Apo Island: 1.5 km long by 800 meters wide, thick jungle along its entire extension, inside which there is a village of huts built with intertwined palm leaves. No running water or electricity. Two lagoons infested with sea snakes and chickens running among the feet of passers-by.
If this is not the definition of an earthly Paradise, it could not be otherwise.
Apo Island is a paradise in the middle of the ocean where you can leave a piece of your heart. For this reason, with a little imagination, seeing the island from above you could recognize the shape of the heart muscle. And it is no coincidence that your heartbeats seem to synchronize with the natural vibrations of this place when you land on the beaches of this wonder.
Most of those who visit the Philippines prefer to reach the Island of Apo with a day trip, spending 60 euros to be launched from a boat along with a few dozen other tourists, a truly bite-and-run consumer experience, even for not accept the minimal inconveniences that would involve staying on the island. Yet a night on Apo Island can make you happy for a lifetime.
APO ISLAND SNORKELING
Apo Island is completely surrounded by coral reefs, just put a mask, snorkel and fins to access an incredible underwater world and return happy children when you meet a turtle. The underwater time in Apo Island flows faster than on land and two hours to contemplate the seabed pass in a flash. Each coral reef has its peculiarities, so it is worthwhile to devote more snorkeling during the day by changing the dive site.
PreBreakfast Snorkeling – The Chapel Reef
Get up early in the morning to take advantage of the first light of dawn and stimulate your appetite with a swim on the main coral reef of Apo Island: The Chapel Reef. This barrier is located right in front of the accommodation facilities of the island and is undoubtedly the area with the highest density of turtles. At least 5 turtles are at home here and are concentrated mainly in shallow waters in the central portion of the Reef. Seeing them is very easy, they spend their time eating in less than 3 meters of water and approach the shore when there is high tide.
Taking advantage of the early hours of the morning, you can enjoy this unique spectacle before the arrival of the Daily Tour boats and before the guides begin to pour Chinese tourists into the water.
When you are satisfied with the snorkeling, have breakfast. The terrace of Liberty’s Community Lodge is a show. Enjoy the fresh breeze, the elevated view of the beach, the palm trees and the comings and goings of boats, and try to spot turtles emerging to breathe. They make excellent pancakes and extraordinary fresh fruit smoothies.
Morning Snorkeling – Apo Island Marine Sanctuary and Kan Oran Reefs
After breakfast, when The Chapel Reef starts to be stormed by tourists, go against the trend and change sides of the island. Follow the path that leads to the lagoon on the east side of Apo Island where the Marine Sanctuary is located, a protected area that for a large part is not swimming because of a conservative ban. All the way to the left, however, it is possible to dive and skirt the rocks up to Kan Oran Reefs.
Here you will undoubtedly find the clearest waters of Apo Island and the most extraordinary underwater colors. Although the likelihood of spotting turtles is far more rare, the variety of fish and corals is enough to rebuild your eyes. Among all the inhabitants of this coral reef, the clown fish are the landlords.
Afternoon Snorkeling – The Chapel Reef and Katipanan Reef
The Daily Tours remain on Apo Island only until after lunch and begin to return to the mainland around 2 pm. It means that The Chapel Reef returns to being an intimate paradise already by mid-afternoon. Put the mask back on for a final snorkeling that starts from the southernmost area of The Chapel Reef and takes you to Katipanan Reef after skirting a rocky promontory.
Clown fish are still protagonists, as they are present in as many as 5 different species, and a good chance that some turtles go further south to keep you company. There is no shortage of surgeon fish (Dori of “Finding Nemo”), trumpet fish and puffers that with their staring eyes slam the fins in an awkward swim still on the spot. Wonderful, if you look closely closely, at the blue fish that live inside the huge flat corals.
SNORKELING ADVICE IN APO ISLAND
- Don’t stress the turtles, don’t surround them in large groups, don’t touch them and let them eat in peace.
- The high tide facilitates entry and exit from the water as the sea level reaches the coral beaches. The low tide, on the other hand, reveals the sharp rocks and it becomes more complicated to get in and out with the fins.
- Don’t touch, break, collect the corals. They are very delicate living beings and the slightest damage could compromise the entire structure. Corals are home to dozens of animal species on the seabed and their survival is crucial for safeguarding the biodiversity of these seas.
- Do not collect shells on the beach, even the simplest and most numerous. Many are in fact protected and you risk very expensive fines up to € 20,000 if discovered at the airport with shells in the suitcase.
- In the central hours of the day, when the tourists arrive in droves by the boats of the daily tours, the snorkeling guides of Apo Island could be very grumpy with those who want to venture with the mask in the center part of The Chapel Reef. They will try to convince you that snorkeling without a guide is forbidden in that area. Obviously it’s not true. Smile and pretend to understand little, or simply avoid peak times.
- To book your stay you need to contact directly the facilities that for obvious reasons are not on Booking.com. Write an email to stop the room and, above all, to get information about the weather conditions because, in case of heavy seas, the connections with the mainland are blocked by the harbor master’s office even for whole weeks.
HOW TO ARRIVE TO APO ISLAND
Getting to Apo Island without an organized tour is very simple. From Dumaguete you can take the bus that stops near the port and travels south. Ask the ticket collector if in doubt. Boarding to the island is located in Malatapay, about 40 minutes by bus for about 60 pesos / € 1.10.
At Malatapay you will be left on the main road at the intersection leading to the marina. Walk for less than 10 minutes to the landing stage. A boat ride costs 300 pesos / € 5 plus about 5 pesos / € 0.10 in port taxes. The boat trip takes about 30 minutes, you will bathe for sure during the crossing, so equip yourself accordingly. Once in Apo Island you will have to pay another 100 pesos / 1.80 € to enter the Marine Sanctuary.
WHERE TO SLEEP IN APO ISLAND
As anticipated at the beginning, Apo Island is an island of fishermen and as such the comforts are reduced to the bone. The accommodations are few and for the standards we are mostly used to they can be defined as “spartan”. Highly recommended is the Liberty’s Community Lodge & Dive, overlooking The Chapel Reef, built almost entirely of wood, has many rooms overlooking the ocean with a fabulous private veranda. The restaurant has a terrace with an unforgettable view and the staff is very kind.
The reviews on TripAdvisor are mixed, but the impression is that they are written by Sunday tourists whose comfort zone ends at the tip of their nose. Don’t be fooled. It is a wonderful lodge.
As a discomfort to “endure” there are the absence of running water in many rooms and the availability of electricity only for 3 hours a day. To overcome the problem of running water, each room is equipped with a tub full of water and a basin.
Without a doubt an experience to try!