Among the top tourist attractions in and near Dumaguete City, Apo Island is a staple for first time visitors in the Negros Oriental capital (although I got to visit the island during my second visit). Famous for its marine reserve and sea turtle encounters, the island is flocked year-round by divers and snorkelers alike.
To reach the island via public transportation from Dumaguete, you may ride a Ceres bus bound for Bayawan City (25 pesos per person for a non-airconditioned bus), a jeep, or a tricycle (about 400 pesos for a special trip, good for a maximum of 5 people). Hotels and travel agencies also arrange private tours for visitors who prefer a more convenient way of experiencing the island. Alight at Malatapay Market in Zamboanguita and head towards the small port along the shore. You may rent a boat (2000 pesos for up to 4 people and 3000 pesos for up to 8 people for a daytrip, surcharge applies for overnight trips) or catch a public ferry that leaves on a regular schedule (300 pesos per person, one way) to finally get to the island. Boats start to leave for Apo Island at 7:30AM so there’s no point in arriving too early (like what we did, expecting we would be able to start early since we needed to finish early). Travel time should take no more than 45 minutes.
The relatively cheap diving rates and the reportedly stunning views underwater may be tempting, but our group only went snorkeling. For this activity, prepare to shell out at least 400 pesos: 100 pesos for the environmental fee and 100 pesos each for the mask/snorkel set, life vest, and aqua shoes. Aqua shoes are a must because there are lots of sea urchins as well as corals and underwater plants that might cause skin irritation and allergies. You may also rent flippers for 100 pesos.
You don’t have to know how to swim to enjoy snorkeling in Apo Island. The highly sought-after sea turtles swim even in waist-deep portions of the water, so you will surely get to have a souvenir photo with at least one. There were actually quite a number of sightings during our trip–and they were huge! The turtles looked really gentle but for some reason, I panicked whenever I came too close to one. On the other hand, we only saw a few other underwater species in the shallow parts, but since we were not so hard to please, seeing sea turtles and clownfish were more than enough for us.
A day trip in Apo Island is very much doable, but you may also stay for a night or two to explore more of the island. Just a reminder: be responsible visitors; have fun but do not touch the sea turtles! Cowabunga!