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Apo Island vs. Apo Reef: Apo Island Wins! #TurtleSpotting

LATEST: TRAVEL ADVISORY: Stay Away from Apo Reef or Travel at Your Own Risk.

Other than Siquijor, there is another BIG reason why one should go to Dumaguete ---- Apo Island. This Dumaguete- Siquijor- Apo Island trilogy makes the place a powerhouse destination.

And I couldn't forget the frustration of not seeing turtles during our Apo Reef / Pandan Island trip a few months before flying here that I thought there is no way I am gonna miss it this time. And I Apo Island didn't fail. If you want to have that epic shot with sea turtles this is where you should go. Many turtles feed on shallow water of the island at ikaw na magsasawa. I remember being on the water for only 30 minutes and I already had so many encounters with these turtles.

Take note, Apo Reef is different from Apo Island. The first ( although categorically an island) is part of a reef system off the West coast of Occidental Mindoro while the latter is a volcanic island off Oriental Mindoro.

If you are coming from Manila, I find Apo Island more accessible. An hour flight to Dumaguete, an hour bus ride South to Zamboanguinita and a 30-minute boat ride is all it takes. With Apo Reef, it took us 16 hrs via bus,ferry, van and boat. The waiting in between transpo factored in of course.

An Island of Ad-Ons

Boat rental in Apo Island is also cheaper as it is closer to mainland. Apo reef takes 3.5 hrs, Apo Island is only 30 minutes. Another advantage is that since many people go to Apo Island, going here solo is not a problem. You can wait at the port and ask to share ride with other travelers. In my case, I teamed up with two other Couchsurfers. One of them.I traveled with in Siquijor the day before and the other we met the night before. Still, with only the three (3) of us, we opted to ask another group by the port to share boat with us. We found a group of five (5) so there were all eight (8) of us sharing the 4,500 php fare.

Yes, cheaper than Apo Reef but it is not say that Apo Island is cheap. Once you step on the island, you will be collected 150 pesos environmental fee. And then there's the guide which you are required to get for 300 pesos 3 pax max. Then there are gears to rent at 100 pesos each. So you need a snorkel, water shoes coz you don't want to be wounded by sharp rocks and corals. Then there's the life vest for another 100 pesos.

Then there's the cottage for rent that you ate not required of renting but since the beach front is stripped of vegetation, you will be forced to take one for refuge under the sun. I remember it was 500 pesos whole day but since one of our members had to catch an afternoon flight and we were to leave by noontime, I was able to negotiate our cottage for 300 pesos.
We were told that a guide is required before we can go out and see tge turtles. But we noticed that foreigners usually don't follow this. There is no law requiring one anyway. So what they do is they go to the extreme end of the beach and set out from there. We locals were more abiding as we didn't want anymore confrontation. 300 pesos could be shared with a group of three (3) so I find 100 pesos reasonable enough. Specially because guides are good at diving and they can be a big help taking those epic shots. Our guide was all out in taking shots for us even suggesting it first before we ask.
The island is a residential area. Go beyond the beach and you can see lots of houses. It's a complete community with a school, church and what have you. The cottage owners will offer you meals they can cook while you're are busy turtle- spotting and fresh coconut too!

By the time we left at lunchtime waves was already crazy it was an effort to get to the boat. Lots of splashes on the way back to mainland but it was really fun. I enjoyed Apo Island so much despite all the add-on fees.