Swimming With Turtles | Apo Island
Updated: Jul 27, 2020
Apo Island is located at the southern tip of Negros Oriental and is known as one of the top snorkeling and diving spots in the Philippines. With its crystal clear waters, and abundance of marine life its easy to see why it's such a top destination. There are two resorts on the island both with dive centers where you can get your open water certification. You can find affordable accommodation on the island if you are looking to experience a longer stay.
Private Tours vs DIY
Private tours will run you minimally 3,000 pesos (60 USD) per person including a private boat and transportation. While this option might be more ideal if you are going as a group or family, keep in mind you are paying a tourism/convenience fee. If you are a solo traveler that wants to travel on a backpacker budget, we suggest you do it yourself. DIY won't be as convenient as the private tour, but we think this adds to the experience anyways and luckily all the research is below:
Private Tour: 3,000 pesos per person ($60 USD) Do it Yourself: 910 pesos per person ($18 USD) DIY Itinerary:
8:00 am Leave your accommodation in Dumaguete City and take a tricycle to Ceres Bus Terminal. Should cost about 10 pesos per person. ($0.20 USD)
8:15 am Arrive at Ceres Bus Terminal and take any south bound bus towards Zamboanguita. If you feel a little overwhelmed finding your bus just ask the locals and they will point you in the right direction.
8:30 am Take the bus for about 35 minutes until you reach Malapatay Port. Tip: Tell the bus attendant you want to go to Apo Island and he will direct you. The bus should cost 50 pesos per person. ($0.99 USD)
9:15 am Arrive at Malapatay stop and walk down the path to get to the pier. Once you get to the pier, you will see a tourism office where attendants will be outside. At first they will try to sell you the private boat for 3,000 pesos, but be direct that you want to share a boat with another group. We waited only about 15 minutes and another couple came, so we all split the boat. Christine and I paid 750 pesos each. ($15 USD) 9:30 am The boat ride to Apo island is your typical Philippines banca boat with the wide bamboo outriggers. It takes about 35-40 minutes to arrive at Apo Island. As you get closer, you'll notice the water go from a deep blue to turquoise... it is absolutely stunning!
10:00 am Once you've docked you will need to register at the Tourism desk. There is a conservation fee of 100 pesos per person. ($1.98 USD) It is likely a tour guide will be there waiting for you, and if you follow them they will bring you to a section where you can rent the table for 300 pesos. The tour guide is also 300 pesos (split up to 4 people) All of these extra fees were a bit off-putting. We ended up declining the table rental and just kept our bags in the boat compartment. We paid for the tour guide but it didn't take long to realize that it wasn't necessary, and you can find all the turtles on your own. You can also rent snorkels and fins here, if needed.
10:30 am- 2:30 pm Get your snorkel gear on and jump in the water! It will not take you long off the shore to see turtles, colorful fish, and massive coral. The water is shallow and some of the clearest we have ever swam in! Your boat captain will tell you to meet back at the boat at 2:30, so you have the rest of this time to explore. 3:00 pm head back to Zamboanguita with a nice sun tan and turtle memories for a lifetime!
Things to bring for Apo Island day trip:
1. Snorkels or fins so you won't have to rent them there 2. Back up batteries for your GoPro or camera 3. A lock for your bag so you can leave it under the boat 4. Reef Safe Sunscreen the sun is so strong here!
If you're not yet convinced to add Apo Island to your Philippines itinerary then check out our video, and you'll change your mind!
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