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skin diving

Skin Diving at Apo Island Apr 17-18, 2010

Skin Diving at Apo Island

World Class Dive Spot
Apo Island is a rugged 72-hectare island flanked by the provinces of Negros, Cebu and Siquijor. It's reputation as a world-class dive spot is a well accepted fact. Now that I'm in Dumaguete with Apo Island just a stone's throw away, it ranked high on my list. My schedule got a gentle push upon meeting some mountain bikers - Dudz, Ian and Luz at the Malatapay Market last Wednesday, when they extended an invite to join their crew for an overnight stay at Apo Island. Woohoo!

Dudz and his Merry Crew
Saturday started with me being picked up by Dudz on a top-down jeep with chock-full-of-cool-peeps standing side-by-side sardine-style on the jeep's rear and hanging by the roll bars - all geared up for a weekend of adventure. We were 10 altogether but our numbers reduced to 8 when Dudz and Jessica couldn't make it at the last minute....darn! We swore we'd have fun on their behalf.

   Not knowing I was already a Survivor Philippines Castaway

Philip: You look like the part. You should have auditioned for Survivor Philippines.

One highlight of the 40-minute boat ride was seeing a school of dolphins. I used to see a lot of them back in the day when they would swim alongside the ferry from Batangas to Puerto Gallera. But that no longer happens now. So, this sighting is a treat!

Spartan Lodging
We settled on an abandoned shack that was literally falling apart. But hey, everyone was a was all good. We even slept on the floor! Reminds me of the good 'ol days when anything goes.

Even though the entire island is a dive area, the main dive spot is called Sanctuary. On top of the P100 island registration fee (local residents are subsidized), snorkelers on the Sanctuary pay an extra P30/day. This is the spot island management keeps a scrutiny on. There's a life guard until 4, making sure divers are safe and IN COMPLIANCE to the rules and regulations to ensure they don't mess up the reef. No diving is allowed after 4pm. Entrance to the dive is at one end of the cove and exit is at the other end. Divers enter on the direction of the current. They can then exit and loop back...always with the current. The middle section of the cove is cordoned-off so divers cannot bail at the center. Ingenious! This protects the corals from being trampled on.

Apo Island

Dive! Dive! Dive!
Finally after all that anticipation, we were diving! The reef was habitat to predominantly soft corals...very well kept with very little sign of damage. Coral life was diversified and abundant but there weren't as many fishes. It was more of a landscape dive more than an interactive dive with the fishes. Nemos (clown fish) were everywhere. The current was manageable and even helped propel us, as we were with it. A lot of the action usually happens at the drop-off. But it was high tide and the drop-off was deep. I couldn't stay down long enough. Given our short stay and the admission fee, we made as many loops as we can until we tired ourselves out. Yeah, it was some dive!

Apo IslandTurtles
Another dive highlight was seeing sea turtles. They gather just in front of the main pier as they help themselves to food on the corals. Since we dived (dove?) on a low-tide when they were scarce, I only saw one, with a carapace about 18 inches across. It didn't speed away unlike the turtle I saw in Calumbuyan Island, Palawan. This dude just went about snacking as though I wasn't there. That's when my underwater camera malfunctioned again...darn these Olympus digicams....grrrrr. Conversation with someone who dived with the high tide said she saw about 10 turtles just unmindful to her presence. They weren't afraid of people since they're no longer hunted's illegal! And the locals are smart enough to realize the turtles will benefit them more if they're left alone to multiply instead of on the dinner table.

Old Light House
After all the diving, Luz took us all to the highest point of the island where the old lighthouse still stands. Upon reaching the top of the light house, a spectacular 3600 view of the neighboring islands could be seen - Cebu, Suquijor, Negros mainland, Bohol, etc. The wind was strong and even with the sun, it got a little nippy.

Ending Thoughts
Very few places in the Philippines are reknowned as an ideal skin diving place despite our extensive coastline and diversified coral reef. Why? Because the reefs are mostly dead or damaged due to dynamite fishing, muro-ami, anchor droppings, and indifferent divers who collect or even step on corals (of course there's climate change, but my beef is with people who destroy the reef). I've seen the change first-hand. I'd been skin diving since high school. Back in the day, places like Matabungkay, Puerto Gallera and Boracay had excellent coral reefs. I've returned a few years ago and they're all dead. What used to be a vibrant reef system has been reduced to a coral graveyard.

But a few places have been kept intact due to a well managed eco-tourism in place. Apo Island proves that. Such a system will not only provide a more lucrative source of revenue for the locals, but will even motivate the locals to police their own vicinity to ensure conservation methods are complied to - their livelihood now depends on the health of the ecosystem. What used to be poachers are now the guardians.

I sincerely believe that is the key. It's not enough to simply outlaw traditional ways of doing things (dynamite fishing, muro-ami, etc.). People will just find ways around the system. What's imperative is to provide an alternative source of revenue that hinges on their active involvement in keeping the ecosystem healthy. I applaud the stakeholders in the Negros Oriental Marine Conservation Park for creating a viable system to preserve the coral reef with the active participation of the community. You guys totally ROCK!

--- TheLoneRider

ps - Dudz, thanks for making it all happen. You DA MAN!
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Apo Island FYI / Tips

  • Apo Island boasts of having the freshest fish on your plate - avail of it!
  • even though a marine sanctuary, fishing is still allowed in Apo Island, providing livelihood to the locals - but controlled fishing
  • electricity is only from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm
  • internet is painfully slow and intermittent when on
  • public eating areas are hardly available except from resorts where guests are checked-in
  • drinking water is still sourced from the mainland

Apo Island Cost Index

(US$1 = Php 45.26 as of July 7, 2015)
  • $44 medium boat ride from Malatapay to Apo Island up to 4 people, roundtrip (Php 2000/boat)
  • $66 big boat ride from Malatapay to Apo Island up to 8 people, roundtrip (Php 3000/boat)
  • $22 open water dives (average, Php1000/dive)

How to get there from Dumaguete:

  • take a tricycle and ask to be dropped-off the jeep terminal going to Zamboanguita (the terminal is near Robinson's Plaza) - P8.
  • at the terminal, board the next jeep for Zamboanguita. Just tell the driver to drop you off at the Malatapay Market. P20, 42 minutes.
  • upon disembarking at Malatapay, walk towards the beach until you come upon the pier office. This is where you sign up for a boat ride. They're organized here with posted rates.
  • get onboard the pumpboat and enjoy the boat ride. For 4 people, P2000 return. For 8 pax, P3000 return, 40 minutes. (rate as of Nov 2011)

Apo Island Blogs:

Reader Comments:

(Apr 21, 2010) Thanks for the fun time back at Apo...and for the snorkeling tips. Hope you enjoyed the trip even if we consumed all your packed-up food...he-he...til next time. d:)

(Apr 20, 2010) Yah...I read it. Thanks. I feel better na...he-he, cool site, pare.

(Apr 18, 2010) hey dude..thanx for the insight you told us when we were in Apo...we are sorry for not being prepared and ate all your stuff...hehehe...dude we will try our best to tour you around our place and we will surprise you with these beautiful d way...we forgot to welcome you dude...WELCOME TO DUMAGUETE..hehe

»» next story: Smoked Salmon on a Cedar Plank
»» next Skin Diving story: Skin Diving in Siquijor

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