If the marketing men think, 'It's more fun in the Philippines', then they obviously haven't been stand-up paddle boarding in pelting rain on the Loboc River.

That's what I'm thinking as, drenched and dishevelled, I spot tourists gathering on the bank in the belief, it seems, that my predicament might make a good photo.

The rain ricochets off the river; I note the paparazzi are in the dry. I brave it out, and at the risk of a wobble, wave and smile. A man fires off a volley of shots then waves and smiles back. Such is my introduction to Bohol, 'The Island of Friendship', in the Philippines.

The Philippines is an archipelago of approximately 7,000 isles to the south and east of mainland Asia. It's known for its white sand beaches, clear water and dive sites, but Bohol also has heritage and culture.

The island and its tiny neighbour, Panglao (the two are linked by a bridge), are in the central Visayas region, just over an hour's flight from the capital, Manila, in the north. You can sunbathe, sightsee - and even stand-up paddle board.

As the sky clears, my instructor, Troy, and I paddle through dripping rainforest to the small Busay Falls. Clearings reveal patterned huts, woven from banana leaves. A man, fishing for tilapia, drops a line from a bamboo pontoon. There's the smell of meat cooking on hot coals.

Suddenly a coconut plops into the water; I jump and joke about crocs.

"There aren't crocodiles but there are iguana," Troy says, sounding excited. He tells me they taste like chicken but are tricky to catch.

But it's another form of wildlife for which Bohol is known; it's the Philippine tarsier, said to have inspired Yoda in Star Wars.

The nocturnal, fist-sized creature is among the smallest primates in the world. Its eyes cover three quarters of its head and it has an exceptionally long 'middle finger' (tarsus bone), hence its name.

From Corella, I head to Carmen, in the centre of the island, for Bohol's Chocolate Hills. There are about 1,000 of these conical, 40m mounds, named because they resemble giant chocolate drops when vegetation dies back from November to April.

I stay at Alona beach on Panglao's south-west coast, where bars and seafood shacks hug the shore. Bangka (outrigger canoes) with tarpaulins straddle the sea like giant water boatmen. I wake up early and go for a dip; the water's ridiculously warm.

The Philippines is hot, humid and tropical, and even in the wet season, torrential downpours don't clear the air. I enjoy island-hopping but sightseeing is a sweaty business, especially in Manila.

I catch up with a local guide, Angelo Alon, for a tour of Intramuros, Manila's historic quarter, which was originally built by the Spanish. The district was destroyed in WWII but has since been restored, with the old citadel, Fort Santiago, forming the centrepiece.

Inside the walls, topped with watch towers, is a monument to Jose Rizal, a doctor, writer and national hero. He was executed in 1896 for rebellion after an anti-colonial revolution partly inspired by his writing.

Nearby is San Agustin church, the only building in Intramuros that survived the war. By the entrance, there are two dragons, incorporated into the design as a gesture of thanks to the city's Chinese community who helped fund the building. (Filipinos with Chinese ancestry make up 25 per cent of the country's population.) From Manila, it's a short flight south-west to Busuanga in the island province of Palawan, for a relaxing end to my stay.

I catch a boat to the privately-owned Dicilingan Island, occupied solely by the Huma Island Resort and Spa. I'm welcomed with garlands and song, and dine on locally-caught lapu lapu, meat from pearl oysters and cassava cake made from a grated root vegetable, eggs and coconut milk.

While Huma bills itself as luxury, the focus is on fun. With karaoke - a Filipino obsession - in the bar, nights are dedicated to Kylie and cocktails.

But days are your own. I take a boat trip to nearby Black Island to snorkel among clown fish and coral; I kayak off the beach at Huma and enjoy a massage.

On my last night, I'm cajoled into karaoke. A group of us join the in-house musicians for a rendition of a song of their choice, accompanied by guitar and an egg maraca. We're so bad, everyone's in stitches.

"Killing me softly" I croak, "with this song", and can't help seeing the funny side. Maybe it is more fun in the Philippines, after all.

TRAVEL FACTS :: Karen Bowerman was a guest of Hayes & Jarvis who offer a seven-night trip to Manila, Bohol and Palawan from £1,899pp, including B&B accommodation, tours, internal flights and transfers and flights from London Heathrow with Philippine Airlines (01293 735 831; www.hayesandjarvis.com).