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Planning to dive in the Visayas and heading to Negros Oriental in the Philippines? Then diving Apo Island should be on the top of your list. In fact, it should be on any list of the best dive spots in the Philippines!
Why? Read on to learn all about Apo Island scuba diving, what makes it so special, and how to plan your trip.
THE INS & OUTS OF Diving Apo Island
Table of Contents
What makes diving Apo Island so special?
Apo Island is a marine reserve with 650 species of fish and around 400 species of corals. The corals are second to none. I have been lucky to dive in a few spectacular places in Indonesia, Mexico, and before my trip to Apo in Malapascua and Moalboal, but wow – the corals were insane!
The island is an inhabited volcanic island surrounded by clear, warm water, and an abundance of marine life. There is some excellent macro, schools of bigger fish, and as mentioned coral gardens that make it look like you are in a Disney movie.
Where is Apo Island?
The name Apo can get confusing when diving in the Philippines. First, there is the world-famous Apo Reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Apo Reef sits between Coron and Mindoro.
Apo Island, Dumaguete on the other hand is quite far away from Apo Reef. It sits between the southeast coast of Negros Island and southwest off the coast of Siquijor. It is part of the Visayas.
The best time for Apo Island diving
Like most diving in the area, the conditions are best between October and May, when the rain and the typhoons subside. I was there at the beginning of November and the conditions were still a mixed bag with a bit of rain and swell but overall managable.
The visibility was already really good and the water temperatures hovered around 28/29 °C.
Dive sites around Apo Island
There are about 10 dive sites dotted around Apo Island. Which ones you will dive depends on the conditions of the day and divers’ experience level.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which ones you dive because they all offer a staggering amount of healthy, beautiful corals which will make each dive very colorful and special.
During my dive trip to Apo, we dove Rock Point, Coconut Point, and Chapel.
Rock Point East to West
Technically there are two Rock Point dive sites, one east and one west. We went from Rock Point East and moved towards Rock Point West. They have a steep slope that is covered with corals, both hard and soft. Depending on the current you can do a drift dive here.
On the way look out for frogfish, banded sea snakes, nudis, octopus, and colorful reef fish. To me, it felt like diving in an aquarium – in the best way possible of course!
I am no fan of currents. There I said it. While I know what they offer in terms of marine life, I am still scared at times (read all about my trip in Komodo here). So it was probably for the better that I only learned after our dive that Coconut Point is usually known for its washing machine.
As it was we only caught a gentle drift when we dove there. So I would say it very much depends on the conditions but in general it is an advanced dive site and you need to go with a good dive center that will sus out conditions before you get in.
The whole dive is like hiking underwater – fields of green and brown ridges, fields of rose-colored corals. We saw a torpedo of jacks, many turtles, some batfish, and to my delight also a school of bannerfish.
This dive site is named after its counterpart on land that you can see from the water when you dive here. You start at a sandy slope with beautiful mustard and dusty rose corals, and best of all two giant black frogfish.
There are also lots of nudis and an electric clamp in a cave followed by a wall leading down to over 30 m. If you get lucky you might even see some bumphead parrotfish in the depth.
How to plan Apo Island scuba diving
When it comes to diving Apo Island you have a few different options.
One of the easiest ways to dive in Apo Island is by going with a dive center in Dumaguete or Dauin. I stayed with Bongo Bongo for a few days and immediately told them to put me on the list for a day in Apo. Most dive centers will need a minimum amount of divers to go there so it is best if you give yourself a few days.
They charge PHP 5,500 (about $ 100) per person for a 3-tank trip to Apo Island which includes snacks and lunch, marine park fees, and equipment. Bongo has their own boat, a very spacious and comfortable banca that makes the journey in approximately 45 minutes. They also take snorkelers for PHP 1,900 (about $34).
As far as I know, you cannot request specific dive sites in Apo but they are chosen based on conditions once you arrive.
Bongo Bongo also has their own hostel with bunks but also small individual rooms as well as a pool and a cafe. I had a great time diving with them and highly recommend them. Small groups, great dive guides, and good equipment!
Of course, you can also go from Sequjior if you are already there for diving. There are three dive centers on the island that offer trips. I recommend Bahura Dive, the best dive center on Sequijor. My friend Cam works there as an instructor – ask for him if you are looking to do a course, he is awesome!
They organize day trips to Apo Island and you have the option of a 2-dive trip for PHP 5,900 (about $105) or a 3-dive trip for PHP 7,000 (about $125).
Staying on Apo Island
If you love Apo Island and want to dive there more often, you can also stay on the island. From Malapatay, a bit south of Dauin, you can take a 45-minute local ferry to get there. On Apo, there are a couple of homestays and a place called Liberty’s Community Lodge and Dive Resort. Alas, I cannot vouch for them and they get mixed reviews on Google. As far as I have heard the island life is very basic.
With that said, my choice would be to base yourself in Dauin as the diving there is incredible, and do a day trip from there.
Want to dive somewhere else in the Philippines? Check out these posts: