Apo Reef Natural Park: Underwater Wonder


To start with, Apo Reef Natural Park in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro should not be confused with Apo Island, in Dauin, Negros Oriental which I visited in 2016 Read here

Apo Reef is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and the largest one in the Philippines. The Apo Reef Natural Park consists of the three islands; namely – Apo Island, Apo Menor (Binangaan’; and Cayos del Bajo Tinangkapang).

The largest is Apo Island (22.0) hectares which harbors mangroves and beach vegetations, whereas Binangaan is rocky Iimestone island with relatively few vegetation and Cayos del Bajo (200-300 sq.m.) is a coralline rock formation with no vegetation. It has a shallow lagoon with a depth of 2 meters to 10 meters surrounded by mangrove forest which serves as source of food, nursery and spawning ground of several coastal and marine species of fauna and sanctuary of birds. Its diverse corals are approximately 34 sq. km. of reef where different species of fish, marine mammals and invertebrates thrive. source

In 2006, the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Philippine Department of Environment and Natural Resources submitted the reef to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre for consideration as a World Heritage Site.

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Photo of Apo Reef that I took earlier this year, while on board a flight bound for Manila from Busuanga, Palawan

 

Going to this paradise is not easy. Travel time is long and tedious. Going solo can be expensive, so I joined a tour group to save on expenses. SeamaidsMNL was recommended to me by Jed of biyaherong barat a few years back. But it was only this year that my schedule permitted me to join the group. It was during the long laborday weekend (April 28-May 1, 2017) that the trip pushed through. For three days and two nights, I paid P5,500, to SeamaidsMNL. It included all 5 meals, tents, transportation, and all other fees. All I had to do was sit back and enjoy the trip.

On April 28, the group met at the Dimple Star Bus Station in Cubao, Santolan and left at around 9:00PM. We reached Batangas Port at 12:00 midnight. The bus boarded the RORO vessel at 1:00AM. The RORO departed Batangas Port 2:30AM bound for Abra de Ilog. The RORO docked at around 6:00AM. The bus then disembarked from the RORO at around 7:00AM and then departed for Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. We arrived at Sablayan at around 11:00AM. We then had brunch at the market and the organizers went to buy all the things that we needed for our camping trip at Apo Reef. At around 12:00 noon, we boarded the outrigger boat that will bring us to Apo Reef. It was another 3 hour boat trip.

We finally, arrived at Apo Reef at around 3:00 in the afternoon. That was 16 hours from the time that we left Manila the day before. Whew!

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After we registered at the DENR desk, the group set up camp. Jed of Biyaherong Barat who by coincidence was also with the group, set up all the tents and hammocks around the camping area.

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There are no 5 star hotels here, only tents under a billion stars (ctto)

 

 

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tent city

 

Apo reef does not have electricity, but there are led lights provided around the camp area by the DENR via solar power. There is no mobile signal. There is not internet. Its a total digital detox experience. There is no source of fresh water. But there are decent toilets with running sea water.

Early dinner was then served. Afterwards, I laid my sarong on the beach and planned to take a nap. But that nap became a deep slumber.  Every now I then I would wake up and admire the billion stars and then drift back to sleep. I woke up the next day to the sound of the waves and the cold salty air of the sea. I was energized having slept for 10 hours.

The following days, we snorkeled, freedived and island hopped.

It was unli-snorkeling! The coral system was well preserved and was amazing!

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guided snorkeling
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in order to cover the vastness of Apo Reef, outrigger boats will drag snorkels at a slow pace

 

The coral system was kilometers stretch, vibrant and full of marine life. It was indeed a seawanderer’s paradise. Here are some photos –

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The beach of Apo Reef and its lighthouse were also impressive –

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On the way back, we stopped at two places; one was a hundred meter atoll located in the middle of the sea and Pandan Island where we saw several turtles. Here are the photos –

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Another item off my bucketlist! Thanks to SeamaidsMnl and to all the wonderful people I met during this trip, see you soon.

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UPDATE: Watch the video compilation of this trip here

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