Panoramic view of the Chocolate Hills from Bohol in the Philippines

Exploring Bohol’s Chocolate Hills & Lobok River: Tarsiers and Jungle Falls



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At the end of March, our Coastal Resource Management training group took a trip to the Loboc River watershed. The Loboc River runs through the steep, forested mountains of the province of Bohol where we were training for our Peace Corps service. In the afternoon we took a slow boat up the river en route to a series of dramatic waterfalls cascading from the densely forested hillsides. That night, we stayed at Nuts Huts, a quiet group of nipa palm huts huddled on the bank of the brown river. The following day, we traveled to Bohol’s favorite destination; the Chocolate Hills.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The slow boat: we moved at a relaxed pace up the Loboc River with a small boat guiding our barge upriver. The barge was comfortably laid out, with tables for our lunch and chairs to sit in and watch the scenery slowly change.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    With his smaller, more nimble boat the fisherman was able to maneuver us out onto a small protruding rock in the middle of the main current. From that vantage point, I captured this panoramic shot of all the waterfalls. Notice the larger waterfall to the right of the island in the center of the photo. This larger waterfall crashed down a narrow gorge and was too dangerous to approach any closer.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Before we left, the fisherman moored his boat to the small island with the waterfalls so we could walk around a bit.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After our tour of the waterfall, it was time to return to Nuts Huts. The river was very calm and peaceful at dusk as we motored down river. The smoke around the bend in this photo is from a fire prepared to roast a pig. The fisherman was looking over on the bank to see where the screeches from the thrashing pig were coming from.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The riverbank across from Nuts Huts was also densely lined with tall palm trees reaching down into the Loboc River.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After a great dinner in the Nuts Huts dining room perched high on the hill above the river, our CRM (Coastal Resource Management) group went back to our hut for a jam session with guitars, bamboo percussionists, and lots of singers.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Corey and Shelby thought the liver spread was too much like cat food to be eaten by people, so they tried to pretend to be cats and eat it. This approach didn't work though, and I'm not sure if anyone ate it. I think the liver spread is an acquired local taste; kind of like pork rinds in the South.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Caarlo, Emlou and Quincey getting in to the Nuts Huts festivities.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Shelby and Corey added our names to the well signed banner on the wall of our hut at Nuts Huts

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The next morning, the ants were up before us, busily doing something that only they understood with this brightly colored local flower known as the bird of paradise.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After breakfast we were treated to a great talk on alternative livelihood products that communities in the Philippines have used to successfully convert trash to income. We were shown items such as bags and hats made from the colorful drink pouches that are sold by the truckful here, and a really ingenious motor (bottom center of photo) that ran on just a small candle flame.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    This is the pilot boat that guided us upriver. It had a small motor, but the current of the Loboc is sluggish and the little blue boat seemed to have all the horsepower it needed. It was raining on our trip to the river, so everyone was huddled beneath the roof of the boat.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    CRM Group 263: From left, Annabelle (our Technical Trainer), Eric, Jason, Charlie, Laura, Me, Shelby, Kate, Corey, Casey, Kyle, Jo Jo (also our Tech Trainer) and Katia.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After all that work in the morning, it was time for a rest in the idyllic hammock of Nuts Huts overlooking the river in the valley below. I felt like I was in a tree house.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The Chocolate Hills: This unusual series of nearly identical hills were created when the ocean subsided many many years ago leaving these former coral formations to weather into uniquely symmetrical hummocks. The nearly 130 Chocolate Hills are one of the top draws for visitors to Bohol, and got their seemingly odd name from the tendency of the hills to bake to a dark chocolate brown under the relentless summer sun in the Philippines. We arrived early enough in the season so the hills were still very green, but no less interesting.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Just to put some scale to the size of the hills, a shot of the hills and me.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After we left the Chocolate Hills we visited a unique pool that actually had a mountain stream running through it. It was quite cold from the spring water, and turned out to be the perfect stop after hiking around the Chocolate Hills under the midday sun.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Another more ambitious boat of foreigners passed us about halfway upriver, racing us to the waterfall destination. You can see the tables similar to the ones we had on our boat for lunch.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    As it turned out, the tables weren't only useful for eating lunch; Corey and Charlie held an impromptu siesta on them after eating.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The Loboc River waterfalls cascaded down from the steep river banks. The heavy rains had stained the normally somewhat clear water a chocolate brown.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    After an afternoon of learning about the river, Quincey, my language teacher held language class at Nuts Huts. Not wanting to waste the afternoon in a dim hut, I told her that we should have class down on the dock by the river so I could learn some new words related to the new environment. I hadn't seen an Etch-A-Sketch since I was eight!

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The banks of the river in front of Nuts Huts were densely lined with tall palm trees.

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    Just at the point where my attention span had begun to lose grasp of my cebuano grammar constructions, a local fisherman paddled in to the dock on a small bangka boat. I knew I had found a kindred spirit to talk to, and I asked him about fishing on the river using my limited cebuano. He used a homemade spear gun to fish with (held in the crook of his right arm in this photo). The gun was formed from a rough plank of wood, and two substantial rubber bands not unlike timing belts were stretched to propel a sharpened steel rod attached to a rope. When he demonstrated the gun the spear stuck about a foot into the muddy river bank. He told me that there are 25 kg. (about 55 pounds) crabs in the river that he catches with the spear. He drew a picture of the crabs, they are apparently very squat with large claws. After hearing the river had crabs the size of small dogs, I didn't want to wade around in the shallows anymore!

  • Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004

    Loboc River & Chocolate Hills - March 2004
    The giant crab conversation led to a talk about the waterfall. As it turned out, the fisherman had a larger boat and was willing to take us further up the river for about $1. Seeing an opportunity to take a low cost field trip during my language class, I quickly agreed to pay the toll.