One of the things I have had on my bucket list and that I've been wanting to do for such a long time is to swim with the sea turtles. When I finally found that part of my trip to Dumaguete was an overnight stay on APO ISLAND, I was so thrilled! Apo Island is known by almost everyone as a haven for sea turtles. So if you also want the same experience, then you know the place to go.
From Valencia, Negros Oriental, we drove to MALATAPAY PORT in Dauin. The trip only took us on average of an hour. There was no traffic at all so it was easy and the port has a big open space for parking.
From the port in Dauin, you already have a glimpse of the APO ISLAND. It is a small island but there is something very special about this island but now you know why it's drawing so many tourists to this island.
HOW TO GET TO MALITAPAY PORT from Bacolod?
- Go to CERES TERMINAL and take a bus that goes to MALATAPAY.
- Once at Malatapay, take a tricycle to the Port Area
The boat ride from Malitapay normally costs around Php 300 each way. But if you are travelling alone, the staff will put you in a group to complete the total number of passengers in one boat. That is very convenient specially if you are travelling with a small number of pax.
The trip from the port to Apo Island normally takes an hour and half, but depending on the waves which can be interesting, it could take longer. Our boat trip going to the island was nice and smooth but coming back, it was one hell of a ride. It was fun but for first timers, brace yourself for a joy ride.
As we were getting closer to APO ISLAND, I could also feel that I am going to have a good time. Beautiful rock formations can already been seen from afar next to Apo Island Beach Resort, but moreover, I cannot wait to swim with the turtles.
On a calm day, you could see the how clean and clear the water is here around APO Island.
Though most of the tourists only stay on the island for a day, but I would highly recommend to stay longer as there are budget accommodations on the island as well.
Once on the island, you are required to register and pay the registration fee of Php100.00. Other rates apply depending on the purpose of your visit like photo shoots and others. Otherwise, Php 100.00 is the only rate that applies.
For our overnight stay, we stayed at the only Convent on the Island next to a small chapel. The convent faces the ocean so you could hear the sound of the waves from your room and breeze coming from the ocean made it even more relaxing.
After a few minutes rest, we decided to walk around the community and since Father Dexter Tanquis had held mass here before we felt like we were already part of the community.
Life here is very simple and most of the people rely on tourism and fishing.
We decided to walk around until we reached the other coast of the island where you could see this mysterious looking lagoon. As we walked further, we ended up in the Apo Island Marine Sanctuary.
I believed this was the place that was battered badly during a previous typhoon that is why the place is off limits for snorkeling as they are trying to rehabilitate the sanctuary.
En route, you will also pass by Apo Island View Deck. The 600 meter trail will take you to some breath-taking view of the sanctuary from the top. Make sure to bring water with you as it can be a long walk to the top for some. But once you are at the view deck, you will realize it's worth every step.
Aside from home stays, you will also find restaurants along the snorkeling area. But for us, the Family of Sushmita treated us to a sumptuous lunch. That fresh kinilaw is to die for.
Not far from the main port area, you will find Apo Island Beach Resort, situated in a cove, snorkeling here is excellent, and if you are lucky, you can also find turtles around this area. A nice place if you are looking for some quiet place for privacy.
On a Sunday morning, we walked up to their Catholic church and attended the mass which my friend, Fr. Dexter,.conducted.
SWIMMING WITH THE TURTLES
Ok, here comes the most awaited part, that is swimming with the turtles. Aside from the beautiful island landscapes, what makes this island world-famous are the turtles that are thriving on the island. You can bring your own snorkeling gear if not, there are places where you can rent your own.
In addition, you there are also guides that you can hire to help you look for the sea turtles. In some cases, these guides could also help you with the strong waves and help you get those amazing underwater shots with the turtles.
SNORKELING GUIDE RATES:
Php 300.00 / guide for 4 pax
Php 100 Snorkel/ Life Vest
We put on our masks, put our head down and they they were waiting for us. Not just one, but we saw so many during our snorkeling. It was an overwhelming experience because this was the first time I came close to real sea turtles.
Though swimming with the turtles can be an overwhelming experience, they are still considered as endangered and protected. So please, do not touch them and let us also contribute to the awareness and protection for the future generations to see.
While we were having lunch, our hosts shouted that she saw the head of the turtle. We immediately put on our gear, got into the water and here they are ago. You don't need to swim deep to see them. You can spot a lot of turtles even in a very shallow part of the beach.
I was very fortunate to have this experience that I never thought I would have a chance to. Swimming with the turtles is definitely on my bucket list and finally it's ticked. I learned a lot from the people around and how they are trying their best to protect these marine mammals.
The people were very friendly, the island itself is very clean and I felt very secure walking around the island. This is definitely one place you should include on your bucket list.