Apo Reef. Reef in Philippines, Asia

Apo Reef

Reef in Philippines, Asia

Apo Reef Photo © Ola Welin

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Apo Reef

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Simply one of the best diving spots in the Philippines is the Apo Reef within the waters of Occidental Mindoro (Wikipedia Article). The natural wonder has an area of 34 square kilometers and is recognized as the second-largest connecting coral reef system in the world, next to the Great Barrier Reef. In 1996, the Apo Reef and its surrounding area was considered a national park due to its high biodiversity of marine creatures and corals. The magnificent reef sanctuary is also included in the tentative list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites.


The Apo Reef contains a plethora of live corals, different species of fish, and other marine creatures such as Manta Rays, Grey Reef Sharks, and Hammerhead Sharks. Many divers have considered Apo Reef as one of the most beautiful diving areas in the world as it is well-protected and guarantees sightings of rare species endemic to the country.

There are several dive spots found within the Apo Reef Natural Park. On the east side of the Apo Reef is Shark Ridge, known for its abundant population of sharks and Manta Rays. Further west, past Apo Island, is Hunters Rock where divers can find Sea Snakes or Banded Sea Kraits. Right next to Hunters Rock is Merope Rock, which is a submerged rock inhabited by schools of big fish. Only experienced divers are allowed at Merope and Hunters Rock due to its lack of protection from strong currents.

Aside from the breathtaking underwater sights, Apo Island also has its own lagoon and lighthouse. The lagoon is surrounded by a thick mangrove forest and is accessible through a wooden walkway trail. Tourists can get across the lagoon and see the vast habitat of different marine animals and birds by riding a raft. The historic lighthouse located near the beach is considered to be tallest lighthouse ever built in the Philippines. The original tower stands at 34 meter and features an amazing panoramic view of the whole island and the waters surrounding it.


After a day of swimming, diving, and sightseeing, tourists can spend the night at the Apo Reef National Park by pitching tents (which they can rent for ₱150 ($3.30) and ₱300 ($6.60)). For those who want to stay in Sablayan (Wikipedia Article), there are hotels and resorts available such as the Emely Hotel & Restaurant, Landmanz Hotel, and the D.J. Beach Resort.

They can also choose a more luxurious option, the Pandan Island Beach Resort in Pandan Island (a short boat ride from Sablayan) which features high-end guest rooms and modern amenities.

Getting There

Apo Reef is easily accessible through several methods of transportation and from different jump-off points including Puerto Galera (125 kilometers east of Apo Reef), Pandan Island (just 20 kilometers away), and the most frequented by tourists and divers is the town of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.

Manila to Sablayan

Tourists who want to travel by air can take a plane ride from Manila to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Travel time is around 45 minutes. When you arrive at the airport, take a tricycle ride to the local bus station. Buses bound for Sablayan are available, usually it will take 3 hours to get there. If you are traveling with a group, it is also recommended to hire a van to Sablayan instead of taking the bus.

Tourists who want to try an alternate route can head to Cubao Bus Station in Manila. Several buses going to San Jose are available any day of the week. The travel time is approximately 10 to 12 hours and the fare is around ₱800 ($18), inclusive of RORO (Wikipedia Article)/ferry fees. Once you reach San Jose, take a bus ride to the town of Sablayan. There are also air-conditioned Dimple Star Buses in Sampaloc, Manila, and Alabang (Wikipedia Article) bound for San Jose.

Upon reaching Sablayan, visitors will have to hire a boat going to Apo Reef. The Sablayan Tourism Office handles all trips to the attraction and assists the tourists in everything they require. The boat rental is about ₱7,500 ($165).

Apo Reef Fees

When visiting the Apo Reef National Park, tourists are required to pay fees in order to properly maintain the attraction. The entrance fee for Filipino tourists is ₱250 ($5.50), while the fee for foreigners is ₱450 ($9.90). For divers, the diving fee for Filipinos is ₱1,350 ($30), while the fee for foreigners is ₱1,750 ($39). The tour guide rate is around ₱750 ($17), and the Dive Master fee is ₱500 ($11) per dive.

Travel Tips

  • Although there are multiple jump-off points to Apo Reef, the most convenient and practical way to get there is from the town of Sablayan. It is also highly recommended that you coordinate with the local tourism office before you visit the Apo Reef to avoid any hassles and inconveniences.
  • Since the boat rental is quite expensive, it is highly suggested to travel there by groups. If you are visiting alone, the tourism office can include you with other groups in order to get a cheaper rate.

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Author: radiantan. Last updated: Nov 08, 2014

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Apo Reef
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