Apo Island Philippines

Apo Island is a tiny island just off Negros in the central part Philippines. Most tourists come to Apo Island for the snorkelling and diving as it has some of the most amazing marine life in the Philippines. Unfortunately the marine sanctuary at the back of Apo Island was damaged by a typhoon a few years ago and the island has closed it temperately to allow the corals to grow back. The locals told me this could take anywhere from 7-10 years. That doesn’t mean you cannot enjoy snorkelling in Apo Island as the front beach still has amazing snorkelling opportunities. Less than a hundred meters off shore you can snorkel up close with turtles, corals, sea snakes and other fish. My highlights are the turtles as they are just amazing to swim with. Apo Island was the first place (back in 2009) I ever got to swim close with a turtle and it’s always been one of my fondest memories in the Philippines. I even bought a turtle shaped necklace to remember it by, and still to this day I wear it.

Entry to the island is 100 PHP even if you are staying overnight.

Diving in Apo Island is immensely popular as well. I did speak to some divers and they just raved about the place. The resorts in Apo Islands have their own dive shops and more information on diving in Apo Island can be found on their websites, I have put the links below.

Day trips to Apo Island are pretty popular as well. Many of the resorts along Dauin (in Negros) offer these excursion. Some of the hotels in Dumaguete do as well. If you are staying in Siquijor, again some of these dive resorts in Siquijor can arrange dive trips to Apo Island.  Apo Island Resort is run by the same owner as Coco Grove Resort on Siquijor.

I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending Apo Island but due the isolation of the island you do have to “rough” it out a bit. For me 2 -3 nights is enough. The snorkelling and diving at Apo Island is just amazing.

Apo Island Accommodation

There are two main resorts in Apo Island. One Liberty Resort. The other Apo Island Resort which I have stayed both times. Liberty Resort was fully booked when I tried the second time. Everything about the resort is pretty simple. The rooms are very basic with bed, fan and balcony to take in the fresh ocean air. There is no running water so they bring in the fresh water from the mainland in Negros. The bathroom has two large containers, one fresh water to shower with and the other container is filled with sea water to flush the toilet with. The resort’s generator runs from around 6 pm – 11 pm so that’s the only time the resort has electricity. It’s a good idea to have a torch. Bear in mind that means the fan goes off as well. So you may want to keep the windows open to let the ocean air in. Rooms do come with a mosquito net. I was here during the dry season so mosquitoes where not so much a problem but they maybe during the wet season (around June – December). Although you can still encounter them all year round

The Staff at Apo Island Resort are very helpful and friendly as you would expect from a laid back place like this. The food is generally OK, but I didn’t come with high expectations. They are also limited too in part by the restricted electricity and just the remoteness of island. You can see some of the photos I took of the food in the video.

I found booking with this resort a bit of a hassle as they wanted a deposit first. Since I was booking from Australia I had to do an international transfer which the bank charges an extra fee. Chasing this up with the resort was slow and frustrating since contact was only done through email. When I got there they couldn’t find my deposit and their accounting is handled by their sister resort Coco Grove Resort in Siquijor. I actually was staying in Coco Grove a few days later so in the end I paid the full amount and then when I got to Coco Grove Resort sorted out my deposit and eventually got my deposit back. It was all messy though and I wish they would come online to Agoda or something like that to make reservations a lot easier.

The resort is located on a beautiful little private cove. The waters just look amazing (see video). It’s just a magnificent place. You can snorkel in front of the resort. Here I saw many corals and fish including lion fish. The beach area is made from small broken corals which can be a bit hard on your feet. Not the best to walk barefooted.

The other option of accommodation in Apo Island is the homestays. Some of the locals in the village rent out rooms in their houses. It actually works out quite cheap, rooms start from around 500 PHP a night with some including a breakfast – although this is just a coffee and bread. Rooms are basically a bed and fan. Some of them have a shared bathroom as well. You will also need to take in consideration the village has power for only around 3 hours per night. The people I spoke to that did this were fairly happy with what they got and for 500 PHP you can’t really complain. You can see the video for a better idea on what a room looks like. You can also see the contact numbers of the said homestays in the video. The one that didn’t have a number in the video is Mary’s Homestay, her mobile number is 0906 823 4932

How to get to Apo Island

Most people come from Dumagute, the biggest city in the area. You can fly into Dumaguete from both Manila and Cebu. From here it’s probably easiest to catch a bus from the Dumaguete Bus Terminal. I have put in the video above a guide to getting to Apo Island, but basically you need to catch the bus labelled Bayawan which run pretty regularly. You will need to get off at Malatapay Market, there is a sign on the road saying Apo Island. As it is a popular stop you will just need to tell the conductor, so it’s not very hard. Jeepneys do this run as well. They told me the bus was around 20 PHP and the jeepney 25 PHP. You then have about 500 meters to go to the pier. This occasion time I used a tricycle from Dumaguete to Malatapay pier direct. He charged me 250 PHP right up to the pier.

Speaking to some locals I did find out there is a public boat that leaves Apo Island back to Negros early in the morning. They were not really forth coming with answers, or just didn’t understand my (Australian) accent too well. From what I understood is the public boat runs very infrequently each day and will cost around 300 PHP one way. There was one boat leaving from Apo Island back to Malatapay pier on Negros around 7 am. So if you arrive from Negros to go to Apo Island you may need to wait a few hours. Otherwise the cost for a boat trip is 2000 PHP round trip (see video) for the smaller boat (up to 4 passengers) and 3000 PHP for the larger boat that can hold up to 8 passengers. On top of that they charged me extra 200 PHP for the check in fee as I booked it on the day on short notice. You can read the fares and rules in the video. These rates were current at March 2014.

I would recommend checking the sea conditions when making the crossing as the boats are quite small. If the water was rough I wouldn’t do it. The times I have done the crossing the ocean has been pretty calm. I’m not sure how regulated it is here when they decided the ocean is too rough.

*All rates and prices subject to change without notice.

Rob Brand

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