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What to Expect On An Apo Island Liveaboard
Liveaboards to Apo Island (not to be confused with Apo Reef) visit this small island off of Negros' south coast which hosts the most famous and successful community-based marine protected area in the Philippines. It was the second MPA established in the country, and it was created through extensive coordination and education campaigns with the local residents. This strategy is undoubtedly the key factor in Apo's success as a tourist attraction, and as a place where fishermen still have fish to catch. Apo's pristine corals, fish, and turtles are the true hub of Visayas diving for everyone- students, researchers, local divers, and foreign visitors.
What You Can See
At Apo Island, landscapes of 100 percent healthy hard coral cover are a big draw. Though the marine sanctuary's corals were damaged by a typhoon and are currently closed to diving for rehabilitation, plenty of other Apo dive sites showcase the hundreds of hard coral species that make the island so breathtaking. Whatever slope or plateau your liveaboard cruise takes you diving to at Apo, expect to see an impressive degree of live branching, foliose, table, and massive corals and plenty of colorful reef fishes.
Special Apo Island attractions include a couple dive sites with streams of bubbles bursting from the black sand substrate, due to volcanic activity under the island. Largahan is one such site, and it also hosts great macro activity, with nudibranchs, frogfish, and other photographer-favorites amongst its coral bommies. Baluarte and its wall of gorgeous soft corals is sometimes decorated by huge clouds of sparkling bubbles, and is also home to plenty of reef critters.
In terms of marine life, an Apo Island liveaboard will deliver high-quality sightings along with fantastic walls and ridges. These sites are often exposed to strong currents, so they're best suited for experienced divers. At Cogon Point, schools of batfish and bannerfish are common. At Mamsa Point, as the name implies (mamsa is the local name for trevallies), divers can see huge schools of jacks, and sometimes even the tuna that prey on them! The currents at Mamsa can actually be so strong at points that diving is prohibited. Rock Point East is an underwater ridge on the southeast of Apo Island blessed with beautiful coral topography; the open-sea currents rinsing this site nourish bountiful reef and pelagic fish activity. Apo Island's Coconut Point is sometimes referred to as the Washing Machine for its strong currents, but divers who brave the flow are rewarded with schools of jacks and reef fish. There is luckily a small sandy shelter between two ridges where divers can hide from the current and watch the show.
The above-mentioned sites are the best places to see reef sharks, turtles, and barracuda on Apo Island, as well as the occasional manta ray and whale shark! Turtles are particularly plentiful all around Apo- even snorkelers are virtually assured of at least a good handful. The diversity of dive sites at Apo Island, from plateaus, to slopes, to walls, to everything in between, is what makes Apo a microcosm of Coral Triangle diving; plenty of different habitats results in a boundless variety of underwater animals.
Getting To Apo Island
Liveaboards to Apo Island usually visit for at least one day on itineraries of 6, 7 or 10 nights, with budgets ranging from around 280 to 450 euros per night. These liveaboards are the best way to visit Apo and other premier Visayan dive locations in Cebu, Bohol, and Siquijor; by avoiding the hassle of land and ferry travel, you maximize your dive time and save your energy for your underwater adventures.
A common port of departure for Philippines liveaboards in Apo Island is Dumaguete on Negros itself. A flight of about one to two hours can get you there from Manila or Cebu City. However, liveaboards that dive in Negros may also depart from Cebu City and Malapascua. Getting to Cebu City is easy with a 1.5 hour flight from Manila or direct flights from select Southeast Asian countries nearby. Malapascua, on the other hand, has no airport, but it can be reached by taxi, van, or bus (and small boat). From Cebu City, getting to Malapascua requires a five hour bus journey; taxis take about half that time. Moalboal in Cebu is the fourth potential departure port for Apo Island liveaboards. It is best reached by bus from Cebu City, or by bus and short ferry from Dumaguete.
Apo Island is a year-round diving destination. Winds correspond to the northeast monsoon or the southwest monsoon, and they can certainly whip up the waves; however, dive operators know which sites to visit during which season and can always find the appropriately sheltered area. The weather is hottest and the seas are generally calmest in May and June. The water temperature averages 26 to 30 C.