Scuba diving guide Apo island: Best diving centers, liveaboards, dive sites and recommendations

A turtle swimming around Apo Island, the Philippines

Apo Island is a 12-hectare oceanic island enclosed by prepossessing coral reefs. The term “Apo”, which means “respected ancestor”,literally embodies the respect of the locals to this island. Declared as a protected marine reserve, the 650 species of fish and 400 species of corals around the island created a sustainable balance between ecotourism and marine life conservation.

The beauty of Apo Island is a testament to the protection the government and Filipinos are giving to the country's natural resources. Distinguished as a top diving site, and inspiration to global reef exhibits, Apo Island has cemented its stature as a prominent marine sanctuary bursting with abundant diverse aquatic life and underwater grandiose in a remote, rustic island.

Not to be confused with the UNESCO World Heritage Site Apo Reef, the second-largest coral reef system in the world and the biggest in the Philippines; Apo Island is another marine sanctuary located at the southern end of Negros Island in the Visayan Region.

Recommendations - Diving at Apo Island

Apo Island is best known for its lush coral gardens, massive schools of barracudas and jacks, and a wide variety of sea critters. If you want to discover Apo Island at its best, a 2-3 day tour is recommended. To avoid the monsoon that often visits the area, you should visit the different Apo Island dive spots between October and May, which is the main diving season.

Liveaboards Apo Island

There are plenty of liveaboards available to visit Apo Island like the Philippine Siren, SeaDoors, and the top-rated Atlantis Azores. It’s highly recommended that you join one of the liveaboards to fully appreciate the beauty of this amazing dive site.

Diving center Apo Island

If you are going for a one-day diving tour, however, we recommend going with Bongo Bongo Divers. It’s a local 5-star PADI Dive Resort with one of the highest ratings and the most popular dive center among local and international divers.

Compare the
operators

Price for a dive
Price for a day trip
Price for a multiple day trip
Maximum number of guests
Scuba diving gear included
Nitrox available
Diving organization
Scuba diving beginners course
Price for the scuba diving beginners course
Advanced scuba diving courses available
Professional scuba diving courses available
Catering
Wifi available
Other facilities
Availability and prices
The latest reviews

Apo Island Beach Resort

PHP 1,400 (boat dive)
N.A.
N.A.
PADI
PHP 21,000
N.A.
Accommodation on Apo Island, indoor/outdoor classroom

Liquid Dumaquete

PHP 1,700
PHP 5,650 (3 dives)
N.A.
PADI
PHP 18,450
N.A.
Rental of gear, accommodation, training pool, air conditioned classroom, IDC

Dumaguete Divers

PHP 1,650
PHP 3,950 for 2 dives, PHP 4,950 (3 dives)
N.A.
SSI
PHP 18,000
Lunch on daytrips
-

Bongo Bongo Divers

PHP 1,450
PHP 4,500 (3 dives)
N.A.
PADI
PHP 17,500
Snacks, lunch, water, coffee & tea on daytrips
Accommodation available

The best diving centers near Apo Island

As a world-renowned dive site, Apo Island Diving is constantly flooded with divers of all levels. Diving centers around the famous island as well continue to enhance the quality of services and diving experiences to large numbers of tourists worldwide. Some of the dive centers that offer the best quality of dives at an affordable rate are the following.

Diving Center 1: Bongo Bongo Divers

Bongo Bongo Divers is a PADI 5 star dive resort, established in 2014, and is owned by locals. They are one of the best diving centers near Apo Reef National Park and offers diving package for the best price. Setting high standards yet competitive dive prices, Bongo Bongo is suited for both beginning and pro divers who want to experience the best value for what they paid.

With safety & fun as their utmost priority, your Apo Island Diving experience won’t get any better as Bongo Bongo Divers’ best and most patient professional instructors share the philosophy of  “taking your time, and never rushing” your dive.  At a rate of PHP 4,500 for 3 Boat Dives of a minimum of 5 persons, inclusive of dive equipment, tanks, sanctuary fees, snacks, lunch, water, and coffee & tea, your remarkable dive at Apo Island is surely guaranteed

Diving center 2: Liquid Dumaguete Beach and Dive Resort

Liquid Dumaguete Beach and Dive Resort is a small boutique resort that is owned by divers that offer dive packages to tourists who are interested in diving. At Liquid Dive, the divers are very passionate not only to tour you on the underwater realm but also to teach you how to protect and conserve the richness of the Coral Triangle at the same time.

