December 17-20, 2018
After an awesome first encounter with the Philippines in Moalboal on Cebu island, we were more than excited for our next destination. The mission for few next few days was to visit Apo island located quick boat ride from Negros Oriental. In Moalboal, we jumped on a bus to Bato (93 PHP pp) from there took a short tricycle ride to the port of Liloan ferry. While prices for the ferry are fixed (70 PHP pp) don’t forget to negotiate the tricycle ride. The ferry runs quite often, and it does not take long. In Dumaguete, jeepney took us to the city. We had some discussion about whether to stay a night or more directly on Apo island. But lodging was limited in such a little island – no Booking, no Airbnb. We emailed one guesthouse, but they were out of the office for a few next days. The easiest way for us was to stay in Dauin which is close to Malatapay from where the boats are departing to Apo.
We booked a nice hotel J&P Family Beach House with a pool just at the beach – with great snorkelling opportunities, as we realized later (1,600 PHP double). Dauin is a peaceful little town where you meet mainly locals and is served regularly via bus from Dumaguete. There are few places for tourists but none of them big hotel complex. Few tricycles offer an overpriced ride from the bus station, but you should negotiate. Unlike anywhere in Asia, there is a lack of local eateries in the Philippines in general. We little bit struggled to find a place to eat. There were three restaurants with a good meal and service but with the tourist price level. Other options consist of grilled chicken, bakery or noodle soup from a grocery. So we somehow combined all.
At the hotel, we met an American-Filipino couple and agreed to go together to the Apo island the next day. Since it was Wednesday, we saw one of the most popular markets in the area. Selling absolutely everything. Quite an experience. Then we hired a boat at the harbour. Which was simple and straightforward since there was a small office with fixed prices listed (3,000 PHP for the whole boat – we paid one half, our companions the other). Journey took about 30 minutes on a relatively rough sea, which was fun. Unluckily that also made snorkelling little bit less pleasant.
However, the main snorkelling spot was without waves. We paid reasonable “island fee” (100 PHP pp), rented one set of snorkelling gear and decided not to pay “turtle area entrance fee with guide” yet. It was not expensive (250 PHP pp) and suitable for four people, but you had to wear a life jacket and being stuck within a marked area with a group of other people. We heard that we should see turtles anywhere around. And yes, we actually saw a few of them, which made this trip unforgettable.
One thing disappointed us. The Apo island is considered as an awesome place for snorkelling and seeing beautiful corals, which was not true when we were there. Corals cannot compare with those in Moalboal or even Dauin. But this may be because sanctuary on the other side of the island has been damaged some years back and it was closed to the public during our visit. Still, the trip was great, worth the time and every penny, despite the rough sea, cloudy weather and relative lack of nice corals.
Need to mention, that visit Apo island is also nice for seeing the ordinary life of locals. Save some time to climb up the hill and walk around through the village.