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Things to do in Philippines

Dolphins, whales and island life on Pamilacan

Spot dolphins and whales on this boat trip to Pamilacan, where you’ll get a glimpse of traditional island life…

By Lourdes Sultan
Manager of Travel Village Tours, Alfred&’s partner in the Philippines

Bottlenose Dolphin, Pamilacan

Spot dolphins and whales on this boat trip to Pamilacan, where you’ll get a glimpse of traditional island life. Pamilacan lies about an hour from Bohol and is surrounded by a beautiful marine sanctuary that’s protected by national law. We set sail from Panglao at 6am, which is the best time to see dolphins. Look out for the acrobatic spinner variety and cute bottlenose dolphins, who love to swim and play beside the boat.

The waters are also part of the whale highway in the Philippines, so at certain times of the year, usually between April and June, you can see species like toothed, baleen and sperm whales. The people from Pamilacan are actually former whale and dolphin hunters but in the late 90s, the government introduced stricter measures to protect these mammals, re-training locals to become whale and dolphin spotters instead. They’re now part of our crew and use their expertise to help us locate different species and learn about their behaviours.

After an hour or so on the boat, we dock on Pamilacan Island where you’ll take a short walking tour. This gives a window into island life and you’ll get to see the church, school and even visit local homes. For Filipinos, it’s part of our hospitality to welcome people into our homes – most people even leave their front doors open. Pamilacan is very close to our hearts because we’ve been part of its 25-year transition, helping former whale hunters earn an alternative income from tourism. We’re proud to share this with visitors.

A highlight is the picnic lunch, which is prepared and served by the women’s association. While the men became guides, the government trained Pamilacan’s women in massage, cooking and food safety so they could cater to tourists. They’ll cook us a delicious lunch of seafood specialities, mainly grilled fish and vegetables. The women can also teach you how to make Puso, rice cooked in coconut leaves woven into a heart shape. Guests really have fun with this activity. Puso goes well with our ceviche and if you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try freshly-harvested sea urchins.

After lunch, there’s a chance to relax on the beach and perhaps have a massage from one of the locals under a coconut tree. Take some time to snorkel in the marine sanctuary to see colourful coral and lots of exotic fish. There are also two dive spots off Pamilacan but the currents are strong, so it’s for advanced divers only. These include Snake Island, where the waters are teeming with sea snakes. We make sure to leave Pamilacan before the water gets too rough, arriving back on Bohol around 2pm.


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Alfred & Lourdes Sultan

Lourdes Sultan is from Bohol and has spent most of her life working in the island’s tourism industry. She started her career arranging excursions and guest activities at the Pioneer Resorts in Panglao and in 1992, launched Travel Village Tours with her husband. The company is now one of the top tour operators in Bohol.
Lourdes Sultan, Pamilacan and Bohol tour guide

Plan your holiday withAlfred&

Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Suzanne, who's travelled extensively in The Philippines. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it alone. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember – the free diver who can take you swimming with turtles, the guides who can take you to secret lagoons and hidden beaches, and the locals who can school you in the art of nipa weaving.

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