Rated as a PADI 5* CDC - the highest award given to PADI dive centers around the world- Liquid Dive has excellent full-time diving instructors and certified PADI Divemasters with many years of safe diving experience. With their new dedicated dive boat called Sun Dancer and their custom-built Dive Jeep that is specially designed for divers, your Apo Island dive experience is ensured of safety, comfort, and wonderful memories.

A boat dive inclusive of equipment rental, tank, weights and a dive guide has a standard rate of PHP 1,200 per diver.

Diving Center 3: Dumaguete Divers

Dumaguete Divers boasts that “diving is what they do best”. This is why they offer personalized services that specialize in small groups and fun-filled adventure dive packages around the rich waters of Apo Island that features the best underwater scenery you will ever witness in your life.

With their certified SSI and PADI instructors and divemasters, your Apo Island dive with Dumaguete Divers is guaranteed to be of the highest level of care, service, attention, experience, and commitment to creating the most enjoyable, the most exciting, and the most rewarding one dive experience.  

Two dive trips at Apo Island dive with the Dumaguete Divers costs PHP 3,950 while a 3 dive trip costs PHP 4,950 inclusive of equipment, transfers, lunch, and park fees.

Diving center 4: Apo Island Beach Resort Dive Center

Apo Island Beach Resort, aside from providing accommodation, is also a fully operational dive shop that offers dive packages to tourists who are interested in diving. Apo Island Beach Resort Dive Center has excellent full-time diving instructors and divemasters with over 15 years of diving experience. With their new dedicated dive boat called Apo Adventurer, and brand new Scubapro rental equipment, your Apo Island dive experience will be great. A boat dive inclusive of equipment rental, tank, weights, dive guide, has a standard rate of PHP 1,400 per diver.

Liveaboards to Apo Island

Below, we have listed the best liveaboards to explore the Visayan waters, including Apo Island.

Liveaboard 1: the Philippine Siren

S/Y Philippine Siren is a luxurious 40-meter liveaboard specially designed for divers by divers themselves.  When aboard Philippine Siren, diving enthusiasts will experience thrilling driving experience in almost all popular dive sites while enjoying a lavish accommodation that provides superior ease and comfort to their guests. With a crew of 12, a maximum of 16 guest divers is ensured with on-hand assistance for their greatest satisfaction. Featuring 8 fully equipped large cabins and lounges, this state of the art yet intimate liveaboard offers a year-round dive trip to Apo Island and other diving destinations. 

Price: The price for a liveaboard trip withthe Philippine Siren starts from PHP 15,429 PHP (USD 317) per day.

Liveaboard 2: MV Atlantis Azores

MV Atlantis Azores is considered a premier liveaboard in the Philippines. This private yacht offers Bohol and Malapascua dive cruises from June to December. Atlantis Azores with its 10 highly attentive crews proves to be the safest and most stable liveaboard in the Philippines that offers spectacular diving experiences to a maximum of 16 divers. Complete with dive amenities and luxury living, Atlantis Azores is a standard in liveaboard diving not only in the Philippines but in entire Asia. 

Price: The price for a liveaboard trip with the Atlantis Azores starts from PHP 16,972 PHP (USD 348) per day

Liveaboard 3: Seadoors

Seadoors is a Philippine luxury diving liveaboard yacht made of steel that provides comfort for a maximum of 16 divers in 8 cabins. Equipped with nitrox diving and rebreather diving essentials, this yacht can cruise the waters for you to reach the best scuba diving adventures in the Philippines. Seadoors guarantees the best diving liveaboard in the Apo Island dive site and any other Visayan Island in the Philippines.

Price: The price for a liveaboard trip with the Seadoors starts from PHP 14,401 PHP (USD 295) per day.

Best dive sites at Apo Island

Apo Island has a dozen dive sites to plunge on. These dive sites have their unique surprise to divers at all categories. To help you make up your mind which dive site suits your preference, we outlined below the famous dive sites for you.

Dive site 1: Baluarte

Baluarte is a stunning 10 to 20-meter dive spot that is constantly shrouded by streaming bubbles due to the volcanic activity underneath the island. Its name came from a big rock located northeast of Apo Island.

However, the site is a small wall carpeted with majestic soft corals, that gently narrow down into a slope of black sand with scattered coral bommies. The gentle current in this site makes it a perfect habitat for a variety of aquatic life with the likes of garden eels and sea snakes.

