Stranded on Lapinig
Towards the end of our March expedition through the Visayas, we headed to Bohol Island. While Bohol Island is in close proximity to the other islands we visited on the trip (Cebu and Negros), it has a completely different fauna, or diversity of animals. The species on Bohol more closely resemble those found in many of the southeastern Philippine islands, or the Mindanao Faunal Region. Bohol is one of the few places in the Philippines that has done a good job in developing income based on ecotourism. The island has some amazing places to visit and animals to see, like the Chocolate Hills, Raja Sikatuna Natural Park, and the Philippine Tarsier, one of the world’s cutest primates. They are tiny! Seriously, they could fit inside the large pockets on a pair of cargo pants.
While we met with officials on Bohol, our target was actually a small island off the northeast coast call Lapinig Island. There are small pump boats that take you to the island. After getting there we realized there were no places to stay, but the islands only mayor was kind enough to allow us to stay in a community house next to the mayor’s office. Our trip happened to straddle a weekend, and for nearly three days we had the entire house to ourselves. The only method of transportation around the island was hiring local motorcycle drivers to take us around on their bikes (it is called hubble-hubble). The town we stayed in was a true fishing community, and we were able to buy fresh fish each day from the market to cook our own meals, which included octopus, crab, parrot fish, squid, tuna to name a few. Our goal on the island was to see whether we could find another rare species of burrowing skink. It had not been collected in more than 30 years. This species had evolved a small body with extremely reduced limbs with only a few tiny claws on each hand and foot. It has been my experience that these tiny species of burrowing lizards have patchy distributions, and it is often difficult to find more than one or two specimens in most sites. However, on our very first day we were able to find a few individuals, and by the third day we had observed more than forty. I guess the species is doing just fine on Lapinig, and so were we. It was a fun and relaxing way to end one tiring expedition.