Bohol, primus inter pares among tourism gems

“Bohol, replete as it is with marine and geologic gems, is a class apart from all other tourist draws this country has to offer.

This country’s stunning natural wonders never fail to amaze with Bohol, at this juncture, getting the world to beam a spotlight on us after the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization designated the island province the Philippines’ first UNESCO Global Geopark.

Created in 2015, the UNESCO Global Geopark label recognizes the geological heritage of international significance.

Seventeen other new sites, other than Bohol, were likewise declared global geoparks by UNESCO during its 216th Executive Board Session in Paris, France on 24 May. These are Cacapava and Quarta Colonia in Brazil; Lavreotiki in Greece; Ijen, Maros Pangkep, Merangin Jambi, and Raja Ampat in Indonesia; Aras and Tabas in Iran; Hakusan Tedorigawa in Japan; Kinabalu in Malaysia; Waitaki Whitestone in New Zealand; Sunnhordland in Norway; Jeonbuk West Coast in South Korean; Cabo Ortegal in Spain; Khorat in Thailand; and Mourne Gullion Strangford in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

Altogether, the 18 new sites bring the total number of UNESCO Global Geoparks to 195 in 48 countries.

What qualifies an area to become a UNESCO Global Geopark? Basically, there must exist in the area discernibly significant geological heritage of international value, as determined by an independent evaluation team of scientific professionals.

UNESCO took note of Bohol’s growing fame as a “prime eco-cultural destination with its pristine beaches, diving spots, magnificent geological formations, rich biodiversity, and cultural heritage.”

Bohol’s Global Geopark journey started in 2013 with the arrival of a research team from the UP — School of Urban and Regional Planning in the province. The researchers were going around the country looking for an area with a range of geological heritage significant enough to be submitted for UNESCO’s consideration as a Global Geopark candidate.

Partnering with the Bohol provincial government and guided by the Philippine National Commission for UNESCO, the UP-SURP researchers conducted extensive studies and investigations, and, in 2015, the island was deemed possessed with the best possible qualifications as a global geopark, for UNESCO’s consideration. Eight years later, UNESCO included Bohol in its new list of sites labeled a Global Geopark.

Predictably cited by UNESCO were Bohol’s Chocolate Hills, that is, conical karst hills made of grass-covered limestone formed ages ago by the uplift of coral deposits, and Danajon Bank or Double Barrier Reef. Consisting of three large sets of offshore coral reefs stretching across 130 kilometers, it is the only double barrier reef in the Philippines, one of only three such sites in the Indo-Pacific region, and one of only six documented barrier reefs on Earth.

Also highlighted by UNESCO is the highest waterfall in Bohol, the stunning 60-meter three-tiered Can-umantad waterfalls, as well as the otherworldly phenomenal Loon Coastal Geomorphic Conservation Park. Covering 417 hectares, the area’s shoreline areas were raised during the catastrophic 7.2-magnitude earthquake that devastated Bohol in 2013.

Locals now refer to it as Coral Gardens; when the 2013 quake struck, the former inter-tidal zone where the tide submerges or exposes the land was heaved up 1.5 meters, even as the shoreline shifted 50 meters towards the sea.

Today, the entire area is an uplifted marine terrace completely on dry land, teeming with sea purslane, that is, creeping succulent seagrass whose color is red and orange on sunlit days, and changes to green when it rains.

Other amazing natural features in Bohol are blue-water cave pools, including the Cabagnow cave pool in Anda which is the deepest — some 25 feet — among cave pools in the province and are similar to Central America’s cenotes, which are natural pits of sinkholes connected to the sea.

Visitors to Bohol have invariably been bowled over by its pristine clear waters and its lush, breathtaking landscapes — a manifestation of its geologic history as evidenced by its varied, unique landforms and structural features.

Divers worldwide know of Bohol’s famed dazzling dive spots such as the one off Pamilacan island, teeming with marine life, including dolphins and pilot whales, and the crystal clear waters off Balicasag, with its spectacular marine sanctuary brimming with diverse coral and pelagic species, its vertical coral walls plunging deep into the depths. The waters surrounding Panglao Island contain more marine biodiversity than Japan and the Mediterranean Sea combined.

Bohol, replete as it is with marine and geologic gems, is a class apart from all other tourist draws this country has to offer; its natural wonders are more than enough to seal its reputation many times over as among the most stunning spots on this planet to travel to and see before one breaths his (or her) last.

It is totally easy to see and understand how and why Bohol was recognized by UNESCO as a Global Geopark. The question is, what took the UN agency so long?

Read more Daily Tribune stories at:

Follow us on social media
Facebook: @tribunephl
Youtube: TribuneNow
Twitter: @tribunephl
Instagram: @tribunephl
TikTok: @dailytribuneofficial