#2 Dive with Sea turtles around Apo Island

Apo Island’s a volcanic island covering 74 hec. in total land area, just 7 kilometers off the southern tip of Negros Island, 30 kilometers south of Dumaguete City. The name “Apo” was derived from a Filipino word for “old man”.

The marine habitat around the island is protected by the National Integrated Protected Area Act  under the jurisdiction of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). It a popular dive site and snorkeling destination with tourists. There are two resorts on Apo Island, each with a dive center: Apo Island Beach Resort and Liberty’s Lodge. There is also a ranger station and a lighthouse

The Marine Sactuary project was started when Dr. Angel Alcala, a marine scientist from the Silliman University Marine Laboratory introduced to the local fishermen the importance of creating a marine sanctuary in the area to presserve and protect all the local species. Initially, there was hesitation on the part of the locals, but after three-years of dialogue, Dr. Alcala convinced the island community to establish the sanctuary. Assisted by the staff of the SU Marine Laboratory in 1982. Local fishermen selected an area of 450 meters of shoreline and extending 500 meters from shore as the sanctuary site. Since then, the project initiated on the island led to the creation of hundreds of other marine sanctuaries in the Philippines.

Sea Turtle taken at 5M depth Apo Island

At present, the island is home to 650 documented species of fish and also estimated to have over 400 species of corals. Most of the Philippines’ 450 species of coral can be found here. Filipino tourists and foreign visitors pay a fee to enter Apo Island to snorkel or dive in the marine sanctuary there. These fees are used to keep the sanctuary clean and in good condition.

Sport Diver Magazine listed Apo Island as one of the top 100 diving spots in the world. For our record we can’t give Apo Island a top score as we would have before since the closure of the Marine Sanctuary and Protected Seascape which is currently under rehabilitation and diving and snorkeling is prohibited at the moment.

The main advantages on the island is the facilities for diving with tanks and compressors. Apo Island has an abundance of sea turtles and an amazing diversity of soft and hard corals. The north part of the island, where currents offer exceptionally clear waters even during the plank tonic season (December thru March) provide food for a school of jacks, a large number of Barracudas and some groupers located near Coconut dive spot.

The top dive sites at Apo Island are

1) Apo Island Marine Sanctuary and Protected Seascape (Currently under rehabilitation, diving and snorkeling is prohibited at the moment).

2) Coconuts Point maximum depth 25mts. For the more experienced divers only, with Advanced open water and good dive experience,this site is commonly referred to as the ‘washing machine’ due to the very strong currents that are normally present. Large schools of, jacks, anthias, trevallies and snappers can be seen here. The area also creates great hiding places for sea turtles and the occasional bumphead wrasse. Strong currents attract a lot of marine life, and a small stretch of sand between two cliffs creates a natural shelter for divers to hide from the current and watch for any aquatic life that may pass by. It’s also possible to spot rIts a great dive but for experienced divers only.

3) Chapel’s Point. maximum depth 30mts. A stunning dive that starts as a gentle slope with a clusters of coral bommies, that leads into a very steep slope that eventually tapers off into a large wall with overhangs and small caverns for the more adventurous diver to explore. This dive is also recommended for Advanced Open Water divers and above.

Divers can see assorted varieties of reef fish, also lobsters, flatworms, eels. turtles, and sea snakes.  For the very lucky few it is also possible to spot Thresher sharks off in the deep blue. Who says only in Malapascua?

4) Rock Point West. maximum depth 20mts

This dive starts with a steep slope that starts in 5meters and tapers out to 20meters. The shallow part of the dive site is covered in healthy soft corals and the deeper sections in large hard coral and sponges.

The soft corals are home to a variety of macro life including frogfish nudibranchs and flatworms. Large schools of snapper, trevally, and groupers are often seen  and Hawksbill Turtles are a regular site, you may also see a manta ray or devil ray off in the blue. Its a great beginners or Open water dive.

5) Mamsa Point. experienced – maximum depth 25mts. Mamsa is the local word for Jack fish, which are plentiful at this dive site. It’s an Advanced Open Water dive where it’s possible to see schools of hundreds of jack fish playing and if you are lucky you will see them form a protective circle from the larger predatory tunas that like to hunt them. The currents can be so strong here that at certain times diving is not permitted for anyone!

6) Cogon Point. maximum depth 25mts. Another dive site that is only suitable for the experienced Advanced Open Water diver. This site is subject to very strong currents that create an interesting but potentially dangerous drift dive. The site begins with a gently slope covered in beautiful soft coral and sea sponges but gradually tapers into a large pronounced wall, Large schools of pelagic fish , bannerfish and batfish are common and for the lucky few it is also possible to see mantas, reef sharks and turtles.

7) Larghan. beginner – maximum depth 20mts. A great site for beginners and macro lovers; a wide variety of nudibranchs, frogfish, flat worms, scorpion fish and eels can be seen lurking amongst the coral. Geothermal activity creates a continuous stream of bubbles that erupt from the black sand that separates the corals. Its a great beginners or discovery dive.

8) Baluarte. beginner – maximum depth 20mts. Another stunning beginners dive site that is continuously shrouded in bubbles, formed by volcanic activity under the island. The site itself has a small wall covered with  delightful soft corals, that tapers into the black sand slope with a spattering of coral bommies, that hide a variety of abundant marine life.

9) Katipanan. beginner – maximum depth 20mts. A nice easy beginners dive site for all divers; named after the small shell that is often seen mixed in with the healthy soft corals. This site has little or no current, making it a great dive for beginner divers. It is possible to see turtles and sea snakes gentle cruising through the corals over the sandy reef. This site can be done in two directions making a great double dive.