Apo Island is a seriously magical place. Located in Dauin, just a little ways outside of Dumaguete City, Apo Island is famous amongst the diving scene for its incredible coral reefs and abundant marine life, but you don’t need to scuba to get up close and personal with the main attraction – Apo Island turtles! Snorkelling with the Apo Island turtles is as beautiful as it is accessible, and is a must do if you’re in or around Dauin.
READ: APO ISLAND GUIDE
GETTING TO APO ISLAND
Apo Island is around 8km off the coast of Dauin in Negros Oriental. If you’re staying in Dumaguete City, the first thing you’ll need to do is make your way to Malatapay Apo Seaport in Zamboanguita. It’s around 30 minutes if you have your own transport, which we recommend. You can rent a scooter for $8 USD a day or if you’re not comfortable driving a scooter, you can rent a car for $40.
Alternatively, you can take any public Ceres bus going south for around $1.20 USD, just tell the bus driver you’re going to Apo and he’ll drop you off on the road by the port. Once you’re at the market, head down to the beach and you’ll easily find the port. If you go on a Wednesday, you’ll pass through the famous Malatapay markets, an entirely crazy but authentic local experience you shouldn’t miss out on. From there, it will take around 45 minutes by pump boat to Apo Island.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
You have two options for boats from Malatapay port. A private boat will cost around $60 for 4 passengers, $91 for 8 and $182 for 22. Depending on your group size, you might find this the best option! Otherwise, you can take a public boat for $6 but these are subject to availability and depend entirely on whenever locals need to head back to the island. You’ll have to pay a $2 entrance fee to access Apo Island if you’re a non-local, as well as additional fees for snorkelling and scuba.
You can hire a snorkelling guide for $6, who will show you where the Apo Island turtles are and keep an eye on your safety as well as the turtles’. If you didn’t bring your own gear, you can rent a mask and fins for $2, or if you want to go a little deeper you can pay $4 to dive. It’s worth mentioning that you absolutely do not need to scuba dive to see turtles, in fact most of the turtle are found right by the shore.
WHEN TO GO TO APO ISLAND
We recommend going as early as possible to ensure a smooth trip there and back. The wind and swell really picks up in the afternoon from around 3pm, which can make for a bumpy, slow trip back to the mainland. You’ll want to bring a dry bag in any case, since pump boat rides usually end up with everyone getting a bit wet.
OUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE APO ISLAND TURTLES
It’s not an exaggeration when we say there are dozens of turtles to be seen, in water as shallow as 2 metres. So why are there so many turtles? Apo Island is not a nesting ground for turtles, but is is a sanctuary for mostly female turtles to feed on the abundance of algae covering the rocks by the shoreline. Almost all of the Apo Island turtles you’ll see are female, and long time residents of these waters. As a protected marine reserve, there are no predators or poachers, so the turtles feel safe and are used to human presence and will happily continue their feasting in your presence.
There are two species of turtles that call Apo Island home – Green Turtles and Hawksbill Turtles. We saw mostly Green Turtles, which are actually very much brown, and spend most of their time in very shallow water eating algae by the shore. They can get really big, and are identifiable by their round faces. Hawksbill Turtles are found in deeper waters since they prefer to feast on hard coral, and have a bird like beak.
Aside from turtles, you’ll get the chance to see all sorts of other underwater creatures. We saw a sea snake (keep your distance from those guys), blue starfish, plenty of colourful reef fish and happy clownfish families in their anemone homes. The deeper you get, you’ll also see some incredible coral formations which Apo Island is also well known for.
Our visit to the Apo Island turtles did not disappoint, in fact, it exceeded our expectations. We were blown away, not only by the turtles, but also by the clarity of the water, the health of the coral and the abundance of other sea creatures. Apo Island’s underwater life is thriving and we absolutely recommend it to anyone and everyone visiting Dauin.
If you’re looking for other things to do in Dauin, why not check out Baslay Hot Spring & Waterfall for a quick and unique hike in the mountains just above town.
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WHERE TO STAY NEAR APO ISLAND
Most people who visit Negros Oriental are told to stay in Dumaguete, but what they really mean by that is stay around Dumaguete. True, Dumaguete City has plenty of tourist inns and budget hotels, but it’s the surrounding towns of Dauin and Zamboanguita that offer the best spots to stay. There’s not a whole lot to do in the city itself, so when you stay in the nearby municipalities there’s plenty of nature to explore whilst still being nice and close to Dumaguete City. Check out our top picks for accommodation near Dumaguete City.
LUXURY: Atmosphere Resorts & Spa, Dauin
Atmosphere Resorts & Spa in Dauin is the resort to stay at if you’ve got a big budget and fancy the finer things in life. Atmosphere has hosted its fair share of local celebrities and deep pocketed divers looking for the best beachfront luxury in Dauin.
MIDSCALE: Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort, Dauin
If you want to stay by the ocean without breaking the bank, Mike’s Dauin Dive Resort in Dauin is a comfortable midscale accommodation option perfect for diving enthusiasts. If you’ve never dived before, you can get your certification at Mike’s, and divers of all skill sets can enjoy the abundance of macro diving opportunities in and around Dauin.
BUDGET: Bongo Bongo Divers, Dauin
Bongo Bongo Divers is one of the most popular hostels in Dauin for backpackers looking for cheap accommodation in a convenient location. The rooms are simple, without any glitz and glam, but the vibe is fun and welcoming. They have a variety of room styles to choose from, ranging from couples rooms to AC or fan only dorms.
AIRBNB: Villa Amani, Zamboanguita
Villa Amani in Zamboanguita is the perfect holiday home for small families or groups of friends looking for privacy that a traditional resort or hotel can’t offer. The main house sleeps 4 with additional space for 2 in the guest house, or you can book the guest house separately if it’s just the 2 of you and you’re on a budget. The property has a swimming pool, an unbeatable view of Apo Island and kayaks to use whenever you want.
MORE NEGROS ORIENTAL GUIDES:
Rock Point View Deck, Apo Island
Baslay Hot Spring & Waterfall, Dauin
Casaroro Falls, Valencia
Pulangbato Falls, Valencia
Tottyn Falls, Valencia
Original Casaroro Falls, Valencia
Palaypay Falls, Pamplona
Hidden Beach, Siaton