Swimming With Sea Turtles! Amazing Apo Island

Apo Island is actually a volcanic island located just south of Dumaguete, which is the capital of Negros Oriental in the Central Visayas Region. “Apo” is a name that is derived from the Filipino word that means “grandchild.”

The island is a marine reserve, which is a National Integrated Protected Area Act (NIPA). It also falls under the jurisdiction of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB).

It is arguably the most popular snorkelling destination and dive site in the country.

A Unique Marine Sanctuary With Abundant Marine Life

With Apo Island being a local community-organised marine sanctuary, the global science community has taken an interest in, and documented it, extensively.

Marine scientist Dr Angel Alcala from Silliman University Marine Laboratory started the project and was able to convince the island community to develop the sanctuary.

Since this project was initiated on Apo Island, hundreds of marine sanctuaries have been created all over the Philippines.

Currently, Apo Island is the home for more than 650 documented fish species, and a majority of the 45o species of corals in the Phillippines are found here.

These range from the tiny bubble corals to massive brain corals and gorgonian sea fans. It is a truly mind-blowing spectacle.

Scuba Diving Heaven

Tourists and visitors must pay a fee to enter into Apo Island (P100) and to dive or snorkel within the marine sanctuary. The fees are used to help maintain the sanctuary and keep it in pristine condition for tourists to enjoy.

While the island is not a marine reserve, the local population are the only people that have permission to catch fish. However, the sea turtles are protected there. It is thought that more than 60 sea turtles live near the island.

Apo Island has some great facilities for diving with compressors and tanks, which allows you to enjoy the amazing diversity in terms of coral, with both soft and hard coral found in the water.

The north part of the island sees currents which offer clear waters, even in December to March, which is the Planktonic season. There are jacks, barracudas and groupers located near the area known as the Coconut diving spot.

Apo Island has two resorts, with each having a dive centre, Liberty’s Lodge and Apo Island Beach Resort. from this area, there is a walking trail to the lighthouse on top of the hill and a massive cellar base station and tower.

You can visit Apo Island in one day and if you are really pressed for time, and even half-day tour is enough time to go snorkelling. Whatever you choose to do, you simply must visit this amazing island.


Environmental (entrance) fee – P100

Table hire – P200. You are encouraged to hire a table to leave your gear on while you go snorkelling. This cost can be divided among your group.

Snorkelling gear – P400 (goggles, snorkel, fins, booties, life jacket)

Guide – P300 (good for 4 people). I fully recommend a guide especially due to the strong current.

Apo Island Dumaguete

The main beach looking back to the reef and snorkelling area

Apo Island Dumaguete

Beautiful rock formations and crystal clear water

Apo Island Dumaguete

A small private cove with amazing sand and rock formations

Apo Island Dumaguete

A view from halfway up the walking trail to the lighthouse

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How to get there

Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific fly to Dumaguete from Manila twice daily with the flight taking just over one hour.

The port where the boats depart for Apo Island is called Malatapay Port. Although you can’t get a bus there, there are plenty of jeepneys and tricycles around to get you from downtown Dumaguete to the port. The port is about 25kms from the Robinsons Business Park in Dumaguete and takes 30-40 minutes drive.

The boat ride across from Malatapay Port in Dauin, just outside Dumaguete, to Apo Island, only takes about 25 minutes. You can hire a boat to take you back and forth which cost about P4,000. The boat usually holds a maximum of 8 people and the cost is divided among the number of passengers.

Dezza´s Tip

If you are travelling alone, or as a couple, I would suggest joining a tour group to go to Apo Island. These tours usually include road transport, boat to and from Apo Island, snorkelling gear (assuming you don’t want to scuba dive), as well as a guide and lunch. There are a number of options online so check out Tripadvisor or the like for recommendations and costs.