Apo Island is known for having one of the best snorkeling and diving sites in the Philippines. Emphasis on snorkeling because I haven’t tried (scuba) diving yet :)

Most of the Philippines’ 450 species of coral can be found in Apo Island as well as over 650 documented species of fish. The island is located 7 kilometers off the coast of Zamboanguita town in Negros Oriental province. Zamboanguita, in turn, can be reached after a 30-minute bus ride from Dumaguete City.

The marine sanctuary in Apo Island was only a few meters away from the shoreline. You can easily swim your way to the colorful coral gardens and encounter a lot of sea creatures including sea turtles!

Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-102130)Not minding us, sea turtle grazes on the seagrass at Apo Island, Negros Oriental

Day 0: Iloilo > Bacolod > Dumaguete

Since I came all the way from Iloilo, I had to take a late afternoon ferry to Bacolod first (1 hour; P410 roundtrip fare). Then met a friend, Miss S, a reader who I met for the first time. She messaged me after reading one of my posts that I was looking for other people willing to team up for a visit to Apo Island.

We planned on taking the night bus from Bacolod to Dumaguete to save on time (5 hours; P420 one-way fare). Had chicken inasal for dinner at Manokan country then coffee at Kuppa while waiting for the 12:30am bus departure.

We arrived at the Ceres South-bound Bus Terminal just in time. There were only two seats available on the bus. It would’ve been disastrous had we arrived even 5 minutes later. I wasn’t up for standing inside the bus in the wee hours of the morning.

The sky was still dark when we arrived in Dumaguete. While S dozed off in the room we took at Ideselfa Suites (P750 aircon roon with twin beds and private TB), I walked to the bayside and was warmly greeted with the most amazing sunrise.

Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-053128)Tranquil sunrise enjoyed from the coast of Dumaguete, known as the city of gentle people.

Day 1: Dumaguete City to Apo Island

The bus ride from Dumaguete to Malatapay (Wednesday flea market and main jump-off point to Apo Island) in Zamboanguita took 30-minutes (P25 fare). A chartered pumpboat to Apo Island costs P2,000 (up to 4 persons; whole day round trip rate).

Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-093008)Arrival at the pristine shores of Apo Island

Apo Island Fees

  • General Admission fee – P100 per person (non-resident of Zamboanguita)
  • Snorkeling gear rental (whole day)
    • Life vest – P100
    • Mask with snorkel – P100
    • Aqua shoes – P100
  • Snorkeling guide – P300 per guide (whole day)

Superb Snorkeling

Our guide led us a few meters into the water. It was already teeming with corals and marine critters. It’s one of the best snorkeling I’ve ever had!

Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-112645)Well tendered coral garden
Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-111200)Found nemo! He’s not too shy :D
Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-104439)Swimming with a bale of turtles. We spotted at least 4 of them of varied sizes.

Marine Sanctuary

On the other side of the island, the marine sanctuary was fenced to keep visitors out and let corals grow undisturbed.

Our guide allowed us to snorkel parts of it anyways. It was low-tide when we went there, which meant corals were literally all up in our face.

Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-130353)Boats docked at the eastern side of Apo Island
Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-124211)The island life :D
Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-125200)Corals too close for comfort

Apo Island Beach

We went back to the main beach and told our guide we wanted to explore its northern end, near the big rock formation. I asked our guide if it was possible to climb the tall thing. After he said yes, I was off to the top.

The view was amazing!

Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-142631)More secluded beach in Apo Island
Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120505-154842)Back to the mainland part of Zamboanguita, Negros Oriental

Day 2: Casaroro Falls

S went back to Bacolod early morning the next day. I decided to extend my stay for one more night so I could visit a few more places in the area.

Transferred to the, more solo friendly, dorm beds in Harold’s Mansion (P250 per person). Took a jeepney to Valencia (P12 fare) in the morning then a single motorcycle ride (P200 roundtrip charter) to Casaroro Falls jump-off area.

Casaroro Falls, Valencia, Negros Oriental (120506-131728)Trek to Casaroro Falls
Casaroro Falls, Valencia, Negros Oriental (120506-141744)Casaroro Falls in Valencia, Negros Oriental

Dumaguete Walking Tour

When I got back to Harold’s mansion, I met a backpacker from Israel who spent a few nights in Apo Island. I was impressed when he told me he’s been traveling around the Visayan Islands without a guidebook, using unconventional ferry routes, and on a shoe-string budget. He shared that his secret was simply using his charm when asking for tips and discounts :) A simple smile works wonders he adds.

He joined me that afternoon for a photo walk around Dumaguete City Center.

Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120506-160146)Lazy afternoon along Rizal St., Dumaguete’s bayside boulevard.
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120506-155233)Locals foraging for seashells and what not during low-tide
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120506-180636)Dumaguete Bell Tower festively lit up by offertory candles
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120506-180920)Mass goers at Dumaguete Cathedral Church (St. Catherine of Alexandria)
Dumaguete City, Negros Oriental, Philippines (120506-182309)Strolling along Rizal Boulevard at sunset

Started the long journey back to Iloilo early morning the next day so I could get back home before sundown.

You can view this video I shot during our snorkeling sessions in Apo Island: