Saturdate with the sea turtles at APO Island, Philippines

Swimming with Sea Turtles in Apo Island

Dumaguete City is quite popular as the perfect place to chill out and unwind from the stressful metropolis traffic. But apart from the laidback vibes of the city, it also opens doors for adventure seekers like scuba divers where they can explore the rich marine life in Apo Island. But, the waters of Apo Island is not only restricted for professional divers and underwater daredevils; Swimming with sea turtles or pawikan is also possible even for the frustrated swimmers like me.

Sea Turtles are adorable creatures. So for Dimitar’s second week in the Philippines, we decided to visit these harmless marine lives in Apo Island. To be honest, this itinerary is a bit expensive if you are going to travel solo. If you are on a budget, it might be a good idea if you join other groups so you can share other expenses like the “bangka” rental. (This can really consume a big part of your budget if you’re on your own) Luckily, some of my friends joined us on this trip so we can split the rental fee among ourselves.

It was raining quite often days before that and since it was the highlight of our Dumaguete trip, we were happy that the weather was cooperative when we went to Apo Island. Our day started early so we arrived at Apo Island before lunchtime. We also didn’t spend much time in the island. After lunch, we already headed back to the jump-off point.

Bangka ride to Apo Island

Meeting Adventures in Apo Island: Expectation

I was expecting that the turtle sanctuary is in the middle of the island; where we still had to walk from the shore to find a hidden body of water with rich marine life. I was also expecting to see many different fishes and to have a close encounter with the sea turtles.

Meeting Adventures in Apo Island: Reality

Of course, the sanctuary should be in an open sea! IDK what has gotten into me that I thought of an enclosed space. HAHA! Anyway, I was not amazed of the place that much. I think it’s because I was expecting it to be a lot more magical than it looked(?) I also didn’t see a lot of marine life aside from the big fat sea turtle and a few fishes nearby. Maybe our timing wasn’t right. But looking at the bright side, I did have a close encounter with the sea turtle to the point where I can almost touch it with my feet. Yikes!

One thing that I also didn’t like was a group of four persons had to share a small floater!! Seriously? I was sharing the floater with three big men and I was not sure if it can even carry all of our weight. Among the three of us, I was the most worried because I don’t know how to swim.

After swimming, the guides offered to take us to the lighthouse but we asked them to take us to the “big rocks” instead.

rock formations in Apo Island

What was the best part of the adventure?

On our way to Apo Island, we were greeted by a group of dolphins! We were all amazed. It was my first time to see a dolphin and it was Dimitar’s first time to see a dolphin out in the wild. Swimming with the sea turtles in Apo Island was also fun although it would have been really amazing if we saw a lot more. The water was also clear and enchanting. Lekker!

How much does it cost?

Here’s a breakdown of our expenses in our Apo Island adventure.

₱50.00 (aircon bus) – Bus from Dumaguete City bus terminal to Malatapay Market

₱500 per pax (7 persons) – Boat rental (10-person capacity bangka)

₱100.00 – Snorkel gear

₱75.00 – Guide (₱300 per 4 person)

₱100.00 – Apo Island entrance fee

₱75.00 – Tricycle from Malatapay to Dumaguete City.

₱900.00 TOTAL

For our food, we brought meals from Jollibee before we headed to Apo Island. We also didn’t rent tables and chairs so we only stayed in the bangka.

Swimming with the sea turtles

Is it worth it?

I have said in the beginning that this is an expensive activity. It felt like every move you make in the island has a corresponding price. In my experience, spending ₱900.00 for a two-hours activity was very painful. We were also not able to see the most out of it. No clownfish. No other fishies. However, I think your Dumaguete trip will not be complete if you will not try swimming with the sea turtles. Although it is expensive, there are also other ways so that you won’t have to spend that much. To give you some idea how to cut some expenses, here are some things that we did (and we wish we did):

  1. Travel in a group. Travelling in a group can split the expenses like boat rental, tables and chairs rental and guide fee. Plus, the more the merrier, right?
  2. Bring snorkel gears. A hundred peso is already a big amount so why not save one by bringing your own snorkel gears? It is also sanitary since you don’t know how those rental gears were cleaned afterward.. or were they even cleaned? Yikes! We haven’t tried this option but I wish we did. 
  3. Skip the tables and chairs. Not sure with other guides but ours allowed us to stay in the bangka. So why not try to negotiate with these friendly guides?

When is the perfect time to go?

We were already on our way to the island around 10:30AM and we were lucky that we saw the dolphins on our way there. I think starting the adventure early is ideal where you can maximize your time in the island. Anyway, if you don’t intend to spend the rest of the day in Apo Island, you can always go back anytime you like. I’m just not sure why it was difficult to find the sea turtles and there were no fishes during our visit.

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I am a 20-something Software Engineer who loves to travel, explore places, experience different culture and chase dreams. Apart from my 6 to 9 job, I dance ballet as a hobby. Born, raised and currently living in the beautiful Philippines but will soon travel the world.. one baby step at a time.


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