A community managed marine sanctuary in Negros Island, Philippines, Apo Island is considered one of the world's top dive sites.
Apo Island in Negros Oriental, Philippines
One of the World's Best Dive Sites
Apo Island is a diver's paradise, visited by local and foreign diving enthusiasts as it boasts of one of the best community-managed marine sanctuaries in the Philippines, if not in the entire world.
It is a small island is located next to the Island of Negros, at the very south. 30 km south of the capital, Dumaguete City. It is only 3 km in diameter and the highest point reaches only 120m high, with a light house on top. It has a white stone beach, and an unusually vibrant coral reef, which has been protected as a fish sanctuary since 1982. Apo Island offers and extraordinary diving and snorkeling experience, with underwater visibility rivaled by only a few other places. The words used by even the most experinced of divers to describe it are awesome, spectacular and breathtaking!
On the other side of the island are rocky beaches and a marine resource of all kind of large fish species. One may also choose to explore the hiking trail to the top of the island where you can see a view of the sea and many different fruit trees.
How to Get to Apo Island
Apo Island may be visited via a day trip from Dumaguete or one may prefer to book several days to be able to enjoy all the underwater vistas that Apo Island has to offer.
To get there, one may take a Ceres bus that heads for Bayawan City that passes through Zamboanguita. Just have a multicab take you to the Ceres terminal (cost is bout Php8.00). The bus ride costs about Php50/person. Make sure to tell the conductor that you will be dropped of at Malatapay in Zamboanguita. Malatapay is where the country market is held every Wednesday and a tourist attraction by itself.
Walk the length of the market road until you reach the shore, where there are boatmen ready to take you and your group across to Apo Island. The banca (motorized outrigger) ride costs about Php1,500 for a group of six persons.
Should there be less than six
persons in your group, you may want to share a boat ride with other folks going there as well. If you go on a Wedsnesday, you will have no problem finding others as the Malatapay market is very popular among tourists.
Photo on the left shows tourists discussing a shared a boat ride
The rate includes a two way trip, with the boatmen waiting for you to head back from the island to Zamboanguita until about 3:00-4:00 p.m., which is a good time to head back before the waters get choppy.
While at Apo Island
Upon arrival, head for the registration office at the beach where you can pay the fee of Php100/person. The rate goes down for minors and is hugely discounted for Dauin residents who get to pay only Php10.00 upon presentation of their community tax certificates, as Apo Island is under the jurisdiction of the municipality of Dauin.
This entrance fee is actually a marine sanctuary fee that is used towards the maintenance and preservation of the island, keeping the coral reefs pristine and to be able to keep it as a world class coral reef for everyone to enjoy.
Your Trip to Apo Island
WHAT TO PACK:
Swimming gear, including snorkel and mask (available at dive shops in Dumaguete City). Bring your own diving gear although complete equipment are available for rent at the island's dive centers.
Sun Protective Gear
Hats, sunglasses and suntan lotion because the exposure to sunlight from the banca ride to the beach and even just snorkeling underwater is tremendous.
An underwater camera is preferable because the marine life is just too beautiful not to document! And the rock formations, beaches and views of the island are picture-perfect, too.
FOOD & BEVERAGE
Travel light and be reassured that there is reasonably-priced European, American and Filipino food available on Apo Island, and bottled drinks for sale, too.
So there's really no need to bring your own food, in case you were thinking of doing so, unless you have particular dietary requirements.
START OFF EARLY
Malatapay is 45 minutes away by land from Dumaguete, plus another 35 minutes by boat there to the island.
If you are on a day trip, know that you will have to leave Apo Island before 4:00 p.m. as no boat is allow off after that time to make sure that everyone gets back to Zamboanguita before sunset.
This is the reason why you should start off early, so that you can maximize your enjoyment of the wonders of Apo Island, both underwater and above ground.
Should you wish to stay overnight, there are two reasonably-priced resorts on either side of the small island with reasonable accommodation rates for you to choose from. But please know that the electricity power is switched off at night, although Apo Island Beach Resort has its own generator which is run for a few hours more after the island powers off while Liberty's Community House's electricity relies on the local power source.
At night, one great activity, besides having an island cocktail perhaps, would be stargazing from the beach where billions of twinkle at you from the heavens. Most divers don't mind the early lights out because they prefer to turn in early anyway to start out as early as possible to maximize their time exploring the reef.
Activities include swimming, sunbathing, snorkeling, diving, cooking your own meals (there are barbecue grills for rent but cooking your own food does take time away from diving and snorkeling), hiking up to the light house, and basically just relaxing amid rare natural beauty.
Make sure you take EVERYTHING you brought back with you, your gear and even your trash. Please note that you may not bring home any shells or corals as souvenirs, which is why wearing gloves underwater is strictly probihited (in other words, touch nothing!).
There are souvenirs for sale on the island, and you may want to buy some commemorative t-shirts. These and the photos you took, as well as the sights you have beheld should be more than enough wonderful memories to bring back home with you.
As mentioned earlier, make sure you are on your boat and heading back out before 4:00pm, unless you want to stay another night on the island, which of course may not seem a bad idea at all!
Apo Island: A Community Managed Marine Sanctuary
There are 800 inhabitants in Apo Island, and they are accustomed to tourists. They in fact welcome tourism as an alternative source of livelihood to fishing, which was fast becoming unsustainable had they not decided in 1982 to make Apo Island a protected marine sanctuary. (watch video above to learn more)
Just walking around the island, one will notice a friendliness and trust typical of folk who enjoy a simple, good and uncomplicated life, as guardians of the sea.
Today, thanks to them, the world has Apo Island back.
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