The Apo Reef in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro is a 34 square kilometer of coral reef system which is considered as the world’s second largest contiguous coral reef system second to that of the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. The land area of the main island of Apo is only 29 hectares but the waters are already shallow kilometers away from the island as it already forms part of the coral reef system. It is one of the best known and popular dive sites in the country.
Being in the middle of nowhere, I thought it was just an impossible place to go. However, when I decided to explore Mindoro, to travel to Apo Reef became the highlight of the trip. I had wanted to dive at the Apo reef after having read of the glowing descriptions of the marine biodiversity of the place. It was the reason I had to go for a predive in Anilao as I read that one who has not dived for a year has to have a predive first before being allowed to dive in Apo. One of the dive shop that I called up, however, was not sure if they could gather enough divers on the day I was going since I was still the only one. The tourism office of Sablayan would only accept snorkelers as their equipments were no longer that reliable. I was referred to the Pandan Island Resort as they had regular trips to Apo. I was just told to try my luck when I get there as there might be enough divers who would signify. I had a slight disappointment when I got to Pandan when I was told that I could no longer be accepted as they already had full takers as a group of foreigners arrived that day who signified to go to Apo. To ease my disappointment they offered me a fun dive at the back of the island of Pandan which I took. I then called up the Tourism office of Sablayan if there were takers for the Apo Reef the following day. I was told that a Belgian couple was interested to come along. So I confirmed for an overnight camping trip to Apo. The overnight rental for the boat which could accommodate ten persons cost 8,000 pesos and 1,000 for the guide which we had to divide among the passengers.
The boat with the Belgian couple was already at Pandan when I arrived after my dive. We left Pandan Island at 11:30 in the morning. By 1:30 pm we were already in the vicinity of Apo reef and we had our first snorkeling by the Apo Menor islet which was just a rocky limestone island. There were many dead corals but plenty of beautiful fishes. Next stop was at the east side of Apo island. Saw a shark come up just on top of the drop off. Then we registered at the island paying for a snorkeling visit of 240. Pitched our tents and by almost sundown went to the lighthouse to wait for the sunset. Dinner and beer over a moonbeam and starry clear skies.
After breakfast the following day, we had our first swim on the beach. Just a few meters away was already a drop off. There were plenty of beautiful fishes. Then we went to the lagoon and took the balsa to cross to the other side.
Afterwards, our guide had us take the boat for a snorkeling trip around the island. We made two stops. At one stop the current was so strong that the guide decided that we just snorkel holding on to ropes attached to the outrigger while the boat would cruise around the island. Had early lunch and by one pm we left the island for our last snorkeling stop also near the rock island for table top corals.
Even though I was not able to dive, yet I still saw many marine forms that could not be seen anywhere. I saw some sharks which came on top of the drop off, saw sea turtles and other beautiful fishes and corals. But most of all we were able to camp and stay overnight in the island. Had I just joined the dive, we would not have been able to stay overnight at the island as it was only a daytrip and of course more expensive.
|Composed of a 34 square kilometer of coral reef system, the waters are already shallow with abounding corals although it is still a few kilometers away from the island of Apo.|
|The Apo Reef is still away far at the background, but the waters are already shallow. This is the Apo Menor islet|
|Our first stop was on this rocky limestone grounds of Apo Menor. There were not much corals to be seen here but there were many colorful fishes.|
|Some of the corals and fishes that could be seen on our first stop before arriving at the Apo Reef.|
|Approaching Apo Reef with it's distinctive lighthouse.|
|View of the other end of the island.|
|The main gazebo in Apo Reef where every visitor registers. Different fees are collected for those who will go diving and for those who will just snorkel.|
|Wide expanse of white sand in Apo Reef.|
|Fine sand of Apo reef.|
|A lagoon surrounded by mangroves could be seen from on top of the lighthouse.|
|With the Belgian couple who joined us in the boat coming to Apo.|
|At the lagoon one can go sailing with the use of a floating cottage that is just being pulled by a rope to the other end.|
|A souvenir pose from on top the lighthouse.|
|Sunset captured from the lighthouse.|
|Sunrise in Apo Reef|
|Another pose from the Welcome sign of Apo Reef.|
|Corals just near the beach.|
|Lots of small fishes.|
|Hard corals abound.|
|Some of the fish that could be seen while snorkeling.|
|A shark coming up on the edge of the reef.|
|A sea turtle passed by also.|
|A school of fish passing by.|
|The office of the DENR at the Apo Reef.|
|A dilapidated building near the lighthouse.|
|Mangroves by the lagoon.|
|With the rope that you just pull, one can get across the lagoon with the floating cottage that they had.|
|Another side of the island.|
|Our tent under the trees. There was no wind that evening, that it was unusually hot in the tent. My companions had to sleep under the tables outside to get some fresher air.|
|A few foreigners were our companions on the island that day.|
|Taking the boat back to Sablayan.|
|A last look at the Apo reef.|
|We still had one stop before going back: to see the table top corals.|
|Flat corals abounded in this area.|