The 3 Treasures of Apo Reef Natural Park
The Chosen Juan gets mesmerized by the wonders of this island.
By Dave Agbayani
March 22, 2016
“Treasure Island”—now that would be the perfect nickname for Apo Reef Natural Park. After the long but enjoyable boat ride (you will see a couple of dolphins and dozens of flying fish along the way), the destination is worth the straining journey as the island holds numerous hidden gems that the explorer in you would love to seek out. The dazzling scenery from the top of the lighthouse is an overview of what you have yet to experience, like a gigantic map that marks the location of these so-called treasures. Here are three wonderful discoveries that you’ll see only on this island.
1. Mangrove Forest
One of the treasures of this island is certainly the mangrove forest. It has quite a number of fascinating features: from the top of the lighthouse, you will notice that a portion of this vastly stretching forest seems to blend with huge rock formations. As you walk along a makeshift bridge in the middle of the forest, you will be surrounded by the enchanting mangrove roots that intertwine with each other. At the end of the bridge is a calm lagoon—with a tour guide, you can go rafting, watch the small swordfish and sharks swimming around, or simply relax by the dock and soak up the serenity of the place.
2. Virgin Beach
Unlike any other beach in the Philippines, the shore in the nature park hasn’t been recommended by travelers, possibly because of the time-consuming boat ride to get there—which only makes it feel like you have the sand and water all to yourself! You can sit by the shore, bask in the sunlight, feel the cool touch of the clear seawater on your feet, and delight in the view of the seamless fusion of sea and sky that look like you’re at the edge of the earth. There are no crowds, jet skis, or vendors along the shore—nothing but peace and quiet at its finest.
3. Snorkeling Sites
Beyond the shore are clumps of coral reef formations and several schools of colorful fish as well. But that’s just a small part of the real thing—Apo Reef is the second-largest coral reef system in the whole world and the largest in the country. After a short boat ride from the island, you can snorkel in the water and feast your eyes on numerous pink, yellow, and blue corals, and the variety of color combinations made by the different species of fish. Experience the thrill of being in the same water as a shark and the joy of seeing an old pawikan (sea turtle) swim past you.
As you seek out the wonders in Apo Reef Natural Park, keep in mind that the island itself is a treasure that’s meant to be preserved. Feel free to take as many pictures as you want and leave footprints on the ground as you please—just don’t collect those precious sand in a jar, litter when nobody’s looking, or carve out your significant other’s name on a mangrove bark (we hope you break up if you do). The Apo Reef Natural Park is indeed precious but your cooperation is undoubtedly priceless.
HOW TO GET THERE AND THINGS TO CONSIDER
Apo Reef Natural Park is located two hours away from the mainland of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro. There are RORO vessels that travel from Batangas City to Abra de Ilog, Occidental Mindoro, with the journey taking about two and a half hours. Outside the port, vans and buses going to Sablayan are already available—travel time should take another two hours.
Upon reaching Sablayan, visitors are required to register at the Municipal Tourism Office of Sablayan. Look for Ms. Sylvia Saldago, the town’s local tourism officer. They can arrange a boat ride exclusively for you or with other visitors. Each chartered boat trip costs around P9,000 to P15,000 depending on the number of passengers and the purpose of your visit (snorkeling or diving).
Expect to pay the environmental Fees (P300/head) and tour guides (P1,000) for groups of 5 when visiting Apo Reef. You can settle this at the local tourism office or via the local tour operators.