Though I did it once, I don't really dive. Nevertheless, while we were at Pandan Island back in April 2007, My Bibe and I thought we'd be happy with just snorkeling and went on a day trip to Apo Reef. I mean, with a view like this one below, how can you resist not going there?
A view midway to the top of the lighthouse on Apo Reef.
It may be a coral reef system but it's not all sea and corals here; there's actually a small island on top of it (three, in fact), which affords divers and non-divers alike a place to camp and sunbathe. A protected area and national park, tours to Apo Island are managed and controlled by the Sablayan local government. Lucky for us, Pandan Island Resort arranged everything for us.
This was the signage on Apo Reef back in 2007. It should be different now.
Visitors here are required to register and pay an entrance fee, although I'm not sure how much it is now. I tried looking it up but my search yielded varying results from Php 150 to Php 225 for Filipinos and Php 450 for foreigners. But I guess non-divers pay less. While there's no resort here, overnight camping is possible (and actually offered). Just be sure to bring enough water and food.
My Bibe basking in the glorious view.
I loved the beach -- white sand and all. It's not as powdery-fine as Boracay's but my God, the water was just stupendously clear and beautiful!
Our boat, which we shared with an old Danish couple also staying at Pandan Island; it's cheaper that way, splitting the cost.
There's a curiously odd take on snorkeling in Apo Reef, something I'd like to call "express snorkeling." Snorkelers hold on to a bamboo raft while being tugged by a boat. It's crazy! While you may be deprived of the chance to linger on some spots, at least you've covered more distance. Think about it.
Visibility underwater was good although the corals are nestled deeper on the seabed, so you can't really see them up close. There's also a steep drop, which, I could imagine, must be heaven for divers. It sure is a beauty down there but the beach is just as stunning.
Trekking by the beach towards the lighthouse.
A driftwood, er, log washed ashore.
As with Pandan Island, there's no electricity here. There's but a few solar panels to power the administration quarters.
It's not all sand and sea here on the island. In the middle of it all is a thick mangrove forest that's already become an attraction itself. Walkways have been constructed out of bamboo to allow human navigation right through the center where a small lagoon beckons.
Really thick mangrove forest here.
The platform from which visitors can take a raft to the other end.
Utter beauty. Notice the rope? It's used to navigate a bamboo raft from one end of the lagoon to the other.
Another attraction on this island is the lighthouse, which offers access to fantastic 360º views of the island and beyond. It's quite different from my idea of a lighthouse that's a straight enclosed cylindrical structure. This one's very open, which I like.
Ascending the first set of stairs of the lighthouse.
The next set of stairs; this one takes you to the view deck. It's quite an exercise, obviously.
There are also some limestone crags on the island, perfectly accented by lush greenery.
The lagoon at the center of the mangrove forest, as seen atop the lighthouse's view deck.
Aren't you in love with the place yet? Next time I'm gonna try camping here. I wanna see what it's like here at sunset and at night.
First off, you need to get to Sablayan by air/land or by sea/land. For details, you can check out my previous post about Pandan Island.
Once in Sablayan, proceed to the local eco-tourism office to arrange your tour, settle all corresponding fees and even rent some snorkeling gear or tents if you want to camp overnight. The 2-hour boat ride to Apo Reef can be quite costly, running between Php 7,000 to Php 9,000. It's better to travel in a group so you can split the cost. Even better, you can coordinate your trip in advance to see if they can find some slots for you in another group.
You can contact them at:
+639284659585 / +63434580149
If you're staying at Pandan Island, you can arrange tours directly with the resort; no need to go through all the hassles at the tourism office. You can check their rates here.