APO ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE | A little note: Apo Island is different from Apo Reef in Mindoro. Apo Island is a little island off the coast of Malatapay in Dauin, Negros Oriental. This is entry started with a little narrative, which I encouraged you to read. If you are impatient to read the travel guide, jump to the bottom of this entry. Oh yeah, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram.
Let me reminisce my first.
The locals can tell instantly that I am not from this side of Negros with the way I pronounced Apo alone. I stressed the /a/ sound, while they dropped the /a/ and stressed /po/, the way we pronounced apo, grandchild.
Ate Esther, one of the jeepney passengers to Malatapay, suggested I should pretend as if I was her friend so I could avoid paying Php300, the implemented boat fare for all visitors—foreign and local alike.
From the jeep, I already knew I would leave Apo Island with a changed heart. Here are some lessons I gained from this magical place.
On the boat, the women pointed the edge of the sea where a pod of dolphins passed by. I could barely make them out, but kid as I am, I waved hi to them. But I could not help but shout in glee when the boatman pointed the three dolphins swimming in front of the boat. Watching their backs elegantly gliding in and out of the water was nothing short of magical.
The locals—used to seeing them in their everyday ferrying from the island to mainland Negros—were amused by my reaction. They laughed looking at me looking so happy and charmed.
TIP: Southern Cebu and Apo Island for 2N/3D trip is possible. READ: 18 Things to Do in Southern Cebu
The highlight of this trip must be my encounter with JP and his dog, Jareck. It was a stormy day. No passenger boats were allowed to cross the sea. Ate Esther’s brother-in-law had to pick some supplies from Malatapay. I could hitch a ride, but I missed that boat because she could not find me. I was walking around the island taking photos.
So JP and Jareck walked with me to the other side of the island. JP borrowed a rather small outrigger so we could find Harold Mansion’s diving boat, my only hope so I could go back to Cebu on the same day. He shooed Jareck away, but a dog’s love and loyalty to his master is, can be stubborn. No intimidating waves can stop him from swimming behind us, swimming against the strong current. My heart melted for him.
JP said there are two ways to go to Cogon, we could either climb the boring-looking concrete steps or climb the boulders by the coast. The latter sounded more interesting and adventurous. But JP said it was kind of dangerous. He looked at my get -up: years-old slippers, a long summer skirt, and a sleeveless top. Oh, yes, a typical beach attire.
I knew what was running in his head. Stubborn and arrogant as I am, I told him I could handle it without his assistance. So we scaled the massive boulders beyond the turtles’ abandoned nesting area.
I climbed and jumped from one boulder to another with my long skirt and with a happy grin I could not wash off.
Apo Island’s landmark is Baluarte, the big outcrop facing the mainland Negros. On the other end of the coast is the sanctuary. There was no need to swim in deep waters to see the turtles. At knee-deep water, I found at least five of them. And there was no need to chase them.
At Apo Island, the turtles seem used to seeing humans swimming. They do not try to swim away; they just continue on munching the weeds or algae from the corals or the rocky bottom. I held my breath as long as I could to observe them: they are humongous, beautiful, and elegant.
It was midweek and windy, I was the only one snorkeling. The experience was almost sublimal.
1. From Dumaguete, you can either ride the Ceres bus bound for Bayawan or the jeepney bound for Bayawan. The jeepney is parked near the public market in Dumaguete.
2. Get off at Malatapay, where the passenger boat is stationed. Flat rate for all tourists—local or foreigner—is P300.00. For those traveling in a group, it is better to hire the whole boat for around P2000.00
3. Day trips are also possible and more advisable for those pressed in time. Harold’s Mansion offers a whole-day snorkeling activity for P1000.00/person inclusive of sandwich lunch and snorkeling gear. I’ve done it once with them, and the price was worth it. You would be brought to snorkellng areas that divers dive.
Address: 205 Hibbard Avenue, Brgy. Looc, Dumaguete, 6200 Negros Oriental, Philippines
Phone: +63 35 522 0144
4. For those staying overnight, Ronor has the cheapest accommodation for P300/night. But I was traveling solo on a rainy midweek, so they said I got a discount
Apo Island Beach Resort
+63 939 915 5122 (Smart)
+63 917 701 7150 (Globe)
Liberty’s Community Lodge
+63 920 2385 704
+63 920 9124 593
Marios Scuba Diving and Homestay
H-Room for Rent
Found in the village itself
Another option is to stay in Dumaguete or mainland Negros Oriental, instead of staying in the electricity-limited Apo Island. I’ve done it three or four times, I guess. I just stayed in Dumaguete and joined a day snorkeling trip to Apo Island.
I had my PADI Open Water Diver’s License in Dauin, and I had two nice dives in Apo Island. Damn, so beautiful down there!
So yes, if you are interested in going beyond snorkeling, try DSD or save up for that Open Water License. And Apo Island is definitely one of the best places in the world to have it.
I had my PADI Open Water with Bongo-Bongo Divers, run by a bunch of cool people.
Phone: +63 906 202 2152
Some parts of this entry appeared on my column Down South.
If you got some questions, just comment down below, I’m going to answer them as fast as I can!