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Apo Island is an island of redemption. Once destroyed by unsustainable fishing practices, Apo Island has bounced back to become one of the best diving destinations in the Philippines. After being bombarded daily with blast fishing in the 1970s, Apo Island was closed off and declared a marine reserve where locals managed this community-based protected area. In fact, the success story of Apo Island has been the main framework for marine conservation where it has triggered the establishments of more marine sanctuaries in the Philippines.
In this guide, we’ll reveal the best dive sites at Apo Island as well as where to stay, who to dive with, and what marine life you can expect to see.
Table of Contents
Planning your dive trip to Apo Island
How to get to Apo Island
Apo Island is located in Negros Oriental. Although technically it is under the town of Dauin, diving in Apo Island is traditionally accessed via the capital city of Dumaguete. You can reach Dumaguete City by:
“Apo” is a commonly used Filipino word for grandchild. Note that Apo Island is different from Apo Reef, which is 505 kms (313 mi) away.
Cost of scuba diving in Apo Island
Expect to pay around $20-40 USD per dive, though packages are popular and often offer cheaper per-dive rates that buying a just one or two.
The best time to go diving in Apo Island
The main season for diving in Apo Island, as well as in Dumaguete, Dauin and the rest of Negros Oriental is from October to May where you can experience ~29°C (82°F) water temperatures and ~20 meter (60 feet) visibility. While Apo island is known for strong current, note that the current gets stronger towards full moon. From June to September, the southwest monsoon season causes strong waves and winds making scuba diving a challenge.
Double check that your travel insurance covers scuba diving.
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Why go scuba diving in Apo Island?
Apo island is a popular diving destination in the Philippines. People come here just to do one thing: go scuba diving. Well, you can also go sunbathing, swimming, snorkeling, island hopping or participate in the local beach clean up.
Despite having a landmass of only 0.74 square kilometers (0.29 square miles) with a thriving fishing village, Apo Island has 2 dive shops (based within a beach resort) that are supported and linked to big establishments in mainland Negros. It has 12 established dive sites littered around the island.
Most dive sites are famous for their drift dives and vibrant reefs filled with tropical fish and small pelagics. And if these dive sites don’t entice you, you can always venture to the Dauin and Dumaguete which have over 20 dive sites between them.
What you can expect to see diving in Apo Island
When it comes to corals, Apo island has 400 of the 450 species found in the Philippines. That’s a staggering 88% of the country’s coral species concentrated around this small island of Dauin, Negros Oriental. This is further complemented by its fish diversity where the reefs of the island house 650 species of fish with sizes ranging from small seahorses, to the mid-sized schooling jacks to the large pelagics like tunas and sharks.
The best dive sites in Apo Island
Of the 12 dive sites in Apo island, 11 are open to the public. Located at the southwest coast, the Marine Sanctuary is temporarily closed for rehabilitation since it was greatly damaged by Typhoon Haiyan (locally named as Super Typhoon Yolanda), a category 5 storm that hit the Philippines in 2013.
Nevertheless, the best dive sites in Apo Island were sheltered from the devastating effects of the super typhoon and continues to attract divers, both local and foreign.
Location: North coast of Apo Island Level: Advanced Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)
Located in the north coast is the prime spot for drift diving in Apo Island, Coconut Point. Your entry usually involves descending to a barren sand with some patches of corals. The currents will take you to the reef slope where corals concentrate.
There is no vertical ledge at Coconut Point. Your dive profile generally involves cruising at 1 to 2 knots (0.5 to 1 meter per second) of water current over a steep reef slope. The slope is covered with soft and hard corals that host a thriving population of tropical reef fish like unicornfish, snappers, damselfish and fusiliers. While drifting, don’t forget to look at the surface or in the deep blue waters where schools of jacks and barracudas are often seen.
Location: South Coast of Apo Island Level: Advanced Max Depth: 28 meters (91 feet)
The southern coast of Apo Island is sharply pointed that it natural divides Rock Point into 2 dive sites: Rock Point East and Rock Point West. Regardless of which side you choose to enter, current is prevalent and the waters can be choppy at times.
Diving in Rock Point West allows you to explore a steep slope that ends in a reef plateau. If conditions are favorable, the water current may take you to the finger-shaped reef of Rock Point East. But regardless of where the current direction is, your drift diving experience in Rock Point will involve cruising over coral laden reefs with lots of tropical fish like triggerfish, moray eels, snappers, as well as blacktip and whitetip reef sharks.
Location: East coast of Apo Island Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 25 meters (82 feet)
This portion of the east coast of Apo island is the area where you can find the highest concentration of jacks (thus its name, as Mamsa is the local term for jacks or trevallies). And it’s not just about concentration, but also diversity where you can find several species of jacks such as the black-tailed trevally, yellow cavalli, crevalle jack and the common jacks.
Your dive profile in Mamsa Point usually involves descending in a reef that has a gentle slope. But after a few minutes of swimming, the reef will suddenly have a steep profile which signals the start of you interaction with the school of jacks. The steep reef slope is the known area where massive schools of jack often pass by where you can see them swimming in one direction.
