There are pros and cons to visiting waterfalls in the wet season. On one hand you know there’ll be water in those bad boys. We’re not talking a trickle, I mean there’ll be full on gushing torrents of H2O. They will be awesome in the genuine sense of the word and not in the way food delivery apps are awesome when you’re hungover to all hell and can’t move off the couch. On the other hand you can’t swim in them on account of the fact you’ll be swept rapidly to your death so you’ll have to content yourself with gazing longingly at the waterfall and drooling a little bit.
We were lucky in that we’d found two waterfalls a couple of days ago that were safe to swim in but when we rocked up to Pangas Waterfall, which was actually down a relatively nice unsealed road (although these days I consider any road that I can ride along without my feet down and doesn’t have potholes so deep they probably lead to another fucking dimensions “nice”) we were told that swimming was too dangerous and we couldn’t go in. Fair enough. If we can’t go in we can’t go in, we had no intention of defying them and risking drowning so we promised them we’d just look at them. I don’t think they believed us though, they sent a boy down to watch us.
To be fair, even if we’d had intentions of disregarding their warnings we would have backtracked as soon as we saw the current. Ain’t no one surviving a dip in that. We stared at them for a bit, took the standard thousand photos and headed back up the steps. Another good thing about the popular ones though is the abundance of concrete steps that lead aaaaall the way down as opposed to seven metres or so before it gives way to a mud slide you have to try to negotiate without face-planting. So they were great, but this still didn’t get me my swim. I found a place on Maps.ME called Logarita Spring. This could be promising. We knew sod all about it though. We had no idea wha it looked like, if it was popular, if it was even accessible with a hairdryer on wheels, so we figured we’d just show up and hope for the best.
Turns out it’s in some manner of national park which you had to pay entry to. The woman at the toll booth told us that Logarita was a swimming pool fed with water from the caves. We didn’t even know there were caves. We just wanted a swim. The entry fee made it an expensive swim but we were here now, might as well check it out. What they’ve done is gone and built and actual swimming pool so if you were hoping for a swim in a natural pool you’ll be a bit disappointed which we were at first, but a swim is a swim.
I’m actually really glad we came here, it was loads of fun in the end once we’d upset every single nerve ending in our bodies. Yep, it’s cold. I mean, of course it’s bloody cold, it’s cave water. Streams from the hill constantly feed the pool and the overflow is carried off in channels. Of course there are cottages you can rent, there was a woman flogging all manner of boozes, and there was a monkey hell bent on relieving every one of their food.
We were told there were monkeys if we wanted to go further into the park but we’ve seen monkeys so we just hit the spring. This guy though, he harassed two local women until they handed over food and when a family with a small baby showed up the monkey took their crisps off them. They didn’t argue, they just handed over the goods to the furry little bandit. We were already on our way out by the time it approached us and bared its teeth so we just packed up and legged it before it tried to swap all of my blood for rabies or something.
Only slightly more terrifying than being mugged by a primate are the bastard twin hanging bridges of Sevilla. I’ve no idea how Tarrant found out about these bridges but she did and she wanted to put them in her eyeholes so we duly rocked up and paid our entrance fee. ₱20 it cost me to have my nerves shattered and deposited at several points along two bamboo bridges with handrails so low even Tyrion Lannister would have to stoop to hold them. He probably wouldn’t have had a nervous breakdown though.
I’m not good with heights. I’ve tried pretty hard to get over this but it’s an inherent fear so it’ll still always be there. I’ve crossed higher bridges, and I’ve crossed bridges in worse states of repair, but it’s all about the handrails. As long as I have something to hold onto I can so totally do this shit. There are photographers who want to take your photo for money and they’re lovely and not at all pushy but I just wanted to get off this bloody bridge without crying.
The worse thing is, once you’re over that bridge you have to get back across the other one and the handrails are even lower down. Tarrant is fine with this shit. I ended up having to cling onto her bag and focus on the back of her head as she led me across. This was like some manner of karmic revenge for the ATV adventure I made her go on in Legazpi. It’s a good job we made it back to solid ground when we did because I think my heart was about to crack a rib it was beating so fast.
Once I’d recovered to a point I could operate a vehicle we buzzed down to the tarsier sanctuary. So apparently there are two of these; one in Loboc and one in Corella, and it’s the latter one we headed for. Going off what I’ve read, the one in Loboc isn’t ethical. The tarsiers there used to be in captivity but that stresses them out and they were dying, so they released them, but the staff will still handle them and place them in tourist friendly places so visitors can easily access them for photos. We’d heard the tarsiers near Corella were left to their own devices and were generally left alone so that’s where we went just as it started to rain.
It’s only ₱60 to get in so we offloaded our bags, paid our fee and were assigned a guide. You have to take a guide, it’s compulsory, but there’s no reason not to anyway. They know where the tarsiers are at. They’re nocturnal (tarsiers, not the guides) so they’ll do all their moving about at night and every morning they have spotters who’ll find out where they’ve settled. They’ll stay there all day as long as they’re not disturbed.
We were told there were eight tarsiers in this area but this morning the spotters had only found six so she would take us to them. You can take photos but without the flash because that’ll really hurt their eyes. At first our guide didn’t want Tarrant using her big camera as it had a red light on it but someone else said that was okay, but even if it wasn’t she would have been fine with it. We were under the impression that you should stay at least a metre away from them and avoid touching any branches around them because the movement will shit them up. Fair enough, not difficult rules to comply with, and you need to speak in whispers too because they don’t like noise. Precious little things, they are.
