Early in the morning, as the sky east of Panglao island was bleeding with colors, we waded into the shallow waters to reach our banca. There were plenty of them moored a safe distance from the beach, all waiting for passengers. Ours wasn't difficult to find - or rather, the boatman found us first. There it was, with its name "Kingdom" painted in red against white. If kingdom is a good sign, I sure hope we're finding one big kingdom - of dolphins, that is - in the deep blue sea midway between Panglao and Balicasag islands.
The day before, we've negotiated directly with the boat-owner while beachcombing along the stretch of Alona Beach. The lady, just like the rest of them peddling dolphin tours, had laminated pictures of the enticing dolphin sightings. A whole boat for about 2-3 hours of dolphin-watching can be had for P1,500 but we managed to bring it down to 1,200 after some haggling. The lady then introduced us to her husband who happens to be the boatman/spotter.
|On our way to the banca|
At the agreed time of 5:30am, we all went down from our cliff-side abode in Amorita (whose staff sent us packed breakfast in case we get hungry) and made ourselves comfortable in the banca as it roared to life, its noisy engine a complete antithesis to the unfolding drama of a glorious sunrise. For a good minute or so, I looked in awe at this natural wonder - there's always something special about sunrises and sunsets in the Philippines!
|Maayong buntag Bohol!|
We sailed in a south-westerly direction towards Balicasag hoping to catch our first glimpse of these playful marine mammals. We looked and looked everywhere while our spotter craned his neck, his eyes forever scanning the horizon. It took about half an hour before we finally saw our first pod, now being followed by two other boats. In the silvery-sheen of the Bohol sea, the dolphins glided in and out of the water as if aware of people watching them. The young ones were the most playful, shooting themselves up into the sky like torpedoes.
While the pods were merrily everywhere, so were the bancas full of camera-wielding tourists. There were more than a dozen boats in the same area, sailing along in the direction of the dolphin's movements. As I soon found out, dolphin-watching is at its best and busiest between March-June. In the past, these dolphins and the whales in the waters surrounding nearby Pamilacan island where hunted by local men who now have turned to tourism for means of livelihood. Now I wonder if dolphins get at all affected by this swarm of human fans? Is tourism a double-edged sword?
|The deep blue sea|
|Getting back to shore|
|Amorita Resort breakfast buffet|
|Amorita Resort is perched on a cliff at the end of Alona Beach|
|Frisbee, why not?|
|Fido likes to sunbathe too!|
Almost 3 hours later, we were back in Amorita Resort. Still feeling hungry, we all sat down for a proper breakfast. And when I say proper, Amorita has a great buffet spread that includes even Boholano staples as fried dried fish. I looked across the restaurant and into the expanse of Bohol sea where we've just been to earlier. And just a short stroll away is Alona Beach, about a kilometer and a half long, whose white sands are not as particularly fine as Boracay's but nonetheless still a great beach for swimming. A predominantly foreign set of visitors practically took over Alona Beach, working on their tans, having 300-peso massages or simply lazing off while they're at it, here at this little piece of tropical paradise called Panglao island.