For the sake of swimming with the turtles in Apo Island, I spent more than 24 hours wide awake from work, to the bus ride to Lilo-an Port in Santander, ferry to Sibulan Port, and another 45-minute jeepney ride to Malatapay Market.
The journey didn’t end there as we needed to brave the gigantic waves to Apo Island on-board small fishing boats. The locals managing the boat renting strictly follow the number of tourists per boat. Our group, 12 in total, will be split into two boats, 8 and 4 capacities, respectively. We asked if there is a bigger boat that is available to accommodate us but since we didn’t advise them prior to the visit, they insisted to follow the system of how they handle walk-ins.
Bottom line was we found ourselves writing in two separate manifestos. Unfortunately, I was included in the smaller boat, for 4. I asked the lady in-charge how big, rather small, the boat we will be going to use. She let me checked it out and I just murmured ‘Good luck to us’ after seeing it and the crazy waves.
I wasn’t wrong with my predictions that it will be a rough ride. The boatmen alerted us to put all our stuff inside the boat for it not to get wet because sea water is expected to splash on us throughout the duration of the almost 45-minute ride. We turned over all our things and thanked them afterward. I was literally drenched in water as we ride the uncooperative waves.
Apo Island was declared a protected area last August 1994 and with this, tourists need to pay for the necessary fees they are implementing for the maintenance and protection of the area as well as for the development of the community. As a visitor, please also follow the do’s and don’ts being imposed. After settling all required fees, we proceeded to our temporary shelter for that day. Some people advised us to get a local guide who can direct us to where the coral sanctuaries and the turtles. A short briefing was held and then we excitedly swam in the shallow waters of the island.
It was a rewarding feeling to see the turtles in their natural habitat. First turtle was spotted and everyone was scrambling to see the creature underwater. For the succeeding ones, the group got to spread in the area and went turtle spotting on our own. It was funny though that instead of informing us that there’s a turtle nearby, the guide regularly informs us whenever he spots a clownfish. It was also great to observe the way the turtles climb to the surface of the water to nudge their head.
On our first 30-minute session, I saw around 10 different turtles of different sizes. There are 5 known species of sea turtles in Apo Island: Green Sea Turtle, Hawksbill, Loggerhead, Leatherback, and Olive Ridley. Green and hawksbill are the usual kinds on the shallow part of the water. Sometimes you can even notice one even if you’re just on the seaside. Since we’re not professional divers, we pleased ourselves with the Green and Hawksbill.
You can bring food for lunch but there are sari-sari stores available that sell canned goods and rice as well. One also offers set of meals: options were chicken adobo, grilled pork or fish with sautéed veggies and rice for Php200.
After lunch, we were convinced by our guides to take a short hike to visit the lighthouse. The short hike we were expecting was actually a long one. At the end, we were disappointed by the new lighthouse installed. We enjoyed the panoramic view from the vantage point instead. In addition to that, there is also a lagoon surrounded by mangroves, at the other part of the island by traversing the residential area. Yes, there is, but not that pleasant to the eyes so we left immediately.
One of the famous spots in Apo Island is the rock formation situated just in-front of Apo Island Beach Resort. We were hesitant to enter the resort because they might charge us but we were able to take photos and wander on the short strip of corally sand, for free. Later, we had the second round of turtle spotting on our own, without the guide.
Going back to Negros mainland was again a struggle for us because we were too obedient not to follow the advice of the boatmen to leave Apo Island early. Result was a roller coaster and death-defying ride with the waves ready to swallow us. We survived the trip and arrived safely in Malatapay Market.
1. If you’re going to Apo Island in big groups, contact them ahead to scout a bigger boat that can accommodate you. Having the smaller boats is a risky thing to do. Contacts are 0926-3658260, 0906-6735795. Tourism office: 0927-4603637. You can also contact those numbers for the boat rates.
2. As much as possible, bring your food.
3. For overnight stay, you can contact the only two resorts in Apo Island: Apo Island Beach Resort and Liberty Lodge. For camping, Php50/day per person is being charged.
Boat Php5000 (good for 12 pax) Environmental Fee Php100 Guides Php600 (Php300 per guide) Cottage Fee Php200 Food Php220 (good for 2) Snorkel Gear Php100 Lifevest Php100 Bus to Dumaguete Php50 (roundtrip) TOTAL Php945 per person
Photo credits to Kikoy, Nina, and Jochris for some photos used in this article.