The first one we saw though, bugger me, I knew they were tiny but you can’t comprehend how tiny until you wrap your own eyeballs around them. Make a fist, that’s how small they are, and whilst I made all the appropriate squee noises I can’t decide if they’re the cutest thing in the world or if they’ll haunt my nightmares. They look like you shouldn’t get them wet or feed them after midnight.
It’s the eyes. Those huge eyes. They can’t even move them, they’re fixed in their sockets, instead they can turn their heads 180° each way for a complete 360° field of vision. Like Linda Blair in the Exorcist but without the projectile pea soup. And their weird little bony fingers. And they’re the only primate that eats live prey such as crickets and grasshoppers, and sometimes even lizards or, and I shit you not, this is what I read, small birds. They’re only about the size of a small fucking bird. How? How do they kill and eat a small bird? What’s next? Dogs? Leopards? Tourists?
We saw three of them before the rain started tipping down in industrial sized buckets and our guide said we could continue after the rain stopped which was fine by us. There are loads of information boards you can read to fill your brain with tiny primate knowledge. Did you know that they’re territorial creatures which is why you only find a small quantity of them in a large area? And that they’re named after the tarsal bone which is a leg bone because they have long ones? No? You’ll thank me when it comes up in the pub quiz.
The rain did eventually relent and we were sent out with a different guide and two other tourists who couldn’t grasp the concept of leaving the poor little buggers alone or just generally shutting the fuck up. It wouldn’t have been so bad but the guide let them get away with it, only shushing them once when the bloke literally shouted, “Come on little buddy, I wanna see your EYES!!” at one of them. They were waving cameras mere centimeres from their faces, shoving their hands next to them for size comparison, rustling branches, and getting right next to them for selfies.
Mate, it was stressing me out, never mind the tarsiers, and the guide did nothing. I get that the Filipino people are non-confrontational and they might not like asserting themselves, but isn’t that literally your job in this case? Isn’t one of the reasons you have to take a guide is to stop tourists harassing the wildlife for Instagram moments as tourists are wont to do? Apart from that, this is a highly recommended excursion, I think you’re pretty much going to see a tarsier.
We’d impulse booked a B&B through Agoda that was a little bit out of our usual price range. I mean, we’re not talking thousands of pesos and we got it at a discount through the app but you know when actually yes, you do want hot water and towels folded into pretty shapes? Yeah. That. Plus we wanted a place on the outskirts of Tagbilaran, we didn’t want to go back into the city, and providing this pissing rain ceased for long enough we were heading out on a firefly kayaking tour later that evening. In the meantime we decked ourselves out in full waterproofs before we left the tarsier sanctuary and rode into the weather, but very very slowly because firstly the rain was all but bouncing off my fucking eyeballs and secondly, you only want to drop a bike once in any given road trip. By the time we rolled into Gabriella’s Bed & Breakfast we were dripping puddles. Waterproofs seemed to keep me dry though despite my jacket absorbing a good cloud full of liquid.
By 5.30pm the weather had cleared right up and we were given the go ahead for kayaking. We had a bitch of a time trying to find Abatan despite the neon red signage outside, I legit don’t know how I missed it, but eventually we shuffled in, changed into wet clothes, and were loaded into a double kayak which would set us back ₱500 each. Before we even set off it was stunning. It was about 7pm, pitch dark but you could see by the lights reflecting off the water that the Abatan river was almost perfectly still apart from the current. And the sky, oh my god, the sky had cleared up above us revealing a huge expanse of endless stars.
You know when there are so many stars you can’t make out familiar constellations? That alone was incredible, never mind the fireflies. As for them, we didn’t really know what to expect, we’ve both seen fireflies before darting around in bushes, sometimes in impressive quantities. Neither of us had seen them like this before though. Our guide paddled close to the bank and we followed as he pointed up at a tree telling us that here was the first cluster.
Bugger me. I wish I had the equipment to photograph this. They were all congregated at the top of the tree, tiny and sparkling, literally like Christmas tree lights. Thousands of them. Behind that was the blanket of stars and off, way off in the distance, lightning flashed. It was perfect. But not for the lens I’m afraid, I don’t own the tripod and DSLR necessary for this shit. This experience, like the plankton in Lovina, was just for our eyes. It was so peaceful paddling up what we were told was one of the cleanest rivers in the country. We met maybe two bangkas coming the other way the whole time.
He took us to see two more trees full of twinkling fireflies that he told us were the size of a grain of rice. Apparently there are hundreds of species of firefly and this was the first time I’d ever seen these bad boys. We’d been paddling upstream all this time so the journey back was a lot easier. We glided back past the other tree full of fireflies and there were even more of them. He told us they peak at around midnight. The ones you see moving around are the males trying to attract a mate. Once they find a female they go to the bottom of the tree to mate then she kills him and goes to find another man. She basically just shags all night. They only live for five months and four of those are as larvae, once they reach maturity it’s one month of banging, they don’t even eat, before they die.
I can’t get over how lucky we were with the weather. Yeah so we got piss wet through earlier that day but if it hadn’t rained then it would probably have rained our kayaking trip off. We weren’t back at the B&B with a large bottle of brandy long before the storm that had been flashing in the distance caught up with us. Perfect timing, weather gods. Nice one.
Carmen to Tagbilaran, Bohol, Philippines
Stayed at: The Gabriella Bed & Breakfast, Tagbilaran