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Diving in Apo Island, Negros Oriental

One of the top diving sites in the country, as mentioned in various articles, is an island off the coast of Dauin in Negros Oriental. Apo Island, according to a quick Google search, is a volcanic island covering 12 hectares in land area, 7 kilometers off the southeastern tip of Negros Island and 30 kilometers south of the Negros Oriental capital of Dumaguete City.

After I received my scuba diver license last year, I kept researching online about where best to dive. On most of the articles I’ve read, Apo Island is always mentioned to be among the best. I wanted to go diving there before summer ended but due to budgetary and time constraints, wasn’t able to do so. Luckily, I was able to set aside some cash last June and was finally able to book a trip to Dauin and ultimately to Apo Island. I wanted to dive there to see if it really deserved to be among the top scuba diving site in the country. I wanted to see if the hype was real.

And boy it did not disappoint.

Soft corals swaying slowly with the current
Soft corals swaying slowly with the current
A scorpionfish stays still as we swim past it
A scorpionfish stays still as we swim past it
First spot of the day. We came along this lone Pawikan while diving along The Chapel Reef
First spot of the day. We came along this lone Pawikan (green sea turtle) while diving along The Chapel Reef

Apo Island is best known for the Pawikan‘s or Sea Turtles that inhabit the surrounding reefs. Just a few meters from the shore, you can go snorkeling and free diving with these gentle creatures. Although they are endangered, you can see a huge population around the area. Aside from this main attraction, Apo Island boasts its numerous well-protected marine sanctuaries. As you can see from the photos above, the community’s efforts are well-paid off.

Click map to see larger version

Getting there

Getting to Apo Island isn’t that hard. Your main jump-off point would be Dumaguete City and as far as I know, getting to Dumaguete City from any part of the country is a breeze.

From Cebu

From Cebu, take a bus going south to Santander. It should only cost you around P185.00 and the earliest bus leaves at around 3am. From there, take the ferry to get across to Negros island. It should cost about P68.00. The boat leaves every 30 minutes from 5AM to 7AM and every hour until 7PM. Once you get across, get on a multicab to Dumaguete City. DO NOT TAKE THE TRICYCLES as they are so damn expensive and takes longer. Tell the driver of the multicab that you’ll be dropping off the city’s bus terminal. The ride costs only P11.00.

From Mindanao

If you’re coming from Northern Mindanao, the best option is to get on a ferry either from Dapitan or Cagayan de Oro, whichever is nearer and available to you. Schedules are as follows:

  • Cagayan de Oro to Dumaguete – Departs every Sunday 12MN and arrives 7:30AM
  • Dapitan to Dumaguete – Departs every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday 4PM and arrives 8PM

If you’re from the southern part of Mindanao, your best option would be to get a direct flight to Cebu and follow the instructions above to get to Dumaguete.

From Luzon

Daily flights from Manila are offered both by Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines. Feel free to search their websites for available seats.

From Dumaguete City bus terminal, take a bus that is headed to Siaton. Tell the conductor that you will be getting off at Malatapay Wharf. They should know where to drop you off. The ride takes less than an hour and should cost you less than P50.00.

Once you get to Malatapay Wharf, register yourself at the Tourist Information Center and after that, you should be able to buy your boat tickets heading to Apo Island.

Alternative option

If you don’t want go through all the hassle of going to Malatapay and book a room and dive shops in the island, several dive resorts in Dauin offer all-in-one accommodation plus island hopping, snorkeling, and scuba diving in the island. This is the option that we chose.

We chose to go diving with Spinner Dolphins (IG: @dive_the_visayas) as it makes everything much easier and hassle-free. Bob, the one who owns and manages the diving tour, arranged for us to stay at Mike’s Beach Resort. When we arrived at the resort, it was totally more than we expected. The staff are friendly, the food is great, and our room was totally worth our money.

As for the activities, we mainly did scuba diving for the two days that we were there. Each dive costs P1,800.00 which includes the standard environmental fee, the gear rental, the guide fee, and the boat ride. I think it’s a pretty fair price. For other inquiries, you may send a message directly to Bob in his Instagram account.

Check out some photos of the resort below.

For two days (Saturday and Sunday), we did a total of four dives. We had two dives in Dauin’s marine sanctuaries where we saw tons of frog fish and nudibranch and two more dives the next day in Apo Island’s The Chapel Reef and Rock West Reef. Now, I’m not gonna try and explain how beautiful these dive sites are, I’ll just let the photos do the talking (although most of my photos don’t do justice to the reefs’ beauty).

If you’re wondering what camera I was using, I’m using a GoPro Hero 4 Black with PolarPro SwitchBlade 2.0 macro attachment. I was also using a Qudos Knog for the lighting. Out of the thousands of photos I took during those two days, these are the most decent ones that came out. I guess I have to practice more.

Skunk anemonefish
Skunk anemonefish
Chromodoris dianae
Chromodoris dianae

And of course, underwater GoProtography won’t be complete without an underwater selfie.

And another GoPro selfie, this time with Apo Island in the background.

To sum it up, I would definitely say that Apo Island indeed deserves a spot on the Top 5 Best Scuba Diving Sites in the Philippines. The next time I come back here, I might spend an entire week just to go scuba diving every single day.

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