One of the more unique landscapes in the Philippines can be found in Bohol province, home of the Chocolate Hills.
The hills, which range in height from 40 to 120 meters, jut out of the ground like camel humps. Scientists say they were formed by the “uplifting of ancient coral-reef deposits, followed by erosion and weathering,” according to Lonely Planet.
This phenomenon can only be found in two or three other places in the world (one of those places being the island of Java, in Indonesia).
The green grass that covers the hills turns brown during Bohol’s dry season, which is why they are called “Chocolate.” According to local estimates, there are 1,278 individual mounds in Bohol, all nearly identical in shape.
I visited Bohol in November and was able to get a panoramic view of the Chocolate Hills from an observation deck. Despite their status — the hills are protected by the Philippine government and have been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage Site status — they are threatened by illicit quarrying activities.
Locals have good reason to protect them: The Chocolate Hills are regarded as the top attraction in a province where tourism is one of the main industries.
Bohol’s tourism industry is still recovering from the after effects of a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the province on Oct. 15, 2013, killing 222 people.
“The news hurt us badly,” Lucas Nunag, chairman of Bohol’s Provincial Tourism Council, told the Sun Star Cebu newspaper in October. “We expected another banner year, but the impression about Bohol, after the earthquake, was a major challenge to us.”
Preserving natural landscapes like the Chocolate Hills can only help Bohol’s tourism industry regain its footing.