Explore Apo Reef Natural Park In Occidental Mindoro

As summer is about to end, some people who want to enjoy it to the fullest rush to get last minute summer tours and packages. One great place to check out, unbeknownst to many, is Apo Reef Natural Park in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.

With an area of 34 sq km, Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world next only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. As the largest atoll-like reef in the Philippines, Apo Reef has been declared as a protected area under the category of Natural Park by Pres. Fidel V. Ramos in 1996.

Although Apo Reef remains a top destination for scuba divers and freedivers, its popularity has barely extended for non-divers. One probable reason could be its inaccessibility. It takes at least 10 hours and at least three rides to reach the tentatively listed UNESCO World Heritage Site.

From Cubao or from Pasay, several buses go directly to Batangas Pier every hour. They cost around PHP 150 – 200 (USD 3-4). From the pier, you must take the RO-RO ship to Abra de Ilog, which costs around PHP 250 (USD 5). It departs every two hours, however, the tickets must be bought at least an hour earlier. Upon arrival in Abra de Ilog, vans that depart to or pass by Sablayan are available just outside the pier. If you arrive past midnight, however, vans may not be available, so you need to talk to your tour guide so he can prepare one for you.

Speaking of tour guides, one cannot go as one pleases to Apo Reef. You need to get a permit from the local tourism office or a tour guide that is approved by the said tourism office to get it for you. Afterward, you can then ride the three-hour boat to the island.

Tourists and divers usually camp out at Apo Reef. The island is not for the faint of heart. No hotel accommodations are available. There is no electricity, no cellphone reception, no internet, and more importantly, no fresh water to shower with.

When one goes to Apo Reef, there is nothing to enjoy but nature and company. Available activities include scuba diving, snorkeling and freediving. On the island, you can explore the mangrove forest and a small lagoon, which has become a nursery and spawning ground of several marine species. There is also a lighthouse which offers a panoramic view of the whole natural park and also the best sunset view. Meanwhile, a white beach near the camping grounds offer the best sunrise view.

Photo credit: Erwan Heusaff’s official Instagram account

As a protected area and with over 350 marine species, the top activity for Apo Reef is scuba diving and freediving. One shipwreck is also available for tourists to explore. Packaged tours with guided scuba diving have always been available. The availability of freediving lessons for those who cannot afford scuba diving but want to explore the underwater beauty of Apo Reef have also been increasing to promote the island’s tourism for non-divers.

Photo credit: Erwan Heusaff’s official Instagram account

Photo credit: iwantatravelblogtoo.wordpress.com

View this post on Instagram

Of all the shipwreck’s I’ve seen, Apo Reef’s Wreck is the prettiest! Unlike Coron’s shipwrecks, this one’s hard to reach and is only accessible if the waves permit. With the bottom of the wreck only at 18m and top at around 10m plus the exceptional “apo reef vis”, her beauty is already visible even from the surface. The wreck also houses a wide variety of corals and enormous fishes like groupers and sweetlips. Can’t wait for the habagat season to end so we can go back to this island! #freediveph #salvimarph #salvimar #freedive #freediving #freediver #diving #philippines #teamfreediveph #filmery . . . . . #travel #tropical #summer #thearchipelago #saltnomads #philippines #sinopinas #nauticam #sony #underwaterphotography #uwphotography #freedivephotography #dive #underwaterlife

A post shared by Jake Alejandre (@jakealejandre) on

Photo credit: Jake Alejandre

It’s important to note that when you go to Apo Reef, or to any other last minute destination this summer, you should mind your trash. Do not leave any of your garbage. Take them back with you and dispose them properly in Sablayan. Also, you might want to switch to a reef-safe sunblock for a change.

Photo credit: Erwan Heusaff’s official Instagram account

more recommended stories