In Dumaguete, you can take a boat to visit the Apo Island, a small volcanic island in the province of Negros Oriental. It’s well known for swimming with the turtles, either snorkeling or scuba diving. It’s also a quiet, small island where travelers can rest and lie around under the heat of the sun.
From the town of Zamboangita, go to the sea shore where the small boats are found at the port which offers boat rides to Apo Island. Register and hire a boat round trip between Php2,000 to Php3,000, depending on the number of passengers. It will take almost an hour depending on weather conditions to get to the island.
You’ll arrive at the island in front of the Apo Island Beach Resort. You definitely won’t miss its orange buildings with roofs made of nipa. If you’d like to eat first, there’s a restaurant you can dine in or you can instead have a picnic lunch on the beach shore where there are picnic huts in front of the snorkeling area.
Apo Island is a protected marine sanctuary in the Philippines so there’s a Php100 fee upon entrance which goes to the funding to make sure that the fish sanctuary is well protected. You have to pass by the local community to go to the snorkeling or diving spot. You’ll see the local’s houses, schools, churches, etc. You’ll pass by mangroves creating a charming feel to the small island as you exit to the other side where the sea shore is. During our visit, it was a bit gloomy but it wasn’t raining so we were allowed to swim. The waves were a bit strong but we were still able to swim safely.
Photos courtesy of Allan Ascaño (Flickr)
Get ready to snorkel with your life vest or if you’re an expert swimmer, swim freely but if the waves are stronger, I suggest you use the life vest for safety reasons. See the corals underneath and wait for the turtles or Pawikans (locally called in the Philippines for this type of turtle).
After swimming for several minutes around the area, we finally spotted one and then two! It’s way below you so if you want to encounter them more, you have to swim deeper. But staying above is fine as long as you’re wearing your goggles to spot them clearly. We spotted around five or so during the entire time we were swimming. It was tiring but seeing these sea creatures with our own eyes was definitely a thrill!
It’s a worth it experience to swim with the turtles in Apo Island. If you’d like to stay overnight, you can immerse yourself even more with the local life. It’s not an expensive place to visit and it’s feasible for day trips from Dumaguete. There’s so much to explore in the Philippines and this is one island out of the 7,107 islands The HodgePodge Lifestyle recommends to travelers to visit!