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APO ISLAND TRAVEL GUIDE | Swimming with the Turtles in Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Apo Island Travel Guide

Mr. Turtle, Photo by Bongo-Bongo Divers

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.

Some said the first first can make you either want to come back or forget the place altogether. But the first, the gloomy first visit was the reason I wanted to come back.
So, the first was an introduction between a Cebuana and this little island whose people tease me for pronouncing words differently. 
Apo Island is a small, quaint island off the coast of Malatapay. Its smallness houses turtles, and rich marine life draws 

Let me reminisce my first.

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

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.

Apo Island can make you a child once again

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

Travel Guide to Apo Island Negros Oriental

Apo Island, Negros Oriental

 Apo Island teaches love and loyalty

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.

Apo Island Travel Guide

The grass on the other side of the island

 Apo Island has a side travelers do not know

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.

Updated Travel Guide to Apo Island, Negros Oriental

The Other Side of Apo Island, Negros Oriental

At Apo Island, there is no need to swim in deep waters to see the beauty of its turtles

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.

 Apo Island Travel Guide Snorkeling in Apo Island

Snorkeling in Apo Island


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 Travel Guide | Where to Stay in Apo Island

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

Ronor’s Lodging

H-Room for Rent
Found in the village itself

Apo Island Travel Guide Diving in Apo Island

Diving in Apo Island. Photo by Bongo-Bongo Divers

Apo Island Travel Guide | Where to Stay in Dumaguete or Negros

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.

Atmosphere Resorts & Spa
Wellbeach Dive Resort
Thalatta Resort
Acqua Dive
Kav’s Beach Resort

Apo Island Travel Guide | Diving in 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!


Jona of Backpacking with a Book

Hi there, I’m Jona! I’m in my early 30s and is currently based in Ha Noi, Vietnam.I primarily write poetry and short stories in Cebuano and lengthy travel essays in English. Blogging has become an outlet to think out loud. I live the life I set for myself. I try to live an unapologetic life. For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at Find me somewhere else!

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