Apo Island Diving
After getting our Open Water Certificate in Koh Tao, we were more than ready for our next diving trip. Diving in the Philippines was definitely on our ‘must do’ list for South East Asia. We’d heard nothing but amazing reviews regarding the breathtaking reefs that where you can dive around the Philippines. Having a flick through our Lonely Planet, we saw a section about Apo Island. As soon as we read that the diving around Apo Island was excellent for spotting Sea Turtles, we were instantly sold.
Apo Island it was!
Where To Stay When Diving Near Apo Island
From Tagbilaran, Bohol, we caught the ferry to Dumaguete. If you are going diving near Apo Island, you can opt to stay on the island, however, there isn’t a great deal of choice and the accommodation can often be expensive. Alternatively, you can stay in nearby Dumaguete, where there is slightly more choice. We opted to stay at Harolds Mansion in Dumaguete, mostly due to the reason that they offer great diving packages to Apo Island. I’d recommend booking ahead if you’re going to stay at Harolds Mansion. Most backpackers on our boat headed there and quite a few got turned away due to the guesthouse being full.
The first thing we did once we’d checked into Harolds Mansion, was head next door to their dive shop and book our diving trip to Apo Island. Our package included; two dives, transport to and from Apo Island, Apo National Park fee and lunch, all for ₱2800 ($59.70) each.
Apo Island – Diving
We set off from Harolds Mansion at around 8 am and made our way to Apo Island. The ride was a bit bumpy and uncomfortable, as we were all packed in the back of a truck with the diving gear. However, this wasn’t too much of a problem due to the anticipation of going diving again and getting another view of the elusive Sea Turtle.
We arrived in Apo National Park and climbed onto the boat to take us to the dive sites by Apo Island. After around a 45-minute boat ride, we’d arrived at our first dive site – Chapel Point. Chapel Point is aptly named due to the reef being overlooked by a Chapel located on Apo Island. We dived to a total depth of 18.5m on this dive (we were only qualified to dive to 18m, never mind though). As promised by Lonely Planet, we did get to see a number of enormous Green Sea Turtles on our first dive. Also, along with plenty of other weird and amazing sea life. The Lion Fish was a particular highlight, along with the very grumpy looking Rockfish.
After our first dive of the day, it was time for lunch on board the boat. I won’t bore you with details of the lunch, but it was quite nice. After lunch and a bit of a rest, it was time for our second and final dive. For our second dive, we were diving at Katipanan Reef. Apparently, Katipanan gets its name from the small Cowry shells that can be spotted amongst the corals. On our second dive, we reached a total depth of 19.3m.
Our dive master was fantastic, he always made sure to point things out to us all through the dives, which added to the already unrivalled experience of diving in the Philippines. The highlight of the second dive was spotting a bright red, very dangerous looking Sea Snake, which swam right past us, along with spotting more Turtles of course.
After we’d finished our dives we made our way back to close by Malatapay, where we would make the uncomfortable journey back to Harolds Mansion. To say I felt slight motion sick during the boat right back, would definitely be an understatement, I felt horrendous!! The boat was getting thrown up and down constantly from the choppy sea. The only thing I could do to get through the journey was to lie down, shut my eyes and force myself to go to sleep. Thankfully I did fall asleep and woke up just before we were ready to step foot on dry land again. We arrived back in Dumaguete at around 4 pm.
Tips for Apo Island
- Staying on Apo Island – As I mentioned earlier, when it comes to accommodation on Apo Island, there is a limited choice. There is three main resort on offer, as well as Homestays dotted around the island, offering rooms from around ₱500 ($10.60) per night. You will have to arrange a ride on a boat from Malatapay to Apo Island. WARNING: make sure your valuables are protected, as you will 100% be drenched within a few minutes of setting off and nobody wants a collection of broken electronics and a soggy passport on their hands.
- Staying in Dumaguete – A much easier and hassle free option. There is a greater choice of guesthouses and hostels in Dumaguete. We stayed at Harolds Mansion, which also has a great dive shop, where diving trips to Apo Island can be booked. The Price of a double room there is ₱800 ($17) per night, but there are also dorm rooms available.
- Beware if you suffer from motion sickness – The boat journey from Malatapay to Apo Island and back was definitely where I suffered my worst sea sickness ever. Have a plan for what works for you to prevent the sick feeling. Lying down, closing my eyes and eventually falling to sleep worked for me! Others find prevention through over-the-counter medication such as; Meclizine, some find saviour in staring at a fixed point on the horizon, just find what works for you and stick to it.
- Be prepared to pay an admission fee – There is an admission fee of ₱100 ($2.10) at the registration office upon arrival on Apo Island if you are travelling there by your own accord. This fee is included in the diving package if you go with Harolds in Dumaguete.
Have you dived by Apo Island before? How was your experience? Where else would you recommend as a ‘must dive’ place where you have been before?