Apo Reef Natural Park
Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro
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- Great Outdoors
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We are so darn lucky to exist in an archipelago surrounded by such lush aquatic life and bountiful marine ecosystems with majestic dive sites. I’ve always had a fascination for the big blue sea and the underwater world beneath it.
Going to Apo Reef means you’ve got to have the hydrophilic hormone in your system. Around 80% of the activities would involve swimming and snorkeling and there’s absolutely no point in going there if you don’t enjoy those. Expect to say hi to sea turtles, different species of fish, rays, and corals in technicolor, where your Go Pro would be a worthy companion. It’s a haven for Freediving and Scuba Diving and is second to the famous Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
But, as it is majestic, pursuing it may also be an equally toilsome chore. Visiting Apo Reef is like a persistent lover pursuing a long courtship and finally getting that coveted kiss from his dame. It is not for the faint-hearted, it’s for the adventurous souls.
Don’t mind long car rides? Then you can definitely endure the 10-hour ride via land and sea to Apo Reef. It can only be reached via Sablayan port in Occidental Mindoro, which is already a 6-hour trip from Manila. Top that off with another 2-3 hours in a speed boat. Yikes! But so so worth every aching bum and stiffing neck.
Begin your day by passing by Banderang Putol, where you can get up close and personal with plenty of fish in shallow waters surrounding an assortment of hard and soft coral. This is perfect for swimmers who aren’t comfortable with going too deep. Make your way to Banggan Coral garden — a site for sprawling fan corals and reef shark, then head to the island to set up camp.
Prepare for the extremes. When you get there, you’re completely detached. There’s no reception and the island offers only minimal comforts. Of course, you have to be willing to sleep in a tent or a hammock. There is a decent bathroom, which is short of a haunted deserted scene. Prepare to bring your own supply of H2O and be sure to have someone who can start a fire. Oh, and make sure your power banks are fully charged as there are no outlets on the island!
Besides the lush aquatic life people come to see, the island offers a unique side trip — a towering 110-foot lighthouse. As one of the tallest in the country, climbing this modern structure gives you a breath-taking 360-degree view of the crystal clear waters and the verdant mangrove forest, where you can enjoy a magnificent sunset and a glimpse of the Calamian group of islands. I just wish you all the luck and guts to brave the narrow, steep, knee-shaking (but perfectly safe) stairway to the top.
Day 2 would welcome you with a gorgeous sunrise and a unique experience of clinging on to the sides of the boat just above the drop at the edge of the reef. This is what they call Tawiran Apo and is the most gorgeous thing I've ever seen. It's pretty deep so you can encounter some really large fish. Oh and it could get a bit nauseating for some. Lastly, don't miss Pandan island and catch a glimpse of the largest Pawikans. They're amazing!
The story of my brief weekend getaway to the world’s second largest contiguous coral reef system is no joke. It was definitely one of the most interesting yet painstaking trips I’ve had to date. For water babies and mermaids, it’s definitely a must-see. I can't wait to go back!
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The country's Apo Reef is a coral reef system located on the western waters of Occidental Mindoro. Overall, the reef covers 34 square km and is considered the world's second largest contiguous coral reef system (next to Australia's Great Barrier Reef!) and the largest in our beloved country. Known for its pristine underwater glory, Apo Reef is famous for diving.
Teeming with an array of beautiful underwater flora and fauna, Apo Reef is a wonderful destination to explore.
To get to Occidental Mindoro, you can either go by plane or by a ferry from Batangas. Apo Reef is under the municipality of Sablayan. From Abra De Ilog, ride a van or a bus to Sablayan. A ride costs Php 220.
From Sablayan, you must charter a boat by coordinating with Sablayan's tourism office. Standard boat rate is Php 8,000-9,000. This is ideal for bigger groups to cut down the boat expenses.
It is also possible for you to coordinate with the tourism office in advance so that they can book you together with other people who are going.
Unfortunately, when we arrived, no other guests booked. Php 9,000 was too much because it was only me and my boyfriend.
We opted to go to nearby Pandan Island (I'll write a review soon!) to kill time. Since Pandan Island is one of Sablayan's biggest resorts and dive operator, we were able to book our trip to Apo Reef. There were 4 other people who were just waiting for more companions to cut down the boat costs.
The boat ride to Apo takes about 3 hours but when you arrive there, you'll be in complete awe.
(If only I could take pictures with my eyes...)
We also went to Apo Reef Natural Park right after. Go up the lighthouse and see a stunning 360-degree view of Apo Reef. You can also visit the lagoon which is home to various marine animals and birds.
As always, practice the 'leave no trace' policy. Let's keep our seas clean, our beaches unspoiled. ️
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Although it's my 2nd time to visit Apo Reef, it still feels like I'm experiencing it for the first time because of the new adventures we had. Went here with friends during the Apec holiday and had a long weekend. We were blessed with extremely good weather!
Swam with giant green sea turtles, black tip sharks, nemo, "dory" and the rest of the gang. It was truly an amazing experience!
The water's so pristine, clear emerald hue that you can clearly see your feet underwater. The beach has long stretches of powdery white sand that will make you want to walk barefoot.
It is here that I got to see one of most amazing sunsets ever! Such dramatic colors and it makes everything around you "Instagram-worthy". At night, we would just sit by the beach, do stargazing and enjoy the cool evening breeze.
Apo Reef is a Marine Park Sanctuary and as such, it is protected by both DENR and the local government. Guests are expected to adhere to their rules and conditions when staying at Apo. I hope they keep thay way so as to preserve the beauty and rawness of this Island.
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Such a beautiful place! A tick off my bucket list! Really glad that DENR took steps to preserve this natural reserve. This is a no-take-away zone. Everything remains in the island. When you leave, you have to take all your stuff, trash and what-have-yous with you. Several dive spots and coral garden sites.
This is the world's 2nd largest contiguous coral reef system and is home to hundreds of marine fishes and species of birds.
We saw dolphins, black tip sharks, manta rays, several species of reef fishes, and giant sea turtles!
It's been a month since I was here and I still cant move on.
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Long weekend vacay with my super friends. My first time to experience camping on an island. There was no signal at all, no fresh running water and no electricity. What a worry free stay. We also had a camp fire at night and drinks that comes with our horror stories. Haha.
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must place for divers!!
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