Negros Oriental Part 3: Swimming with the Turtles of Apo Island

It has been a dream for me to swim with a turtle or a pawikan.  I have on occasions seen a pawikan from afar. That’s why I highly anticipated going to the turtle sanctuary of Apo Island in Dauin, Negros Occidental.

On my third day, I woke up early and ate the free breakfast at Harold’s. I then went to the dive shop besides the hostel before 7:00am. Once there, I paid P1,000 for the tour. The amount included unlimited bread, coco jam, instant coffee, bananas, and pansit for lunch. It also included the snorkelling gear, mask, flippers and life vest, plus the transportation. Indeed it is quite a steal for P1,000. The tour was advertised to start from 8:00am up to 4pm.

Together with some of my dorm mates, we boarded the jeep type vehicle and proceeded to go to the port where the boat going to Apo Island was waiting. The weather that morning was a bit gloomy. Here is a photo of the boat and the dark sky over the horizon.

The boat


We then boarded the boat BUT after several minutes, we were told that the boat was having engine trouble AND that another boat would be coming to fetch us. But that did not happen. Eventually, the tour for that day was cancelled, subject to refund of the money that we paid. Can you just imagine our faces at that time?!

I was already thinking of what to do for the entire day, I cannot just stay at the hostel doing nothing! And then some of my dorm mates decided to proceed with going to Apo Island by DIY. I asked if I can join, and they were all kind enough to say yes! Nothing can stop me from seeing those turtles!

Our group then proceeded to Malatapay Port, which is the jumped off point in going to Apo Island. A boat for 10pax amounted to P3,000. A couple from Sweden asked us if they can join, we agreed. In the end, we got a boat good for 15pax for P3,500 and we paid P440 each. The boat would wait for us in Apo Island and then bring us back to Malatapay.

Here’s a photo of Malatapay:


The boat ride lasted for about 40 minutes and the weather eventually improved.

From left to right: Enrique from Chile, Felix from Germany, AC from Canada and Metti from Sweden and Apo Island as background


Upon arriving at Apo Island, a local tour guide approached us and we decided to get his services. The standard rate is P300 for the entire group. Rental for the snorkelling gear, masks, fins and vest amounted to P100 each, plus P300 for the table/cabana that we would need to put our bags and other stuff. We just totalled the whole amount and divided it among ourselves, I think we paid P400 each.

We were brought to this place:


Turtle Sanctuary

From the beach, we could already see the turles’ head when they come up to breath! And only a few meters from the beach, we could already see four or five turtles at one time!

And finally, my dream encounter with a turtle comes true! An item off my bucket list!

The turtles were huge, timid, gentle and glides through the water effortlessly. They may seem slow but they swim so fast!

This turtle did not mind me when it went up to breath! It’s almost as big as me
This one was eating sea grass


This was during the second dive. The waves became super rough, making the waters “cloudy”

I found Nemo!

After two more dives, the sea became rough and by 3:00pm we decided to leave the island. My dorm mates were also in a hurry since they had to catch the last boat in Dumaguete at 6:00pm going to Siquijor Island.

Another unexpected thing happened while we were on our back, the sea was super rough, and water was splashing on our faces and then Enrique suddenly shouted “DOLPHINS!!!!”, for 30 seconds we saw a pod of dolphins jumping and spinning! We were all shouting at this surprise that nature offered us! Too bad we were not able to take photos.

Upon arriving at the hostel, AC and her group had to bid goodbye.

But later that night a group of three Dutch lads joined me in the dorm and occupied the bunk beds vacated by Felix and Enrique. We talked about Apo Island, and I told them that I just went there. They booked a tour with Harold’s, and I decided to join them, since I heard that the hostel tour would go to three snorkelling sites. I thought more turtles! Hopefully it would not be cancelled this time.

Luckily, the next day it was not cancelled. The boat was big and the food was okay. But I was only able to see three turtles, and the sites were already deep. The DIY trip the other day was better.

Me, Boudew, Timme, and Joost getting ready to see the turtles


But still, I made a close encounter with the turtles. They will never cease to amaze me!

Look but don’t touch
As if flying underwater


We were then back at the hostel at around 5:00pm. We needed to rest since I will be going to Siquijor the next morning, while the Dutch guys will have to catch an early bus going to Bacolod.



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