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Apo Island Scuba Diving! The most beautiful and divers coral reefs in the Philippines!

Gooooood morning divers!

Coral Reef Apo Island
Coral Reef Apo Island

The last time I visited this beautiful island, I was still only getting my deep diving and nitrox certification! I was mostly concerned with learning but always had fond memories of this beautiful place, just south of Dauin, in Negros Oriental, Philippines.


It was time to go back, for a proper "deep dive" into this area, and why you should visit this gorgeous place!





In this blog, I'll be sharing the following:



 

Entering Philippines.


If this will be your first stop in the Philippines, I would be surprised, but let's say it is:


To enter the Philippines is easy. Visa on arrival is free and easily extendable for up to 59 days. Extension costs about 2000 pesos (40 dollars) or 3000 pesos express, done within 15 minutes (60 dollars).


Most people will arrive in Manila, and continue to Coron first. If you're flying from Manila to Visayas, more precisely Cebu or Dumaguete. you can easily make Apo Island your first stop.


The details about this travel will be discussed in greater detail a little further down the article.




 


Dive sites Apo Island
Dive sites Apo Island



Where is Apo island & How to get there?


Apo Island is located on the East side of the Sulu Sea. Separating the Philippines, and Malaysia. To get there just follow these easy steps:


1. Fly to Dumaguete City:

  • The nearest airport to Apo Island is the Dumaguete Airport (Sibulan Airport).

  • You can fly to Dumaguete City from major airports in the Philippines. The main airlines serving this route include Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.


2. Travel to Dauin if you're staying there:

  • From Dumaguete City, you need to get to the town of Dauin, which is the jump-off point for day trips to Apo Island.

  • You can hire a tricycle (400 pesos) or van (1000 pesos) or take a public jeepney or bus (35 pesos) from Dumaguete to Dauin.


3. Or Head to Malatapay:

  • Malatapay is the usual starting point for boat trips to Apo Island. You can reach Malatapay from Dauin by public transportation or hire a tricycle.

  • Once you reach Malatapay, you can hire a boat to take you to Apo Island. Make sure to arrange the boat in advance or check the schedule, especially if you're planning a day trip.




Map of Dauin, Zamboanguita and Apo
Map of Dauin, Zamboanguita and Apo

 


Coral Reef Apo Island
Coral Reef Apo Island


 

Why should you go to Apo Island?


Apo Island is the first community-established marine sanctuary in the Philippines. Starting around 1982, the community decided to protect this area from overfishing and extensive tourism. Only in 1995, the authorities of Dauin made this official.


Apo island has been an example for many, who want to protect their environment and livelihood.

  1. Marine Biodiversity: Apo Island is renowned for its diverse marine life and vibrant coral reefs. Apo Island is surrounded by a large "shallow" plateau boasting 400 out of 421 total coral species found in the Philippines!

  2. Turtle Sanctuary: Apo Island is famous for its sea turtle sanctuary. The island's marine protected area has played a crucial role in the conservation of sea turtles, particularly green sea turtles. Visitors have the opportunity to snorkel alongside these graceful creatures in their natural habitat.

  3. World-Class Diving: The dive sites around Apo Island offer something for everyone. Steep walls on both sides of the island. as well as gorgeous coral reefs and exciting drift dives during the changing of tides!

  4. Scenic Landscapes: The island itself is characterized by lush greenery, rocky cliffs, and stunning viewpoints. Hiking to elevated areas on the island provides panoramic views of the surrounding seascape.

  5. Relaxing Atmosphere: Apo Island is a peaceful and tranquil destination, making it an ideal retreat for those seeking relaxation and a break from the hustle and bustle of urban life. Electricity is now available as well as wifi, although only 4 resorts/ homestays are available for booking still.

  6. Community-Based Tourism: The island has a community-based approach to tourism, with local residents actively involved in conservation efforts. Visitors can engage with the local community, learn about their way of life, and contribute to sustainable tourism practices.

  7. Environmental Conservation: Apo Island is recognized for its successful community-led marine conservation initiatives. The establishment of marine sanctuaries has helped protect and preserve the underwater ecosystem, showcasing a model for sustainable tourism.



Apo Island Reef and Boat
Apo Island Reef and Boat



Durban Dancing shrimp
Durban Dancing shrimp


What does scuba diving on Apo Island entail?


Apo Island:

Apo Island offers about 10 dive sites, depending on who you ask. Most day trips and dive shops will stick to the best of course.


My personal favorites would be:

  1. Coconut - drift dive

  2. Chapel - 100-meter wall, with surprises

  3. Rock point East to West - A dive that brings you around the south point of the island

  4. Kan'uran Wall - Huge wall dropping to 50 meters.

I will go into more detail further down below.


As stated before, only about 4 homestays/ resorts operate on Apo Island, so most people will visit Apo Island on day trips. An environmental fee will be required to dive at Apo Island. The diving varies a lot with the seasons, as November - March sees strong Amihan winds from the north, which can make certain dive sites more difficult to visit.


The good thing is that the Island obviously has 2 sides. So one side will usually be sheltered from winds. Therefore, diving is usually available all year round, unless winds are dangerously strong of course.





