I must say, I love Negros Oriental. There’s the relaxing city of Dumaguete and then Dauin, which is famous for one activity: tourists can go snorkeling and swimming with turtles in Apo Island.
Apo Island is a volcanic island situated at the southeastern tip of Negros Oriental. Its surrounding marine habitat is considered a marine preserve, and it gets a two-thumbs up in terms of balance between tourism and conservation. Tourism revenue benefits local families in the area.
Like I said, Apo Island is mostly known for its sea turtle activity, but I find that the snorkeling experience it offers is just as equally amazing.
Swimming with turtles in Apo Island
Because I was alone and didn’t want the hassle of finding other tourists for boat sharing, I signed up on a joiner Apo Island tour.
I have so many pictures in my adventure here in Apo Island, it’s crazy. Halfway through making screenshots from the videos, I stopped and thought, there is too much beautiful in here it was actually tiring.
Anyway, from the shores of Zamboanguita it took about 30-45 minutes to reach Apo Island. We stopped several meters from the shore of the island, where the sea turtles can be seen. We were divided into groups of 4 and assigned a single guide. Our guide beckoned us to follow him as he looked for sea turtles.
We immediately saw one near the shore, but there were too many people so we went a little further. At one point we saw two sea turtles together. The other one — which is the biggest one that I’ve seen, with head the same size as a human’s, if not bigger — stopped to eat some sea grapes. We had time to watch it and take photos and videos.
We weren’t allowed to touch the sea turtles and advised to keep our distance, but it was still amazing. We were so close with them I resisted the urge to hug one (probably a bad idea anyway).
There are also manta rays in this area of Apo Island, but they are in the deeper parts of the sea, about 20-30 meters down.
Snorkeling in giant coral gardens
After the waves had gotten stronger, we went next to two snorkeling sites. I must say, Apo Island features the best underwater scenery I’ve seen as of yet, better even than the Coral Garden in Coron. The corals are diverse and massive and there are all sorts of sea vegetation.
You need to freedive to see the best sights. I’m a modest swimmer and can easily tire, so I stayed on my lifevest and floated from above. Our guide stayed by me and was very enthusiastic to capture the underwater tableau, often volunteering to take my GoPro as he dived smoothly down to the ocean floor. I appreciated this gesture immensely, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to see what it’s like at the bottom.
As I was later browsing the videos, I was blown away. It seemed like a natural setup for an underwater-themed magazine. There’s so much sea plants and marine creatures I hadn’t seen before.
These are some of my GoPro shots. I just enhanced them a little bit, but honestly even the unedited ones are already good to publish. I sent some over to my friends and they were also impressed.
For me, Apo Island should be one of the highlights of tourism in the Philippines.
If these photos aren’t convincing enough, here’s a short video of my snorkeling/freediving adventure in Apo Island:
Short travel guide to Apo Island, Negros Oriental
How to get to Apo Island
Apo Island is accessible from Dumaguete City. If you’re going to join a package tour, usually transportation is already covered. To commute, here are the directions:
- From anywhere in Dumaguete City, ride a tricycle to Siaton.
- Ride a jeepney to Malapatay, Zamboanguita.
- Walk toward the port. You can also look for other joiners in a boat.
Where to stay in Apo Island
If you’re planning to stay in Dumaguete, you can check out the lowest prices of accommodations in Dumaguete here.
On the other hand, if you’re planning to stay in Apo Island, you can check out the following accommodations:
- Apo Island Beach Resort: Official website/ 0939 915 5122 or 0917 701 7150
- Liberty Lodge and Dive: Official website
- Mario Scuba Diving and Homestay: Official website / 0906 361 7254 or 0919 622 3671
- Ronors Lodging House
- H-H Rooms for Rent
Aside from these, there are also several resorts and hotels in Dauin. This option is best if you’re looking for a more comfortable accommodation or if you’re with a family. You can see the lowest prices of accommodations in Dauin here.
Going on an Apo Island tour
For its worth, going to and doing the sea turtle activity in Apo Island is actually cheap.
If you’re solo, I recommend signing up for a joiner tour, as I did. I availed of an Apo Island tour for P1200 from the dive center of Harold’s Mansion. It covers everything from transportation to fees and lunch. I only paid a little more than I would if I did it DIY, and the convenience and helpful guides from the dive center were all worth it. In fact, I’d definitely recommend them, especially for solo travelers like me.
- Harold’s Mansion: Facebook page / (tour) 0917 783 5172/ (lodging) 0917 302 4455
Tip: Make sure to reserve in advance to get a confirmed slot. Don’t forget to bring a bottled water, as the activity can get pretty tiring.
Hotels and beach resorts also offer tours, but they are usually expensive. I’ve seen prices ranging from P2000 to P3000 per person. Your best option is to look for budget-friendly travel agencies in Dumaguete City.
If you’re in a group or looking for other joins for a DIY Apo Island tour, here are the current rates (updated as of June 2017) you should take note of:
- Boat rates: 4 pax – P2000 / 6 pax – P2500 / 8 pax – P3000 / 10 pax – P3500
There are other required fees:
- General admission fee: P100
- Guide, maximum of 5 people: P300
- Mask and snorkel rent: P100
- Life jacket: P200
What do you think about snorkeling and swimming with turtles in Apo Island? 🙂
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