Squarepants!

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Some interestingly colourful fish – possibly including a butterfly fish, angel fish and a six-barred wrasse:

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One of my favourites – a parrot fish – so called because of their mouths and the way their fins appear like wings as they flap through the water:

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Nemo, hiding:

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But the lovely day didn’t end there. Diving makes you very hungry so we found a little local restaurant serving amazing brick oven pizzas. Needless to say they didn’t last long enough to take a photograph!

Then we returned to our accommodation which was also a treat. We used another wedding present – from Sarah Cogdon – to stay in this really stylish, arty, boutique hotel and took advantage of their wonderful massage service in the evening.

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And now for ‘creatures great’! Whale sharks! Another earlyish start, this time in Oslob back on Cebu island. We had a half hour snorkeling encounter with the ocean’s largest fish. These were actually juveniles at a mere 4 metres long, a quarter of their full-grown size, but they still seemed massive from close up!

It was another experience we had kind of mixed feelings about. On the one hand, it was amazing to be in touching distance of these awesome creatures (you can be fined or imprisoned for touching so obviously we didn’t!). But on the other hand, the only reason we could see them is because Oslob’s fishermen feed them from their boats which the sharks now depend on. Also it felt a bit dangerous as the outriggers pen both sharks and humans into a small channel where either could easily hit their heads. Hmmmm. A great opportunity though. You’ll have to Google them to see pictures of a whole one as the visibility prevented any photographs from far enough away.

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So, that’s it for this beautiful part of the world. We’ve been to almost all its countries and will definitely be returning to visit Indonesia which is definitely on our wishlist for the future as a trip by itself.

Next is 12 days in Japan where we hope to visit Tokyo and Kyoto before flying to Los Angeles. We’ll spend a few days there and then we’ll fly to Mexico. Then the plan is to overland down through Central America to Panama, fly to Ecuador and make our way via Peru, Chile and Argentina to Brazil.

Cost of a cinema ticket in Manila: 200 pesos (£2.60) (We saw The Lego Movie and Winter’s Tale)
Cost of a haircut in Manila: 350 pesos (£4.60) (I had one!)
Cost of an international stamp in Manila: 13 pesos (18p)

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One thought on “The Philippines: Creatures great and small

  1. Wow! Wow! Double wow! Love the underwater photos- this is one of my ambitions!!! Particularly love the starfish! A starfish has huge significance for me over the last 2 years but will explain sometime when I see you. But the blue one was fab! Can’t believe you’re off to USA soon! Yes how time flies. Looking forward to half term with em… Nothing hugely exciting but life’s so good I’m happy just chilling! Big hug xxxxx

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