After a night of partying, my college friends and I had a whirlwind of a plan: we decided to go to Apo Island the very next day. We went home at a quarter past 12:00 and needed to get up really early to go to the island. If that’s not a crazy plan, I don’t know what is.
I was the one to set the alarm, and get up early. I knocked on their doors to wake them up one by one. Good thing we live in the same apartment. After knocking around for an hour, while everyone was still in a groggy mode, I started packing my swim wear, snorkeling gear, sunblock and wallet.
The Bumpy Ride to Apo Island
If you’re from Dumaguete City, you need to take a bus or a jeep going to Malatapay Market. It’s around 30 minutes from the city; you just have to tell the driver or conductor that you want to be dropped off at Malatapay. If you’re don’t want to go to Apo Island, you can still visit the market during Wednesdays because they sell all kinds of delicious Filipino food especially the world famous roasted pig called “lechon”.
From the bus drop-off point, you have to walk around 5-8 minutes before reaching the market and the mini seaport where all the pumpboats are docked. After signing the waiver and paying PHP 3,500 (USD 87.5) for the roundtrip ride, eight sleepyheads went aboard the big pumpboat. Expected duration of travel is 45-60 minutes.
Big waves made our white vessel bob up and down the deep blue sea; I didn’t know the ride would be this bumpy. If I had known, I wouldn’t have volunteered for the trip. After 50-minutes of excruciating sea travel, the now wide-awake gang became giddy with excitement. I made arrangements with the pumpboat captain to wait for us ‘til 3 in the afternoon.
Fees before Snorkeling
You need to pay an environmental fee before you go swimming, and since we were locals and students at that time, we paid PHP 10 (or was it 15, I can’t really remember) each. A local guide, who also served as our snorkelling guide, led the way to Apo Island’s Marine Sanctuary. We paid PHP 100 (USD 2.5) for each of our bright orange life-vest, and PHP 150 (USD 3.75) for our guide, we chose to have him because not all of us are swimmers and the strong currents might take us away without someone to lead us.
We got into groups of five so it would be easier for our guide to keep count of his disciples. I was one of the first to go snorkelling. In all honesty, I was really troubled because a lot of people had already mentioned that Apo Island is said to be shark-infested due to its teeming marine life; and being the selacophobic that I am, my anxiety level was quite high. My beloved friends already knew about my unique condition so they made sure I was always in the middle; even our humble guide made sure that I was always near him so that he could easily guard me, if ever something unexpected came our way. And to be honest, I was really touched with all the effort in making me feel comfortable as much as possible.
But when I first dipped my head in the deep waters, all my anxiety evaporated into dust; I was dumbfounded, I even forgot about my worries about seeing a shark, all because of the beauty I saw underwater. I’m not really knowledgeable about the names of marine fauna and flora, but with the little knowledge that I have, it’s already enough to say that Apo Island is indeed a water paradise!
Colorful corals tower up to give shelter to variety of fishes. There seems to be a busy metropolis of sea creatures down there. It’s just too bad I didn’t save for an underwater camera to bring on this trip. My SD card would have been fully loaded with pictures of eels, star fish, big stone fish, and colourful familiar fish with names I can’t even remember. There’s always a lot to see and I could spend hours just swimming and observing the marine animals doing their daily routine. It already felt like eternity but when I did a time check it was only 12 noon.
So much to write but not enough space so I guess I have to cut this post into half. TO BE CONTINUED :)