Apo Island is a tiny island in the Philippines, south of Negros Island. I had never heard of it until I started my diving trip in Bohol, Philippines. I went for a few dives in Alona and on Balicasag island and initially planned to move on to Puerto Galera, then Coron. But when I asked other divers and the local dive masters about the “best diving spot in the Philippines”, “Apo island” was almost always one of their first replies.
A very popular option among divers is staying in one of the resorts on Negros Island near Dumaguete that offer daily diving trips around Apo. However, when I started researching, the island sounded very interesting. I ended up staying there for over a week and highly recommend it if you want to spend a few lazy days, swimming, relaxing and observing islanders.
How to spend your days on Apo Island
Obviously. There are about a dozen sites around Apo. The underwater world is very colourful and the currents allow for very interesting drift dives. Usually, the crews assess the conditions in the morning, then decide on the best sites. But whatever site they choose, I felt like you can’t lose because there is something to be seen on every dive here.
The absolute best place for snorkeling is right in front of the main beach and village. I stayed at Liberty’s Lodge at the water’s edge and just had to cross the beach and enter the water to come across a turtle. They literally graze about 5 meters from the shore, quite unimpressed by all the snorkelers and boats around them. It’s practically impossible not to see a turtle when you put your head underwater (honestly). The other option is to enter the water in front of Apo Island Beach Resort, then snorkel around the rocky edges of the bay. Again, there is so much to be seen that it is quite as much fun as diving and you should be able to see turtles eating or sleeping around you.
Walking through the village, you can see the islanders go about their day. They are very friendly and speak some English. I recommend you try out the food they cook in front of their homes, like pancakes (at the village entry to your right), or Antonia’s bread (further along the way on your right).
At the entry of the village, you can buy souvenirs or clothes (my favourites were the Apo island tshirts 🙂 ).
First things first, I didn’t find any sandy white beaches (yup, at that point, the Philippines had already spoiled me with their amazing beaches). The beaches on Apo are quite rocky and consist more of coral, stones and shells. Walking through the village, you will see some signs pointing you to the other beaches. The Marine Sanctuary is closest to the main beach. It’s quite rocky, so maybe not the best one for a swim, but it is quiet, less crowded, good for relaxing, reading or watching the fishing boats.
If you pass Apo’s high school, you will get onto the path leading to the other side of the island, where there is another small village at Cogon beach. The village is very quiet and again, the beach is not spectacular but I really enjoyed the walk through the island.
I spent my time in Apo a few weeks after a major typhoon hit the islands, so there was some damage caused by the storm. And sad but true, there was a LOT of garbage that had been washed up to shore. I was told that normally the beaches are cleaner, though.
Frankly, the lighthouse wasn’t quite what I expected it to be but again, the walk is nice and the view from the top of the hill is interesting. So if you feel like exercising and hiking up a hill in tropical conditions, just head to Liberty’s Lodge and take the stairs next to their dive center. It’s not far but it’s pretty humid so don’t forget to bring some water.
The Island life
Experiencing life on this island is pretty interesting. At Liberty’s Lodge, there was electricity for about 2 hours in the morning, in the afternoon and then again in the evening (approximately from 7 to 10pm). Wifi worked only in the evening. Obviously, things like fruit shakes could only be prepared during the hours when there was electricity. After 10pm, all the lights went out. The view of the night sky without any light pollution was amazing.
In the morning, you can observe the fishing boats, the ferries going back and forth between Apo and Negros Oriental and an impressive number of dive boats arriving for the day.
In the evening, the islanders and especially the kids come out onto the beach to play or relax.