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Dive Sites of Apo Island

Apo Island, located off the southeastern coast of Negros Oriental in the Philippines, is renowned for its vibrant marine biodiversity and stunning coral gardens.

This small volcanic island has become a favorite destination for divers from around the world, offering a variety of dive sites that cater to both beginners and experienced divers.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the different dive sites around Apo Island, detailing their unique features, marine life, and diving conditions. We will also provide practical information to help you plan your diving adventure.

Introduction to Apo Island

Apo Island, covering an area of about 74 hectares, is part of the municipality of Dauin. It is approximately 30 kilometers from the city of Dumaguete, making it easily accessible for day trips or longer stays.

apo island diving

The island is a protected marine sanctuary, established to preserve its rich underwater ecosystem. This conservation effort has resulted in thriving coral reefs and abundant marine life, making Apo Island one of the top diving destinations in the Philippines.

History and Conservation

The Apo Island Marine Sanctuary was established in 1982 with the help of the local community and the Silliman University Marine Laboratory. This initiative aimed to protect the island’s coral reefs from destructive fishing practices and promote sustainable tourism.

Today, Apo Island is a model for marine conservation, attracting researchers and conservationists from around the globe.

Getting to Apo Island

The most common way to reach Apo Island is by boat from the coastal town of Dauin. Dive centers in Dauin and Dumaguete offer daily trips to the island. The boat ride typically takes about 30 to 45 minutes, depending on sea conditions. Some dive resorts also offer overnight packages that include accommodation on the island.

Marine Biodiversity of Apo Island

Apo Island is home to a rich variety of marine species, thanks to its healthy coral reefs and protected status. Divers can expect to see a wide range of marine life, including:

turtle in apo island

  • Coral Species: Apo Island boasts over 650 documented species of fish and 400 species of corals. The island’s reefs are dominated by hard corals, but there are also numerous species of soft corals, sponges, and sea fans.
  • Fish Species: The island’s waters are teeming with colorful reef fish such as parrotfish, angelfish, butterflyfish, and clownfish. Larger species like groupers, snappers, and trevallies are also common.
  • Pelagic Species: Divers may encounter pelagic species like barracudas, jacks, and tunas. Occasionally, whale sharks and manta rays pass through the area.
  • Macro Life: Apo Island is also known for its macro life, including nudibranchs, seahorses, and frogfish. The island’s diverse habitats provide a haven for small and cryptic creatures.
  • Turtles: One of the highlights of diving in Apo Island is the opportunity to see green sea turtles and hawksbill turtles. These gentle creatures are often spotted grazing on seagrass beds or resting on coral reefs.

Dive Sites of Apo Island

Apo Island offers a variety of dive sites, each with its own unique features and marine life. Here are some of the most popular dive sites around the island:

coral reef in apo island

Chapel’s Point

Location: North of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 30 meters

Experience Level: Beginner to Advanced

Description: Chapel’s Point is one of the most popular dive sites on Apo Island, named after the nearby chapel on the island. The dive site features a sloping reef with a mix of hard and soft corals, sea fans, and sponges. The shallow areas are perfect for beginners and snorkeling, while deeper sections offer more challenging conditions for advanced divers.

Marine Life: Divers can expect to see a variety of reef fish, including angelfish, butterflyfish, and surgeonfish. The site is also home to turtles, moray eels, and occasional reef sharks. The diverse coral formations provide excellent opportunities for underwater photography.

Rock Point West

Location: West side of Apo Island

Depth Range: 10 to 35 meters

Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Description: Rock Point West is known for its dramatic underwater topography, featuring large boulders and overhangs covered in vibrant corals. The site is subject to strong currents, making it suitable for more experienced divers.

Marine Life: This dive site is a hotspot for pelagic species such as jacks, barracudas, and tunas. Reef fish are abundant, and divers can also spot nudibranchs, crabs, and other macro life hiding among the corals. The currents attract larger predators, making it an exciting dive for those looking to see big fish.

Coconut Point

Location: North of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 25 meters

Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Description: Coconut Point, also known as “The Washing Machine” due to its strong and unpredictable currents, is an exhilarating dive site. The currents bring in nutrient-rich waters, supporting a diverse array of marine life.

Marine Life: The site is teeming with reef fish, including triggerfish, wrasses, and snappers. Divers may also encounter schools of jacks, barracudas, and occasional reef sharks. The coral formations are healthy and vibrant, providing a stunning backdrop for underwater photography.

Largahan

Location: East side of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 20 meters

Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Description: Largahan is known for its gentle slopes and sandy patches interspersed with coral bommies. This site is ideal for less experienced divers and those looking for a relaxed dive.

Marine Life: Largahan is a haven for macro photographers, with numerous nudibranchs, shrimps, and crabs. Divers can also spot garden eels, pipefish, and occasionally, cuttlefish. The sandy areas are home to stingrays and blue-spotted rays.

Mamsa Point

Location: South of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 30 meters

Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Description: Mamsa Point is known for its strong currents and large schools of fish. The dive site features a mix of coral slopes and sandy patches, with plenty of overhangs and crevices to explore.