Dive site 2: Largahan

Largahan can be found northwest of Apo Island. It is a cliff that has a depth of 10-20 meters with a moderate current. The most interesting part of this dive site is the geothermal activity that forms a steady upward stream of bubbles erupting from the black sand that splits up the corals.

The cliff dive is an easy descent readily offering a glance at soft and hard corals like tube anemones and black corals. Perfect for macro lovers, divers should keep an eye for bump heads, parrot fish, flatworms, frog fish, nudibranchs, ribbon eels, scorpion fish, and turtles hiding amidst the coral bommies.

Dive site 3: Katipunan

Katipunan is an easy two-way dive site for all divers due to its gentle to moderate current at 5-20 meters depth. It is named after as mall cowry shell thriving among the soft corals in this site. As shallow as 10 meters, the finest soft coral gardens in the area will instantly catch your attention.

This makes it also the best snorkeling area on the island. The bottom part of the site is composed of a sandy reef covered with hard corals. During your dive, expect to see either a cuttlefish, nudibranchs,sea snakes and turtles harmoniously cruising through the corals and over the sand.

Dive site 4: Coconut Point

Coconut Point is popularly known by divers as “the washing machine” is a 5-35 meter deep sloping reef dive spot that provides excitement to experienced divers. Due to the site's strong currents, divers may experience a push coming from all sides as well as upwards or deep down. The inclining reef creates two sloping rock cliffs with a sandy mid-channel where a diver can rest, stay and look out for passing pelagics like reef sharks, manta rays, and even whale sharks. Common sights in the area are turtles, anthias,barracuda, jack fish, schools of trevallies, snappers, sweet lips, bump heads, parrot fish, and napoleon wrasse.

 As the current can be strong and challenging, we recommend that you have at least an advanced diving certificate and a reasonable number of logged dives.

Dive site 5: Cogon

Cogon dive site got its name after a blady grass that grows just in front of the area. This dive site suits experienced divers only due to its intense currents that generate a wild but interesting drift at 10 - 35 meters deep. The dive site kicks off with gently sloped sand covered with mixed soft corals and sponges. Gradually, the slope becomes steeper and becomes a more distinct wall. The strong current sweeps along with abundant marine life such as banner fish, batfish, box fish, napoleon wrasse, clown trigger fish, cuttlefish, bump head, parrot fish, schools of pelagic fish, snappers, trevallies, mantis shrimp, and even blue spotted stingray.

Dive site 6: Kan-Uran

Kan Uran is a 5-30 meter deep wall dive that has a steep slope with abundant crevices and overhangs carpeted with beautiful soft and hard corals. Suitable for all divers, this site offers an encounter with gobies, moray eels, nudibranchs, pipe fish, radial file fish, razor fish, scorpion fish, and other macro stuff.

Dive site 7: Mamsa Point

Mamsa Point got its name after the local term for jack fish which is bountiful in the area.  The dive site starts with a shallow slope of sand decorated with beautiful coral bommies that end at a small wall characterized by a dark sandy bottom from which bubbles escape due to underwater volcanic activity. Aside from the large schools of jack fish forming circles in the strong currents to protect themselves from tunas that prey upon them, flatworms, frog fish, nudibranchs, scorpionfish, and ribbon eels are also reasons you must dive here. With a moderate to the strong current in the area, this site only permits experienced divers.

Dive site 8: Chapel

The Chapel is a cliff-slope dive in the main docking area near the sole chapel in Apo Island. With a depth of 5 - 25 meters,  this area offers the best coral garden reef dive. This wall loaded with crevices and overhangs is decorated with beautiful soft and hard corals, fans, sponges, and anemones. A small cavern at 18 - 20 meters provides shelter for smaller fishes. Marine life on this site includes leaf fish, nudibranch, frog fish, ribbon eels, turtles, blue fin trevally, and banded sea snakes.

Dive site 9: Marine Sanctuary

Located south-east on the shore of Apo Island, the Marine Sanctuary dive site drops down from 5-25 meters. It is the earliest small-scale marine sanctuary in the Philippines. In the last 30 years, fishing has been prohibited in this site and open only for up to 15 experienced divers due to its strong water current. This resulted in a wide prismatic range of coral types and a city of clown fish swimming around freely over coral blocks that are covered with anemones. For this reason, this dive site has never failed even the most experienced diver to be amazed.

Dive site 10: Rock Point East

At 5-35 meters depth, Rock Point East is a finger-shaped reef that starts with steep wall dive and ends with a plateau. Exposed to strong sea currents, this site is an amazing place to keep an eye on stunning corals, schools of jacks, sea turtles, reef sharks, and occasionally seen manta rays.

