Apo Island – Where the Turtles Are
Traveling to or Through Dumaguete? Take an Afternoon to See Apo Island.
In the pantheon of Dumaguete Top 10 things to do, Apo Island is near the top. I say this as a relatively experienced South East Asia island hopper. The main attraction, as you may gather, is snorkeling with the sea turtles. The island itself is situated inside a marine sanctuary with hard and soft coral, which means that there is a variety to see either snorkeling or diving.
The quickest and most cost effective way to get to Apo Island is to jump on a jolly yellow Ceres Bus at the Dumaguete Bus Terminal. They are ubiquitous in Negros Oriental as they offer cheap, quick and convenient transport. Look for any bus with the “Bayawan” signboard and grab a seat. The conductor will collect payment once you are under way. For busses with air conditioning the fare will run you P50 (on the return, we grabbed the standard bus for P25).
You will see road side signs road advertising Apo Island about 30 miles south of Dumaguete and the bus will stop if you let the conductor know you are headed to Malatapay Market. The market operates on Wednesdays and stretches from the National Highway down to the Malatapay Wharf, about 350 meters.
At the Malatapay Wharf, there are three choices of banca boats to ferry you to the island: small, medium, and large. The pricing is fixed, so you simply arrange for the boat appropriate to your group and jump on the next available. A medium boat will run you P2,000 to take and return you back to Negros. If you stay overnight, there is an additional charge of P250. The medium bancas carry 5 passengers, the large up to 10 passengers.
We were two, so we shared the boat with another group of three who approached us. The boat ride took about 40 minutes and was quite pleasant. Upon arrival, you will need to wade in from the boat, so make sure you are ready to get wet. You want a backpack or a conveyance that makes traversing waist deep water easy. Sandals are fine, but there is a bit of hiking to be done on the island, so shoes may be worth bringing along.
Once you’ve made your way to the beach — a rocky affair of broken coral — so unless you have hobbit feet you will need water shoes or water friendly sandals. There you pay an environmental fee of P100 for foreigners. You can leave your bags in the tourist center until 2:00 PM. Now you are ready for the money shot.
The turtles feed close to shore, so you will be ducking through anchored banca boats to paddle around and see these guys placidly rummaging through seaweed to nose up whatever sea turtles eat. They are completely oblivious to gawking snorkelers and generally put on quite a show. You can check one out I followed using the video feature on my little Sony camera.
$1 = X Pesos