This is the continuation of our South Cebu-Negros Oriental excursion way back in November 2015.

November 29, 2015

The previous day was exhausting – we swam with the whale sharks in Oslob, climbed Cebu’s highest point, and explored remnants of the Spanish colonization. It was filled with many activities that we nearly missed the last ferry trip to Dumaguete City. Once fully settled in our new accommodation, we crashed out early because we have an early call time for our next adventure.

When I woke up, I was seized by a strange feeling of elation similar to what I felt when we landed in Cebu City. It was my first time drinking in my new environment; we arrived when it was already dark, hence, I was unable to make out much of the city. This a whole new reality for me – waking up on a city not my own. I am not sure how I am supposed to feel at that moment, but the enigma only thrilled me.

Our next destination is Apo Island, a renowned sanctuary for the endangered sea turtles, or locally called us “pawikan”. It is a must-visit place in Negros Oriental. Ate Jorella and Kenken’s memories of their visit in the island filled us with amazement, making us look forward to the experience with anticipation. Before driving south, first things first: breakfast. When we’ve had our fill, we set out for another adventure.

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Apo Island is geographically part of Dauin, but the point of entry is through the port in Zamboanguita. It took us about an hour to reach the port. To get there, check the short travel guide provided at the bottom of this article. Before heading out into the island, we settled some fees first and rented the necessary equipment (practicalities are discussed below).

Renting a boat going to the island is a tricky business. Boats can accommodate four to ten people, depending on the size. The price climbs with the number of passengers. When calculated individually, however, it is actually cheaper when there are more passengers. Because of this, we looked for travelers who can join our group. Luckily, we found one couple who agreed to divide with us the cost of a boat for six. It is a win-win solution because the cheapest boat is PHP 2,000, good for four people.

The trip to the volcanic island usually takes around 45 to 60 minutes, depending on the condition of the waves. In the island is a small fishing community which relies on the opulence of the sea for living. Before diving into the water, we put on our snorkeling gears which we rented way back at Zamboanguita.

Joining us are other groups who are also eager to see the pawikans. With each group is a designated guide who also acted as spotters for the pawikans. The feeding ground for the pawikans is shallow; this is advantageous for those who cannot swim. That day the water was murky (or because there were too many of us who wanted to swim with the sea turtles?) it was difficult looking for the sea creatures.

After patiently waiting for some time, the pawikans came in one by one. We’d hear our guides calling us one after the other. In peak seasons, a lot of pawikans can be spotted but since it is lean season, we’ve spotted a little less than 10. I had a blast spotting them and swimming along them. It is an ethereal experience, similar to that feeling I had at Oslob when I swam with the whale sharks. There is a therapeutic and calming quality to simply watching them gobble up the seagrasses.

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Oh, here’s one and a close one at that! (The picture was taken by our guide).
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Here’s another pawikan; it looks like a chameleon as it blended naturally with its environment.
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We found Nemo but Nemo is not amused. 
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Adding color to the the already colorful environment.

It was just annoying that there were some noisy participants in the other groups. They’d even chase after the turtles, a big no-no. Honestly, our presence is in itself a big distraction to these creatures. I guess they have gotten used to the presence of humans; they were not averse to our presence. We’d surround them but they’d act as though we are not there, simply going by their own business.

The pawikans are not the only attractions in the island. There are coral gardens planking the island as well. Unfortunately, most its coral gardens were badly damaged by the super typhoon Haiyan; the time we were there, the corals were still under rehabilitation. I have heard that the gardens have gotten back its healthy pallor. For the adventurous, cliff-jumping activities are feasible. I am not sure if it is allowed, better check with the locals.

When we’ve tired chasing after the pawikans, we spent some time exploring the other parts of the island. We went towards the rock formations on the other side of the island. There, we struck one pose after the other; it was idyllic and is a great place for calm and rumination. Other things to do in the island (which we have foregone) include swimming, trekking, sunbathing and going to the lighthouse. Before the clock struck 12 noon, we headed back to the mainland. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and exploring Dumaguete City, especially its food scene.

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Apo Island Short Travel Guide

How to Get to Apo Island

Apo Island is very accessible from Dumaguete City; various modes of transportation are available

For those who want to commute via jeepney, here are the directions (starting point: Dumaguete City):

  • Ride a tricycle to Siaton
  • Ride a jeepney to Malapatay, Zamboanguita
  • Walk towards the port.

For those who want to commute via bus, here are the directions:

  • Go to Ceres Bus terminal
  • Ride a bus going to Bawayan City. Ask the driver or conductor to drop you off at Malapatay Market.
  • Walk towards the port.

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Fees and Miscellaneous Expenses

Registration Fees:

PHP 100.00 – guests from outside Negros Oriental
PHP 25.00 – Negros Oriental residents
PHP 5.00 – senior citizens and people with disabilities

Diving Fees:

PHP 200.00 – regular diving fee
PHP 50.00 – under water camera fee
PHP 250.00 – mooring fee

Snorkeling Fees (if you don’t have your own equipment):

PHP 100.00 – Snorkeling and Mask Rental
PHP 100.00 – LifeVest
PHP 100.00 – Swimming Fins

Other Fees:

  • Snorkeling Guide Fee – PHP 300.00 for a group of four people
  • Boat rental fees (as of September 2018 per Association of Malapatay & Apo Island Pumpboat Operators, Inc. (AMAPOI):

1-4 Capacity – PHP 2,500.00
5-6 Capacity – PHP 3,000.00
7-8 Capacity – PHP 3,500.00
9-10 Capacity – PHP 4,000.00
11-12 Capacity – PHP 4,500.00
13-14 Capacity – PHP 5,000.00
15-16 Capacity – PHP 7,000.00
17-21 Capacity – PHP 8,000.00

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Practicalities

  1. Don’t touch the turtles. Touching any sea creatures is a taboo.
  2. Get to the island as early as you can because feeding time for the turtles is usually in the morning.
  3. There are resorts and hotels in the island but they are quite expensive. The best option is to look for budget-friendly accommodations in Dumaguete City
  4. If you are traveling solo, the cheapest option is availing of tour packages or joining other groups.
  5. The first boat trip departs at 8 AM and the last at 4 PM.
  6. Before riding the boat, change to swimming wear. The waves could get rough, you might already be drenched even before you get to swim at the island.
  7. Don’t forget your action cam!
  8. Smile and enjoy the experience!
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Just enjoy the beauty of uncertainty and adventure. Photo by Rey Ernesto.

Disclaimer: I do not own of the pictures used in this article. The non-under water pictures are owned by Rey Ernesto. The underwater pictures are owned by Kenken Amango.

To check the rest of this travel series, you may click on the links provided below:

South Cebu 2015: Canyoneering
South Cebu 2015: Swimming With The Gentle Giants
South Cebu 2015: Side Trip to Tumalog Falls
South Cebu 2015: Osmena Peak, Mother Mountain
South Cebu 2015: A Spanish Affair


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