“The beetles eat the bat shit and the bats eat the beetles, but the beetles can’t eat the bats because too big,” our guide, Pedro, stated as he pointed his flashlight from a cluster of sleeping bats hanging from the top of the cave to a few beetles scurrying along the dirt floor.
“So I guess the bats eat their own shit?” I concluded while Pedro laughed. Pedro reminded me of a Filipino version of the later Michael Jackson, with similar wavy, black hair and a small, sharp nose.
My friend Alex and I were exploring a few caves in the jungle of Loboc on Bohol Island. We walked along narrow paths surrounded by bright green banana leaves and wild flowers. Several cottages were nestled within the trees, containing clotheslines filled with colorful laundry.
We approached the cave and glided into the darkness, clutching our smartphones equipped with flashlight apps; this was perhaps the main factor that differentiated us from our local Filipino counterparts. A bat skimmed past Alex’s head and he jumped, taken off guard. ”Be careful of your head, but you two, not so tall, so I think it’s okay,” Pedro assured us as we crawled through crevices and tried not to hit our heads on the hanging slabs of rock. As we walked by, we drummed our palms on the surface of the hollow rock to create melodic chimes. Water slowly dripped off the jagged tips. I caught a drop on my fingertip.
Soon enough, we emerged from the cave. Alex glanced at me and said, “You have skid marks on your ass.”
For two days, Alex and I stayed at Nuts Huts, a low-budget jungle resort located in Loboc, in the middle of Bohol Island in the Philippines. The bungalows are located alongside the Loboc River, and are quite rustic, with a simple bucket-flush toilet, no hot water, and mosquito nets over the beds.
Each night, I fell asleep to the sound of crickets chirping, and in the morning, I awoke to sun streaming in through our window and highlighting the dense greenery that surrounded us. Because of its remote location, Nuts Huts was a relaxing place to stay, void of throngs of beach tourists. There are plenty of activities available within their facilities, including river kayaking, the cave trek mentioned above, a short zip-lining course, an herbal sauna, massage and assortment of dining options in the restaurant. There are also tours you can book outside of the immediate area, although we were too busy to embark on any of those day trips.
We ate our meals in this lounge with simple wooden tables, hammocks, and futons filled with pillows overlooking the vast jungle below. The restaurant serves lots of noodle and rice dishes, but because it is owned in part by Belgians, they also serve homemade bread and fries. Both days, I ordered fresh coconut juice and homemade plain yogurt with fruit and granola.
The sauna is heated by an adjacent fire pit, and the steam is infused with eucalyptus. One night, after spending an hour prancing between the sauna and the outdoor showers, my skin felt rejuvenated. I also got an hour long oil massage in a small room of the kitchen that costed a mere $7.50.
Alex and I rented kayaks, and we paddled up and down the Loboc River, stopping at a small waterfall, swimming in the turquoise-colored spring (while everyone stared) and trying to avoid the floating restaurant boats pictured below. He appears to be giving me the evil eye. Maybe because I had already snapped about twenty photos prior to this one.
The river boats seem really cheesy, but I’m sure the all-you-can-eat buffet is good.
The only downfall (which actually wasn’t a problem for me, the avid hiker that I am) is the amount of stairs that you must climb between the huts where you sleep, the dining lodge, and the main road. You need to be in relatively good shape to conquer these bad boys.
Also, because Nuts Huts is out of the way, it can be difficult to find your way via local transportation. In October, the sun sets around 6 PM, and Alex and I arrived at Nuts Huts in pitch darkness. We took a taxi to Loboc from the ferry terminal in Tagbilaran. The taxi drove us to the end of the dirt road leading to we the Nuts Huts lodge. For about 25 minutes, we walked past small country houses in the rain, trying not to submerge our feet in massive puddles, (I was wearing Converse) and again, using our smartphones as flashlights. Since we had never been to Nuts Huts, we were unsure how far we would need to trek, and if the place even existed in this void of civilization. Luckily I wasn’t alone, or I probably would have peed my pants out of fright.
I’ve learned that traveling in the Philippines requires patience, which was quite difficult for me to adjust to, especially coming from Seoul’s easily-navigable, efficient system of transportation, with a giant spiderweb of trains, buses, airports and taxis located throughout the country.
The prices at Nuts Huts are quite inexpensive, considering that everything is located in such a remote area of the island. Room rates are between $5-$10 a night, and a meal costs between $3-$7.
After spending my last night on Alona Beach, in the midst of tourist heaven, I was glad that Alex and I strayed from the average backpackers by venturing into the jungle. How often can you tell someone that you slept in a Filipino jungle hut?
-Text and photography by Sarah Shaw @ www.mappingwords.com. All rights reserved.