After Oslob, South Cebu, we decided to have a side trip to Apo Island, a marine sanctuary where turtles freely swim and where the marine life used to be healthy. It is a very small island, about 1 kilometer in length, lined with healthy corals home to diverse underwater animals. However, the Yolanda typhoon that ravished the country last 2013, destroyed about 90% of the sanctuary. The marine sanctuary that used to be open for the public is currently closed for rehabilitation.
Nevertheless, the rest of the island is still worth the visit, with plenty of turtles feeding close to the beach, quite a number of corals for snorkelling and diving, and the white sand beach perfect for swimming.
Apo Island is located south of Negros, North of Siquijor Island and west of the Island of Cebu. The island can be part of your South Cebu or Siquijor Itinerary.
To get there:
We got to Oslob from South Cebu Terminal in Cebu City by bus and stayed there for three days as part of our South Cebu itinerary. You can get any bus from the South Terminal and go directly to Lilo-an Port.
This is how we got from Oslob to Apo Island:
- Oslob to Lilo-an Port – about 30 minutes bus ride
- Lilo-an Port to Sibulan Port, Negros – 20 minutes by ferry, P62 pesos/person
- Sibulan Port to Dumaguete Bus Terminal – either by a small jeepney with other passengers (20 pesos) or take a tricycle for 100 pesos
- Dumaguete Bus Terminal to Malatapay, Zambuangueta – either by bus for 50 pesos or a small jeepney for 20 pesos. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
- Malatapay, Zambuanguita to Apo Island – about 40 minutes by boat. We were lucky enough to join the locals in a boat and only paid 300 pesos each for the ride. Others have to charter a small boat for 2000 pesos for 4 persons. It is advised to wait for other travellers if you are travelling alone so that you can divide the expenses.
Other fees: Once you enter the Island, you’ll have to pay an environmental fee of 100 pesos, mask for 100 pesos, and a guide for 100 pesos if you wish to swim in the Turtle sanctuary. However, you can do without a guide since the turtles swim everywhere. Of course, basic rules in interacting with the animals apply, as in no touching, no swimming and kicking so hard. Also, remember to keep your distance from the turtles.
Where to Stay:
Apo Island can be visited for a few hours on a day trip. However, we spent a night at Liberty Lodge for 2150 pesos/night. The fee already include free breakfast, lunch, and dinner excluding the drinks. It is located right at the beach on Apo Island. Keep in mind that there is no 24-hour electricity on the island. Power goes off at 9pm to 9am.
What to do:
- Swimming with the Turtles
Turtles are everywhere. You can easily spot 2 to 3 turtles at a time. The giant turtles are easily distracted and tend to swim away from any perceived threat, so please approach them gently.
- Visit the Marine Sanctuary
On the other side of the island is the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary. It is currently closed from guests for rehabilitation. I had the privilege of snorkelling that area for three days about 7 years ago before the typhoon hit. It was dubbed as one of the most diverse sanctuaries, boasting different species of colorful fishes and corals. But now, 90% of it was lost after the typhoon. Needless to say, this visit was a bit emotional for me.
- Sunsets at the Apo Island resort
Hidden away by cliffs, the Apo Island Resort seemed to be a perfect private area to watch the sunset. The iconic rock on the water is also good for jumping and diving by the more adventurous ones.
Overall, Apo Island is still worth the second visit. Although the community has grown, it still maintained its untouched nature. The people there are trying their best to preserve the island.
Has anyone tried the day trip to Apo Island? Or have been there before the typhoon struck? Share your experiences in the comments below.