Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Apo Island adventure

It's funny how, after all these years of living in Negros Oriental, it wasn't until this month that finally I got around to visiting what is arguably it's most well-known tourist destination. For my birthday last April 9th, I spent the day on a trip to Apo Island.

View of Apo Island from the east.

Ok, actually I was hitching along with my cousins' trip that just happened to be conveniently scheduled on my birthday, a day when I conveniently happened to have no other plans.

As far as I know, Apo Island the only piece of Negros Oriental that's not part of mainland Negros-- at least, it's the only one visible from a map. Lonely Planet's travel guide says the island is a rare success story for marine conservation in the Philippines. A ton of websites say it's one of the best diving spots in the world, with some even vaguely claiming it's one of the world's "top 10". Heh, alright.

To get to Apo Island, you need to rent one of these dinky boats from Malatapay in Zamboaguita. This particular one holds eight passengers, and cost us something like P2600 for the whole day (going to Apo and coming back).

This is probably my favorite picture, even though it's really nothing... Just a big rock near the boat landing area at the east side of the island. I like big rocks. Would be better if it wasn't vandalized with welcome messages.

Apo Island is actually a barangay of the town of Dauin, with 745 permanent residents according to the 2007 census. There are no motor vehicles, and this seems to be the island's main road.

The Apo Island Marine Sanctuary is on the west side of the island. As pristine as the beach looks, the place is really for snorkeling and diving, not relaxing on the beach.

All the snorkling equipment you need is available for rent on the island, but I got myself a cheap (but good enough!) snorkel and diving mask in Dumaguete the day before.

We took a ton of underwater pictures using just a Canon PowerShot SD750 placed in an inexpensive waterproof pouch. Corals are the easiest target. They stay still.

There are tons of fish, but those damn things are always moving. By the time I spot a target fish and have my camera focused, it's usually already gone. So this is my best picture of a fish. You... you can see it, right?

For people that still have some spare energy to spend after snorkeling, there's a hiking path that starts near the marine sanctuary, making its way up a hill to give people a nice view of the marine sanctuary and the nearby lagoon.

The 600 meter hiking path makes its way to the south end of the island, reaching its end at a cliff overlooking some rocks. The path feels like a lot longer than 600 meters, and there's no warning it only leads you to a dead end. But we're still smiling!

An overnight stay at Apo Island is made possible by two resorts located on the island, but we were just here on a day trip. Return trips to the mainland are supposed to leave by 5:30 PM, just in time for this breathtaking view as the sun sets behind Zamboanguita.

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