Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Swimming with Sea Turtles: Apo Island, Dumaguete

Exploring the different islands of the Philippines make me want to live the simple life. Just thinking about how great it is to wake up at the sound of the waves hitting the shore or frolicking around the river makes me want to pack my bags and head out for a long adventure. But leaving the city life is a big decision to make. So for now, I'd settle with having memorable getaways. And speaking of unforgettable, I just had a fantastic trip in Apo Island a few weeks back! 

Hello, Apo Island!
If you're an adventure junkie or just love to see the beauty of what's under the sea, you must have heard of Apo Island. Considered as one of the best places for diving or even just snorkeling, this spot in Dumaguete has been attracting flock after flock of tourists each day. 

There are several ways to get to Apo Island. 
If you're coming from Bacolod, you can take the Ceres Bus to Dumaguete for just PHP380. The trip will take about 5 to 6 hours so make sure to head out early to get to Dumaguete around noon. From the bus terminal (behind Robinsons Dumaguete), you could either hire a tricycle which would range around PHP300-400 depending on your bargaining skills or take the bus or jeepney heading toward Zamboanguita where you shell out PHP60 or so. 

By taking the bus or jeepney, expect to get dropped off not directly at the wharf but on the side of the road where you have to walk about 10 to 15 minutes to reach the wharf. The walk won't be too bad as you'll get to see all sorts of products on the way as you'll walk through the Malatapay Market. And if you want the best market happenings, drop by on a Wednesday which is what they call Market Day. 
Since we had some luggage with us and I wasn't feeling that great, we opted to bring a car from Bacolod with us. It was a lot easier too as it spared us having to haggle with drivers or getting lost. 
We got to Malatapay past 5 p.m. and the last boat to the island was long gone. (I think the last trip is at 3 p.m. as the last boat that leaves Apo Island is at 4 p.m.) 
We still opted to check the wharf to familiarize ourselves with the boat fees. The cheapest boat we found costs PHP3,000 which is good for six. The rate covers round trip transfers. Mila, the lady managing the boat rental told us that they longer have boats good for 4 persons which costs PHP2,000. We could however try our luck and join a group to save us two grand. Another option is to take the public boat where you pay PHP300 per way. 
Thinking that we'd be heading to Apo Island the following day, we opted to go for a basic accommodation for the night and went with Fun and Sun  Dive and Travel in Dauin where standard room costs PHP1,200 per night with breakfast. 

We got lazy though the next day and opted to just relax instead of braving the chaos at the wharf. And just when we were planning to head out, R got food poisoned which made us stay even longer at Dauin and scratch the idea of us staying in Apo Island for at least a night.
Thankfully, Fun and Sun also offers Apo Island Tour. Though more expensive at PHP1,500 compared to Harold's PHP1,200, I feel that we got a better deal as there were only 8 divers with us during the trip. 
And our meal was heavier too. 
I heard that Harold's tour only offers pancit and boiled egg. And the boat fits in 40 to 60 persons! Though it's a big boat, I read that it feels really cramped inside.
Before heading to the boat, we were asked to fit swimming shoes and flippers to make sure that we got the right size. We also got to wear wet suits to protect us from getting burnt. 

If you DIY your trip to Apo Island and do not have the right equipment to enjoy your stay, fret not as Apo Island also offer mask, flippers, aqua shoes and life vest rental for PHP100 each. You do have to pay PHP300 for your island guide though which is mandatory. The rate is good for 4 persons.   
It was very windy when we went for the tour so the waves were borderline scary. The articles about Apo Island were dead serious when it said that the ride could be rough and splash-y!
Our tour has three stops and that includes the Marine Sanctuary where we saw a sea turtle (pawikan) indulge its lunch. 
We didn't see a single turtle in our second stop but the beautiful corals made the dip worthwhile. 
The third stop, which, if I remember correctly called Rocky Reef or something like that, had the most turtles! I think we saw four in total. 
I read though that the marine sanctuary where the sea turtles feed is the best spot. The water was too choppy though for us and we got quite dizzy from snorkeling. It might have been better if you opt to scuba dive. 

We headed back to Dauin around 2 p.m. content with the things we saw. 

Swimming with sea turtles is definitely one experience hard to beat. Thank you, R! <3

If you wish to also take the tour with Fun and Sun Dive and Travel, check them out HERE.

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