Marine Life: The main attraction at Mamsa Point is the large schools of jacks (locally known as “mamsa”). Divers can also see barracudas, snappers, and trevallies. The coral reefs are home to a variety of smaller reef fish and invertebrates, making it a diverse and exciting dive.

Kan-Uran

Location: West side of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 25 meters

Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Description: Kan-Uran is a beautiful dive site with a mix of coral gardens, sandy patches, and seagrass beds. The site offers calm and shallow conditions, making it suitable for beginners and snorkelers.

Marine Life: Kan-Uran is known for its resident turtle population. Divers can also spot a variety of reef fish, including parrotfish, angelfish, and damselfish. The seagrass beds are home to pipefish, seahorses, and other small creatures.

Cogon

Location: North side of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 30 meters

Experience Level: Intermediate to Advanced

Description: Cogon is characterized by its steep slopes and strong currents. The site features a diverse array of corals, sponges, and sea fans. The currents make it an exciting and challenging dive.

Marine Life: Divers can expect to see schools of pelagic fish, such as barracudas and jacks. The coral reefs are home to a variety of reef fish, including butterflyfish, triggerfish, and surgeonfish. The strong currents also attract larger predators, making it a dynamic and thrilling dive site.

Marine Sanctuary

Location: Southeast of Apo Island

Depth Range: 5 to 20 meters

Experience Level: Beginner to Intermediate

Description: The Marine Sanctuary is a protected area with abundant marine life and healthy coral reefs. The site offers calm conditions and excellent visibility, making it ideal for beginners and snorkelers.

Marine Life: The Marine Sanctuary is home to a variety of reef fish, including clownfish, wrasses, and angelfish. Turtles are commonly seen grazing on the seagrass beds. The coral formations are vibrant and diverse, providing a stunning backdrop for underwater photography.

Diving Conditions and Best Times to Dive

Apo Island offers excellent diving conditions year-round, but some seasons are better than others. Here are some key factors to consider:

apo island aerial view

Water Temperature

The water temperature around Apo Island ranges from 26°C to 30°C (79°F to 86°F) throughout the year. Most divers find a 3mm to 5mm wetsuit sufficient for staying comfortable during dives.

Visibility

Visibility at Apo Island is generally good, ranging from 15 to 30 meters (50 to 100 feet). The best visibility is usually from November to May, coinciding with the dry season.

Currents

Currents around Apo Island can vary from mild to strong, depending on the dive site and tidal conditions. Sites like Coconut Point and Rock Point West are known for their strong currents, while sites like Kan-Uran and the Marine Sanctuary offer calmer conditions.

Best Time to Dive

The best time to dive at Apo Island is during the dry season, from November to May. During this period, the weather is generally sunny, and the sea conditions are calm. The wet season, from June to October, can bring occasional rain and rougher seas, but diving is still possible.

Practical Information for Divers

To make the most of your diving experience at Apo Island, here are some practical tips and information:

Dive Operators

Several dive centers in Dauin and Dumaguete offer trips to Apo Island. These operators provide guided dives, equipment rental, and transportation. Some popular dive centers include:

  • Atmosphere Resorts & Spa
  • Mike’s Dauin Beach Resort
  • Critter Republic Dive Center

Equipment Rental

If you don’t have your own gear, most dive operators offer equipment rental. The cost for a full set of gear typically ranges from PHP 500 to PHP 1,000 per day.

Safety Tips

  • Dive with a Buddy: Always dive with a buddy and follow your dive guide’s instructions.
  • Stay Hydrated: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially after multiple dives.
  • Protect the Reef: Avoid touching or stepping on corals and practice good buoyancy control.
  • Sunscreen: Use reef-safe sunscreen to protect your skin and the marine environment.

Accommodation

While most divers visit Apo Island on day trips, there are a few accommodation options on the island for those who wish to stay overnight. These include basic guesthouses and homestays. Alternatively, many divers choose to stay in Dauin or Dumaguete, where a wider range of accommodations is available.

Other Activities

In addition to diving, Apo Island offers other activities for visitors:

  • Snorkeling: The island’s shallow reefs and clear waters are perfect for snorkeling. The Marine Sanctuary is a popular spot for snorkelers.
  • Hiking: Apo Island has a few hiking trails that offer stunning views of the coastline and surrounding seas. The trail to the island’s lighthouse is a popular hike.
  • Community Tours: Learn about the island’s history and conservation efforts by joining a guided community tour.

Conclusion

Apo Island is a true paradise for divers, offering a diverse range of dive sites teeming with marine life and vibrant coral reefs. From the exhilarating currents of Coconut Point to the tranquil coral gardens of Kan-Uran, there is something for every diver at Apo Island.

With its commitment to marine conservation and sustainable tourism, Apo Island provides an unforgettable diving experience while preserving its underwater treasures for future generations.

Whether you’re a beginner looking for your first underwater adventure or an experienced diver seeking new challenges, Apo Island promises an unforgettable journey into the heart of one of the Philippines’ most stunning marine sanctuaries. Happy diving!

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