“Sablayan is a municipality in the province of Occidental Mindoro. It is the famous gateway to reach the beautiful natural park of Apo Reef, which is also part of its jurisdiction. The 34-square kilometer Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and the largest in the Philippines.”
The Apo Reef Natural Park lies approximately 33 kilometers off the coast of Sablayan in the province of Occidental Mindoro. The coral reefs cover a total area of 34 square kilometers, making it the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world, next only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
Apo Reef consists of two separate coral reefs that are separated by a 30-meter deep channel with a fine white sand bottom, numerous mounds and patches of branching corals under the deep blue water.
We were sailing smoothly within the waters of Occidental Mindoro when suddenly our boatmen sighted group of dolphins on our way. Our body suddenly stood up in excitement when the pod of dolphins playing tamely in the water. This sighting appears to be normal when going to Apo Reef Natural Park. This only means that this area is very rich in marine biodiversity.
The maximum guests per day that the island accommodates is 100. We were told that there are also cruise ships that makes a stop over in the island. When visiting Apo Reef, there’s a park fee that has to be paid by every guests which costs PHP 270 for Filipinos and PHP 540 for foreigners. This fee is good for 48 hours or less from arrival to departure.
The island also features a lagoon and a lighthouse. To get to the lagoon area, one has to pass through the mangrove forest. There’s a wooden pathway making it easy to reach the lagoon area. The lagoon is dominated by opulent mangrove forests which serve as a food source, nursery and spawning ground for marine animals and birds. Crossing the lagoon through riding a raft is one of the activities to experience in the island.
The original tower of the lighthouse used to be the ever constructed in the country. The current tower is now a modern 110 foot tall white tower with solar powered lights which still stands at the location of the old tower.
Apo Reef is one of the most beautiful tropical diving areas in the world. It was said that diving in this marine protected area guarantees sightings of sharks and other rare sea creatures.
HOW TO GET TO APO REEF:
Dimple Star has direct bus trips from Pasay/Cubao to Sablayan/San Jose and vice versa. Bus fare costs about Php800 per person. Travel time takes about 10 to 12 hours, including RoRo (Roll On, Roll Off Nautical Highway). Please contact the bus company for the updated schedule.
Tours to Apo Reef is being organized by the Sablayan Tourism Office. Contact them prior to your trip.
Angie (Tourism Officer) // +043 458 0028 // +6999 732 7947
WHERE TO STAY:
There are also available accommodations in Sablayan if you wish to stay for a night. We stayed at Emily Hotel. Room rate starts from Php250 per person. The lodge is situated a few steps away from the public market. You may also contact the tourism office to reserve a room at the lodge.
Chino Pantua runs the blog Juanderfulpinoy.com, a community of wanderers who love to share stories about a developing nation, the beautiful island Philippines, that features ideas for people who love to travael, take photographs, and want to live their dream.
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