Swimming with turtles at Apo island

Visiting Apo island, Philippines.

Apo Island is a marine sanctuary that cradles diverse marine animals, colorful corals, and plenty of turtles that swim freely in its waters. We decided to head there for a quick detour after our trip in Oslob before we explore the rest of South Cebu. Apo Island is very small, measuring about 1 kilometer in length. The small island is lined with healthy corals home to plenty underwater animals. However, the tyhoon Yolanda (known as Haiyan to the international community) destroyed 90% of the sanctuary on the south side of the island. That area is now closed to the public for rehabilitation.

Nonetheless, the island has many of other areas where corals and fishes are plentiful. Even the docking area is filled with turtles, which seem to be not so bothered by boats and tourists. The cool and clear water and small areas of white sand beach are perfect for swimming. Apo Island is located south of Negros, North of Siquijor Island and west of the Island of Cebu. The island can be part of your South Cebu or Siquijor Itinerary.

Apo island

How to get to Apo island

From Cebu
  • Cebu to Lilo-an Port – about 5 hours bus ride
  • Lilo-an Port  to Sibulan Port, Negros – 20 minutes by ferry,  P62 pesos/person
  • Sibulan Port to Dumaguete Bus Terminal – either by a small jeepney with other passengers  (20 pesos) or take a tricycle for 100 pesos
  • Dumaguete Bus Terminal to Malatapay, Zambuangueta – either by bus for 50 pesos or a small jeepney for 20 pesos. The ride takes about 30 minutes.
  • Malatapay, Zambuanguita to Apo Island – about 40 minutes by boat. We were lucky enough to join the locals in a boat and only paid 300 pesos each for the ride. Others have to charter a small boat for 2000 pesos for 4 persons. It is advised to wait for other travellers if you are travelling alone so that you can divide the expenses.

Fees to pay

Once you enter the Island, you’ll have to pay an environmental fee of 100 pesos, mask for 100 pesos, and a guide for 100 pesos if you wish to swim in the Turtle sanctuary. However, you can do without a guide since the turtles swim everywhere. Of course, basic rules in interacting with the animals apply, as in no touching, no swimming and kicking so hard.

Where to stay at Apo island

Apo Island can be visited for a few hours on a day trip. However, we spent a night at Liberty Lodge for 2150 pesos/night. The fee already includes free breakfast, lunch, and dinner excluding the drinks. It is located right at the beach on Apo Island. Keep in mind that there is no 24-hour electricity on the island. Power goes off at 9pm to 9am.

Swimming with the turtles

Turtles are everywhere. You can easily spot 2 to 3 turtles at a time. They seem to be used to tourists swimming close to them. But still, it is mandatory to maintain a safe distance and keep your hands off them.

Sunset at the Apo Island resort

Hidden away by cliffs, the Apo Island Resort seemed to be a perfect private area to watch the sunset. The iconic rock on the water is also good for jumping and diving by the more adventurous ones.


Rating (out of 10):

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Text by Jen Yap, photos by Martien Janssen