Dive site 11: Rock Point West

Rock Point West is found on the southern end of the island. The site slopes down at a depth of 7 - to 30 meters. The most interesting depth is at 18 meters where hard beautiful coral formations are abundant. The deeper part of the site provides larger and harder corals as well as sponges. Experienced divers get to enjoy the sight of frog fish, clam shells, juvenile sweet lips, nudibranchs, schools of trevally, snapper, and groupers. Sea snakes, along with turtles, and Hawksbill Turtles are also regular visitors. Lucky divers may catch a glimpse of a manta ray or devil ray passing by.

Best time to visit Apo Island

Apo Island is an all-year-round diving destination. Waves and currents are whipped up by the northeast or southwest monsoons respectively. However, dive centers and operators have mastered the suitable sites and appropriate shelter during each season. Generally, October onwards is good for a diving adventure but the best weather and calmest sea conditions occur best in May and June. The months of July and September are not ideal because of the tendency to have a strong monsoon.

How to get to Apo Island

Option 1: By Liveaboards

A visit to Apo Island usually starts from Dumaguete, Negros, Cebu, or Malapascua. Cebu City can be reached easily via a 1.5-hour flight from Manila or direct flights from selected Southeast Asian countries nearby. Malapascua can be reached by taxi, van, bus, or a small boat. Moalboal port is also a potential departure area for Apo Island liveaboards. It is best reached by boarding a bus from Cebu City and a short ferry ride from Dumaguete.

Option 2: By airplane and local transportation

The most convenient way to reach Apo Island from Manila or Cebu City is to fly to Dumaguete. You can find the cheapest flights to Dumaguete via Skyscanner. Upon reaching Dumaguete, take a bus going to Bawayan, and get off at Malatapay. In Malatapay, some signboards will direct you to the shore where you will charter a boat heading to Apo Island.

Guarded by friendly coastguards, the area for boat charters comes in two options:

  • (1) Private - a two-way ride at a rate of Php 2,500 - Php 3,500 depending on the boat size and
  • (2) Public – a round trip boat rental ranging from Php 2,500 - Php 3,500 depending on boat capacity. The ride will last for 40 minutes to an hour.

Accommodations near Apo Island

Located on a remote island, this paradise is not for tourists that can’t live without air-conditioning, TV, swimming pools, fancy restaurants, and a nightlife scene. The wonders of this island lie with its simplicity. A rewarding experience is only achieved by tourists who dare to face the rough, very rustic, yet charming lifestyle.

Apo Island Beach Resort

Apo Island Beach Resort provides beautiful cottages located on the hillside of the private cove overlooking the ocean all along a white sandy beach. All nine cottages contain a private bathroom made with marbles, a fan, and a balcony. Tourists may experience from time to time the ultimate natural surroundings with a shortage of running water and limited power supply. However, natural spring water in a huge container is delivered to every cottage as a guest water supply.  Electricity is available only from 6 up to 11in the evening. Rooms are available for all budgets starting at Php 800 for Dormitory, Php 2700 - Php 2900 for Residence and Triton, and Php 3400 for Golden Cowrie.

Liberty’s Lodge

Liberty’s Lodge is a unique place in a beautiful location. Harmoniously crafted into a rock to suit the surrounding nature, the lodge boasts of 21 rustic simple rooms with an extended balcony that faces the sea and where the sunsets. The rooms are naturally ventilated and enhanced by the sea breeze. The traditional Asian mandy sat shower system is effectively employed. Inclusive of all board meals, the lodge offers room accommodations for two starting from USD 46 for a standard room.

Harolds Mansion

Harolds Mansion Hostel offers the budget traveler an ideal place of rest after a worthwhile island tour and dive. This landmark provides convenience to reach Dumaguete’s wonderful sites in minutes. Their accommodation includes free breakfast from 6:30 am-10 am, tea and coffee in the coffee shop all day. Travelers are also guaranteed with broadband internet and WiFi services. Harold’s Mansion room accommodations fit any budget as the rates starts from USD 6 for a dormitory.

You may also like

A Manta ray in the Ticao Pass in Masbate, Philippines

Manta Bowl, Ticao Pass, Masbate

Read more
Free diving at a reef at Apo Reef Natural Park, the Philippines

Apo Reef Natural Park

Read more
A wreck on the sandy bottom in front of Bohol Island, the Philippines

Balicasag island, Bohol

Read more