Location:West coast of Apo Island Level: All levels of certification Max Depth: 30 meters (100 feet)
If you want to visit a dive site where you can pray or meditate before entering the water, then head out to the western coast of Apo Island in a place called Chapel’s Point. On top of the hill is a Chapel overlooking a vibrant reef system.
Diving in Chapel’s Point is recommended to all divers where you will enjoy exploring a gentle reef slope that ends at the start of a reef ledge at 12 meters (40 feet). Going beyond, advanced divers can go deep diving following a vertical wall filled with sponges, seafans, leather corals and whip corals.
Where to stay in Apo Island
Apo Island Beach Resort
Address: Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental
Nestled in a private cove surrounded by limestone cliffs and a sandy beach, Apo Island Beach Resort is one of the best picks for scuba divers. They have 9 hillside cottages with great views of the sea. Unlike the luxury of a 5 star hotel, the resort’s electricity only runs from 6 to 11pm. This means that you will have an eco-experience while listening to the silent breaking of the waves as you sleep.
They have an in-house dive shop, the Apo Island Beach Resort Dive Shop that offers both PADI and NAUI certification courses from open water up to divemaster. They also offer fun dives to all of Apo islands dive sites.
Built amongst rocky hills, Liberty Lodge and Dive Resort is another preferred hotel within Apo Island. They have a total of 21 rooms where your choices includes the Sea View Room, Dormitory Beds, Standard Rooms, Big Fan Room, Deluxe Room and the Luxury Room. All rooms have a rustic simple design and balconies facing the sea. Electricity in the resort runs for 10 hours per day.
Liberty Lodge and Dive Resort has an in-house dive shop that is manned by certified PADI instructor and divemasters. They offer PADI certification courses from open water, advanced, rescue, divemaster and dive tours to all of Apo Islands dive sites.
Address: Washington Street, Dauin, Negros Oriental
If you want to spend the night in Dauin, then we highly suggest you check El Dorado Beach Resort. Considered as the first resort in Dauin, El Dorado Beach Resort is built in a lush and natural occurring coconut palm trees. They have over 50 rooms where your choices include Standard Rooms, Superior Rooms, Deluxe Rooms, Premium Rooms, Family Rooms, Hostel Rooms and Studio Apartments. They have an in-house dive shop that specializes in dive tours to Apo Island, Dumaguete and Dauin. The house reef just fronting the resort is your nearest dive site where shore entry and a few kicks of the fins will take you to a vibrant reef system loaded with small tropical reef fish.
Thirty minutes away from Dumaguete City airport is the luxurious Atlantis Dive Resort. They have 40 guest rooms where your choices include the Deluxe Room, Garden Suite, Ocean Front Room, Seaview Suite and the Premier Garden Suite. Most of the guest who are staying here are hardcore divers where they spend more hours in their in-house dive shop or diving underwater than staying inside their room.
And guess what? Atlantis Dive resort has its own liveaboard vessel, the Atlantis Azores where they offer liveaboard dive cruise to Apo Island, Coron and Tubbataha Reef in Palawan, Malapascua in Cebu, Bohol and Apo Reef in Mindoro.
Certifying Agency: PADI and NAUI Address: Apo Island, Dauin, Negros Oriental
Doing your certification course, especially if you want to pursue your advanced level, we suggest you do it within Apo Island since they have dive sites ideal for advanced divers and your skills will be put into practice. With this, we highly recommend Apo Island Beach Resort Dive Shop. As the in-house dive shop of Apo Island Beach Resort, they offer certification course from open water up to divemaster level where you can choose to be certified under PADI or NAUI.
Certifying Agency: PADI Address: J. Basa Street, Dauin, Negros Oriental
Operating within a 12-room homestay in Dauin, Bongo Bongo Divers is a PADI 5-star Resort Facility in Dauin that offers certification courses from open water, advanced, specialty diver and rescue diver. They also offer the divemaster internship where soon-to-be dive pros can have a hands-on learning and training experience. Bongo Bongo Divers is also popular with dive tours where they specialize in offering guided tours to Apo Island and the dive sites lining the coast of Dauin and Dumaguete.
As the in-house dive shop of Atlantis Dive Resort, Atlantis Dive Center is a PADI 5-star resort that offers certification courses from open water up to divemaster. Aside from local trips to the dive sites in Dumaguete, Dauin and Apo Island, they offer Liveaboard dive safari cruise to the major diving destination in the Philippines like Tubbataha reef and Coron in Palawan, Malapascua in Cebu, Bohol, Puerto Galera and Apo reef in Mindoro.
Apo Island is fast becoming a freediving haven in Negros. Primarily based in Mario Scuba Diving and Homestay in Apo Island, you can get certified as a freediver. Just look for JJ (short for Jean-Jacques Gautier), this soft-spoken Frenchman will be happy to teach you and take you to the best freediving sites around Apo island.
FAQs about scuba diving Apo Island
Is Apo Island good for scuba diving?
Yes, Apo Island is one of the best spots in the Philippines for scuba divers who love drift dives, thriving coral reefs, and schooling fish like trevallys!
Where is Apo Island, Philippines?
Apo Island is a tiny island off of Negros capital Dumaguete. It is surrounded by a marine protected sanctuary area, making it a prime diving location.