Apo Island (pawikan sanctuary)

Have you experienced swimming with sea turtles or “pawikan” as we call it in bisaya? You might want to try and visit Apo Island.

Apo Island is a small island in Negros Oriental, just across the town of Zamboanguita. The island is well preserved by the locals.

It was summer of 2015 that I wanted to go to the said island. I did my research and itinerary. I wanted it to be just a day trip. Then I noticed that it would cost less if you go there by group. So I invited some of my friends who haven’t been to the island.

Saturday morning, we departed Cebu City South Bus Terminal by and headed to Santander as early as 2AM. The trip took 3 hours enough for us to nap for a couple of hours. We arrived at the Lilo-an, Santander Port and immediately secured our boat tickets to Negros. The boat ride to Negros was less than an hour. We arrived at Sibulan Port earlier than expected.

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Upon landing at the port, we headed straight to Dumaguete’s Ceres bus terminal.

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We boarded on one of the Ceres buses heading to Zamboanguita. We told the driver to drop us at Malatapay market in Zamboanguita. The ride took less than an hour. We arrived in Malatapay around 6:45AM. Initially we thought that we could buy our foods in the market, but unknowingly, the market goes alive only by Wednesdays. We have no choice but to settle with the small snacks we brought.

The shore, where ferries and chartered boats heading to the island waits, is 5-minute walk away from the road. The boat rates are monitored and centralized by their local barangay. We chartered one boat, and departed as soon as everything was ready.

Expect a wavy ride heading to the island since the sea current is always strong between Apo and Negros island. We arrived after 30 minutes. We were then greeted by the local tourism personnel and guided us towards the registration area. There are entrance/environmental fees.

One local household offered a place for us where we can station or things. Luckily, the locals do offer cooking foods for you for a certain fee. In watching the sea turtles, it is mandatory that tourists must get a local guide so as to watch over, orient and prevent the tourists from disturbing the turtles from their feeding. There are also available fins, snorkeling gears, and floaters for rent.

With no time to waste, we changed and went straight to the waters. Even on the shallow parts, you can witness the sea turtles feeding on the sea weeds. It seems like the sea turtles are already accustomed to people swimming around them. They seem to be not bothered while feeding, unless you intently touch and chase them.

On the further side lies the famous rock of the island. There is a private resort on the area, but we were able to cross it. In contrast to where the sea turtles are, this side is absent of sea turtles. Instead, the ground is of pebbles and sea corals are abundant. We took some pictures and climbed on the standing rock. Be careful though, the rocks are slippery.

We satisfied ourselves and got ready to go back. The boatman advised us to get back to the main island before 3PM since that would be the time where stronger currents occur. So we departed the island by 1:30PM for we also wanted to get back to Cebu earlier.

When we got to the main island, first that went into our heads was to rinse off the salt water from our skin and change clothes. We found a local water pump, just a walk away from the shore, where we rinsed ourselves. There were no people around the place and so we individually looked for a place especially somewhere bushy where we can change our clothes. Lucky for my friends for they brought shower towels with them. Well as for me, I got to get daring and changed with no covers on.

All set, we waited for a bus heading to Dumaguete to pass. We got on to one earlier than expected. Upon arriving, we decided to relax and dine for a while in Dumaguete’s well known Sans Rival Bistro. After several minutes, we headed straight to Sibulan Port to secure our boat tickets to Cebu where we can catch a bus heading to Cebu City. We arrived in Cebu City by 8PM.

Sun burned, tired, and exhausted, we were happy that we did the trip. It was a great experience.

List of Expenses:

Cebu City to Santander  via Ceres Bus 170php
Santander to Sibulan via ferry 62 php
Sibulan to Bus Terminal via tricycle 20 php
Dumaguete to Malatapay via Ceres Bus 25 php
Malatapay to Apo Island via chartered boat 500/head (2K/4pax; 3K/8pax) *back & forth

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