Updated: Apr 5
Philippines’ healthy coral reefs meet pelagic life at Apo Reef, with incredible visibility, dramatic walls, and the abundance or marine life, with more fish than the human eye can follow!
Located approximately 33 kilometres off the coast of Occidental Mindoro Island, in the north west side of the Philippines, it cannot be reached as a ay trip from main island, creating a pristine remote location where the wandering traveller can snorkel or dive, bird watch, dolphin watch, kayak, raft in the lagoon and see a turtle nesting and hatching sanctuary.
Apo Reef is 34sq km in size. The reef itself is a submerged platform, with two isolated coral reefs separated by a 30 meter deep sandy bottom channel, opening to the West, where clear water run East to West.
There are 3 islands poking their tiny nose above water: Apo Island, Apo Menor (Binangaan) and Cayos del Bajo (Tinangkapan), all of which are un-inhabited by humans, but are flourishing with birds and aquatic life. The three islands are distinct in their formation, Apo Island being the largest (22 hectares) , with a stunning white beach lagoon covered with beach vegetation where Hawksbill Turtles often nest, and a shallow mangrove area, an excellent nursery for sharks. Apo Menor is a rocky Limestone island with relatively little vegetation and Cayos del Bajo, the smallest island, is a coralline rock formation with no vegetation.
Apo Reef has over 20 declared dive sites most of them around Apo Island. Coral lovers hearts will shiver in excitement to the site of the healthy brain corals, huge table corals, fire corals, stag horns and a wide variety of soft corals.
Apo Island East diving in a cloud of butterfly fish with White Tip Sharks all around, this white sand slope is a an easy dive with mild current, it’s an excellent place to spot turtles, and a school of Teira Batfish in the blue.
Apo Island North is a dramatic, deep wall with massive Tube Corals, shy Lobsters hiding at the rocks, and a curious Hawksbill Turtle who swims alongside us, as we pass a school of Yellow Sweetlips cruising all around. The wall is very deep and between December and March, when the water is cooler, there has been citing of Hammerhead sharks. The edge of the wall is a great spot to watch Gray Reef Sharks.
Shark Ridge, an outer reef dive spot on the Northeast side of Apo Reef. A plateau flattened by the strong open ocean currents, which sprinkled the ridge with small caves and rocky hideaways, where we encountered Groupers, Moray Eels and of course, sharks ! The plateau then drops into a dramatic, mysterious, healthy wall, with massive Gregorian Fan, where we spotted Sweetlips and a school of Tuna.
In Menor Island’s (Binangaan) shallow white sandy bottom, we spot sleeping White Tip Sharks and a huge Napoleon Wrasse! On Binangaan Drop Off we spot schools of Snappers and Tuna, and a couple of Spotted Eagle Rays in the blue, gliding and smiling under their beak-like nose.
In the shallow sandy bottom of Corde Point, we dive in a magical light- there are hard corals everywhere, as the afternoon sun penetrating through the clear water paints everything in glowing orange; hundreds of Orange Anthias and Yellow Pyramid Butterfly Fish swim around us, this dive redefines the experience of a coral garden!
There is even one proper wreck in Apo Reef, originally named Apo Wreck, a skeleton of unidentified ship, overgrown by hard corals where heaps of reef fish, such as Trumpet Fish, Snappers and Big Red Eye Fish reside.
Apo 29 is an exciting blue water dive, for experienced divers who love currents. The currents can be unpredictable and, at times, pretty strong. The sive site is essentially an underwater mound sits about 25 meters below the surface.
Tips for the Dive Addicts
Ensure you have your surface marker buoy when diving Apo Reef as the currents can take you for a ride!
Do not miss an opportunity to walk Apo Island’s white sandy beach and visit the turtle sanctuary.