Apo has become a popular dive and snorkelling site due to the wonderful biodiversity found amongst it’s turquoise blue coastal waters. The volcanic island is home to over 615 documented species of fish and estimated over 400 coral species, an astonishing number considering the entirety of the Philippines hosts 421 species of coral.
From beds of colourful soft corals in the shallows, to huge gorgonian sea fans, barrel sponges and branching Acropora found in the deep, Apo is a centre of marine biodiversity. Protected green and hawksbill turtles can be seen in dozens in the shallows, resting or foraging for food. Currents at the North part of the island offer exceptional clear waters with huge schools of jacks, groupers and fusiliers. Some dive sites allow you to swim through a stream of bubbles coming from the sand (imagine yourself floating in a bottle of bubbly), created by the volcanic activity under the island and if you are lucky, like one in hundreds, you may get the chance to spot a thresher shark in the blue emerging from the deep. Apo Island is a favorite dive site for training for the technical divers of Marine Conservation Philippines, as the excellent visibility, steep walls and deep canyons provide dramatic scenery for the courses.
Visitors help keep the sanctuary clean and in good condition by paying a small fee to enter Apo Island’s waters to snorkel or dive. Whether you are a newly certified open water diver or an experienced divemaster you will surely not be disappointed.
Location: 7km from the Southeast tip of Negros Oriental, 40 minute boat ride from the town of Zamboanguita.
Area: A volcanic island extending approximately 1.5km from North to South and only 0.6km from East to West. With an area of 12 hectares, the highest point rises above sea level to 120m.
Languages: The main language spoken on the island is Visayan. English and Tagalog are also spoken by many residents.
Population: 920 (2020 census)
Marine Sanctuary: Apo is home to one of the world’s most well-known community organized marine sanctuaries, created in collaboration with Silliman University Marine Laboratory.
Climate: Tropical maritime, with a relatively cool season from December to February, when the north-east trade winds prevail. Hot, humid and rainy season from May to November, in which the south-west monsoon prevails. In general the coolest month is January, while the warmest is May.
Known as one of the world’s most famous community-organized marine sanctuaries, Apo Island is home to an immense diversity of marine organisms. The sanctuary was established in 1982 after a marine scientist from Silliman University Marine Laboratory, late Dr Angel Alcala, explained to local residence/fisherfolk the importance of marine sanctuaries and the ways in which the fisherfolk would benefit from the creation of a sanctuary around Apo Island. With assistance from staff at SU Marine Laboratory, the community selected an area along 450m of shoreline, extending 500m from shore as the sanctuary site.
Since the project was initiated on the island, it has inspired the creation of hundreds of other marine sanctuaries throughout the Philippines.
The marine habitat surrounding the island is now protected by the National Integrated Protected Arewa Act (NIPA) and under the jurisdiction of the Protected Area Management Board (PAMB). Marine Conservation Philippines served on the advisory board for the Apo Jetty construction project in 2023.