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Apo Island and the Turtle Sanctuary Experience


Off the southeast coast of Negros Oriental, Apo Island is a rising favorite among Filipinos and tourists alike. The Island’s white sand beach, crystal clear waters and fascinating rock formations all make for a breathtaking view and an even more relaxing getaway.

How to Get There

Apo Island


The most common route to Apo Island is through Dumaguete City. Once in Dumaguete, you can take a multicab from the Bellfry Tower to the Dauin Public Market which is 20-30 minutes away for Php13. From there, you can take a jeep to Malatapay Public Market which is 10-15 minutes away for Php8. You can also go via pedicab for Php15. If you’re looking for a more convenient and less hassle mode of travel, you can head to the Dumaguete Bus Terminal and ride a bus straight to Malatapay Public Market for Php50. The travel time is roughly 45 minutes to an hour. From Malatapay Public Market, there are boats that leave throughout the day that can take you to Apo Island which is 45 minutes away from the mainland.

Since we were already in Zamboanguita, we just rode a car that took us straight to Malatapay Public Market where we met Kuya Ken, our tour guide (you can reach him at 09262234842). From the market, he accompanied us on the boat ride to Apo Island. Because we were a big group of 12, we rented one big boat for Php 3,000 and one small boat for Php 2,000 roundtrip. Make sure to put your belongings in a waterproof bag to avoid them getting soaked during the boat ride.

apo island-turtle-dumagute

The Island Experience

While the spectacular beaches of Apo Island is more than enough reason to pack your bags and go there, it’s the experience of swimming with the giant sea turtles or pawikan that makes it stand out among the rest.

Because we arrived in the Island early in the morning, a little past 8 a.m., we were able to spend a lot of time swimming with these magnificent animals without any other tourists. Seeing them up close was amazing, especially when they would go up the surface to breathe. There really is something incredibly exhilarating with witnessing and interacting with nature’s creatures in their natural habitat. It was definitely an experience that will never be forgotten.

Apo Island

Of course, our trip wouldn’t be as wonderful as it was if not for our guides. They knew exactly where to look for the turtles and readily volunteered to take our pictures for us – and they were good pictures and videos too. They were also very accommodating to our needs. When my aunts got tired of swimming, they provided them with a lifesaver which they tugged across the water to help them.

The turtle viewing area was pretty shallow so you’ll be able to walk through the waters. It’s best though that you wear booties or aqua shoes because of the sharp corals and the rocky seabed. There is also a section of coral gardens in the water. I found them to be very pretty and alive with colors.

Coral Garden Apo Island
Coral Garden

After our swim, Kuya Ken arranged a delectable lunch for us. We were served grilled fish and liempo for a reasonable price of around Php 150 – Php 250 per head.

Apart from the turtles, Apo Island also has other attractions to be explored – the lighthouse and the rock formations. Unfortunately, the adults in my group were already tired after the swim so we decided to return to the mainland by 2 p.m.

While a lot of Apo Island’s visitors go for a day trip, the two hotels in the island, namely Liberty Lodge & Dive Resort and Apo Island Beach Resort make an overnight stay possible. Keep in mind though that the island has electricity brownouts every night and that water is limited.


68 thoughts on “Apo Island and the Turtle Sanctuary Experience

    1. I absolutely agree with you Robin.
      This sounds and LOOKS like an amazing experience. The waters are perfectly clear and one can even stand up straight meaning it could be great for little ones too.

      I am adding more and more to our bucket list. Would be great to know the Prices in Dollars. Thanks for the inspiration Awesome post Karla!

  1. This looks like an amazing place to visit. I can’t believe how crystal clear the water is.

  2. Underwater adventures are the best!!! That seas turtle is so awesome, you lucky fish! I can’t wait to do this. Hahah reminds me of the turtle in finding nemo. I hope he’s in finding Dory

  3. I was just telling my husband today that I’d love to visit the Philippines! This looks like a beautiful island and the turtle sanctuary experience sounds amazing!

  4. This experience looks amazing and seems like something I would love to do. It’s wonderful that everything is done within the turtles’ natural habitat too.

  5. It’s such a beautiful island and it’s untouched so it’s really a wonderful experience for tourists! I love that you can swim with the turtles as well. The water is so clear!

  6. Wow, I wish I can go there someday and have some interaction with the “pawikan”. I would love to bring the whole gang!

  7. Nice adventure! I haven’t seen a pawikan up close, I wish I could go there too and enjoy the view! The rates seem reasonable.

  8. Wow, the water is so crystal clear! I’ve been in places but I’ve never heard of the beauty in here.

  9. That looks like such a beautiful place. I would love to experience that. The turtles are so neat! The coral garden looks so amazing!

  10. Omg! I love turtles! What an amazing experience! I would love to try this one day! Looks like you had a blast!

  11. Who would pass up the opportunity to swim in such a beautiful place, right? This is definitely a great place for tourists and locals alike. I love how clear the water is and the fact that you can swim with turtles as well!

  12. Wow, the water is so magnificent! I love sea creatures and hope that one day I could go in this place!

  13. I love the corals! I’ve been dreaming of getting in a coral garden when I was little and I still hoping to see one!

  14. What an awesome experience, to swim with the sea turtles. We had an opportunity last summer, but we didn’t end up going! Kicking myself now.

  15. The Apo Island Turtle Sanctuary sounds like a great place to visit. I really does look so relaxing and peaceful. Turtles have always been an interest to my sons and I so this would indeed be a treat for all of us. Thanks for sharing your experience.

  16. What a great underwater experience! I’ve never heard about Apo Island and now I’m putting it on my travel destination list.

    1. Looks like a great adventure you have! I want to see sea turtles too and swim with one!

  17. The Apo Island Turtle Sanctuary looks so freaking awesome, I think turtles are so amazing.

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