Dauin - Zamboanguita - Siquijor:


Most people will choose to visit Apo Island from the outside.


- Dauin: This is by far the most popular choice since Apo island is under the Dauin government.

- Siquijor: Has 2-3 dive shops that offer day trips to Apo Island, but requires certain group sizes to confirm.

Zamboanguita/ Dumaguete: The bigger towns/ cities near Apo Island, offer some resorts and dive shops that cater to Apo Island.




Flambuoyant Cuttlefish
Flambuoyant Cuttlefish

The Past & Future of scuba diving in Apo island.


As stated before, Apo Island was established as a marine sanctuary in 1982 by the community. They decided to reduce fishing, ban outside fishermen, and protect corals and sea turtles.


In 1995 the government of Dauin made this official. 13 years after the Island decided this for itself.


All in all, the island has been protected for more than 40 years now, and it shows. The health of the coral reef is practically unparalleled and a beautiful show of color, health, and diversity.


Nowadays, the island requires environmental fees to be paid on arrival, whether by boat on day trips, just diving, or staying overnight.



Turtle up close
Turtle up close


Coral Reefs in Purple
Coral Reefs in Purple

An impression of the diving scene.


Apo Island:

Apo island is the big reason many people visit Negros, Dauin, and Dumaguete.


The island boasts around 10 dive sites as seen below. Usually, day trips will visit 3 of these.

Chapel will usually be the main dive site since it has a nice wall with electric clams and dramatic drop-offs.


Depending on the season, boats will either pick the east or west side. Both are equally good and offer a similar experience. On the west side you have drift dives Coconut, Chapel as a wall dive, and Rock Point West as a coral garden.


On the east side, you have Cogon as a drift dive, with Kan'uran as a wall dive, and Rock Point West as a coral garden.


Green turtles will be common, especially on the south side of the island. Even while snorkeling, as well as banded sea kraits.


You can see everything from dolphins to manta rays, from whale sharks to Molamola, although these bigger fishes are not very common here, to be honest.



Apo Island Dive Sites
Apo Island Dive Sites

Anemone Fish hiding in coral
Anemone Fish hiding in coral


Dauin - Dumaguete/ Zamboanguita - Siquijor


Dauin will be a different blog post on its' own, coming soon!


Dumaguete/ Zamboanguita has no real noteworthy diving (they will visit Dauin).






Green Turtle
Green Turtle
 


Juvenile Emperor Angelfish
Juvenile Emperor Angelfish

Where to go after Apo Island?


Dauin is a place you must visit if you like scuba diving and rare creatures!


Zamboanguita/ Dumaguete:

Mostly a place to depart from to different locations like Cebu, Bohol, or Sipalay.


Sipalay: Coming soon!

Off the beaten path and definitely worth it!


A good place to arrive or leave from.


Excellent place to continue your travels.






 

Warty Frogfish
Warty Frogfish


Zebra Lion Fish
Zebra Lion Fish

 




Golden Shrimp Sp.1
Golden Shrimp Sp.1


Goniobranchus Nudibranch
Goniobranchus Nudibranch



 
Harlequin swimming crab
Harlequin swimming crab



The Top 5 most memorable dive sites!

There are many very good dive sites in Apo Island. Below I will summarize my favorites. Some of them are reason enough to book that airplane right now.


A few good spots to go diving are:

  1. Rock Point East

  2. Rock Point West

  3. Coconut

  4. Chapel

  5. Largahan


Apo Island Dive Sites
Apo Island Dive Sites



1. Rock Point East.

Rock Point East is often combined with Rock Point West. Just jump in on either side and drift along the reef for the first part, then turn the corner and come up on the other side. The dive is easy, colorful, and relaxing. Big chances also, to see some bigger fish in the southern part of this dive site!




2. Rock Point West.

Rock Point East is often combined with Rock Point West. Just jump in on either side and drift along the reef for the first part, then turn the corner and come up on the other side. The dive is easy, colorful, and relaxing. Big chances also, to see some bigger fish in the southern part of this dive site!



3. Coconut.

A drift dive with schools of jackfish, huge barracudas, sea kraits, and so much more. This dive site can be a highway, or, a very relaxed laidback dive. Either way, a gorgeous dive.




4. Chapel.

This dive starts at a shallow reef, before the wall forms and you will drop down to max 42 meters deep. There is a second wall dropping hundreds of meters deep, but that is obviously not for everyone. The wall has electric clams, beautiful schooling fish, and some small caverns to explore.




5. Largahan.

An easy dive to a max of 24 meters deep. Largahan is a sloping reef with a big sandy patch where vulcanic bubbles form and the magical spectacle begins. You will begin, and end the dive on a beautiful reef though, with small walls, sloping reefs, and coral gardens.





 

What's next?

The next blog will be from Dauin.


Dauin is where I finally got my instructor license, and the diving is absolutely amazing.


This will hopefully make for amazing stories, photos, and travel tips!


Thank you for taking the time to read this, any questions or tips can be sent to contactdivingscene@gmail.com, and remember:


"If you can breathe, you can dive"


 

Want to visit The Philippines? Book your stay








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