Scuba diving guide Apo Reef Natural Park: Best diving centers, liveaboards, dive sites and recommendations

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

Situated around 30 km off the western coast of Mindoro Island, Apo Reef Natural Park (''ARNP'') is the world's second-largest single coral reef and the largest atoll in the Philippines. It is one of the most famous diving areas around Mindoro and Pandan Island that is located in the middle of Mindoro Strait between Coron, Palawan, and Occidental Mindoro, the Philippines.

Apo Reef was proclaimed as a Protected Area and categorized as Natural Park. Its surrounding waters, on the other hand, was declared as a buffer zone. The surrounding zone covers 27,460 hectares consisting of three small islands, namely Apo Island, Apo Menor, and Cayos del Bajo.

The pristine sand beaches and the blue water at Apo Reef Natural Park in Occidental Mindoro are home to many creatures of different sea corals and thriving fish schools. It's a wonderful location for scuba diving and snorkeling. Many diving centers near Apo Reef Natural Park offer great diving rates and have great reviews from other divers.

Recommendations Apo Reef Natural Park

Apo Reef diving is best experienced during the dry season and by a liveaboard. Apo Reef Club and Apo Reef Traveller Hotel are the two most popular accommodations but if your budget is limited, the Sablayan Paraiso Beach Resort is also a good option. It's also best if you look for accommodation that offers diving packages for hassle-free travel.

Liveaboards Apo Reef Natural Park

The best liveaboard to Apo Reef Natural Park includes Discovery Palawan, a 50 meter modern vessel with 20 cabins; Philippine Siren, a 40 meter luxurious liveaboard with 8 cabins; and Infiniti, a 39 meter stunning liveaboard with 11 cozy rooms. Any of these 3 liveaboards can give you the best Apo Reef Natural Park diving experience.

The Philippine Siren liveaboard

Diving center Apo Reef Natural Park

If you plan to explore Apo Reef on a day trip, night dive, or overnight diving; we recommend Sablayan Divers, a young dive center with the most experienced dive instructors on board. It’s also one the top-rated Apo Reef Natural Park dive resorts you can find in Occidental Mindoro.

Secret spot: Aside from diving, seeing the reef's breathtaking views from the lighthouse is worth a climb. You’ll also see the surrounding mangroves and awesome rock formations.

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Pentagon Pro Dive Center

N.A.
PHP 8,490 (3 dives, group of 4)
Starting from PHP 15,090
8
Other
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Accommodation, rental of scuba gear

Sablayan Divers

PHP 1,500
PHP 8,950 (3 dives)
Starting from PHP 12,950
Other
PHP 16,000
All meals included (multiple day trip)
Accommodation, rental of scuba gear

Apo Reef Club

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Starting from PHP 19,120
12
PADI/SSI
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All meals included
Accommodation, airport transfers, two diveboats
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The best diving centers near Apo Reef Natural Park

To help make the most of your scuba diving adventures at Apo Reef Natural Park, we listed the three best diving centers that can guide you.

Diving Center 1: Pentagon Pro Dive Center

Owned and operated by 5 siblings who have grown in Sablayan, Pentagon Pro Dive Center is your nearest dive center to Apo Reef Natural Park. It offers day trip packages with three dives. The rate for Divers with Dive Equipment is 8,490.00 PHP while 9,390.00 PHP for Divers without Dive Equipment. This includes Boat Fee, Dive Master Fee, Environmental Fee, and Lunch. They also have 6 Dives overnight packages. If you want to experience Apo Reef diving guided by local diving experts, then Pentagon Pro Dive Center is the place to be.

Diving Center 2: Sablayan Divers

Sablayan Divers is one of the youngest dive centers in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, but also is one of the top-rated Apo Reef diving guides by divers from all over the world. Its crew has a combined 20 years of experience in professional scuba diving.

Sablayan Divers offers a day trip to Apo Reef with three dives for 8 950 PHP, including boat, dive guide, environmental fee, equipment, tanks & weights. An overnight trip with six dives costs 12 950 PHP, including boat, dive guide, environmental fee, equipment, tanks & weights, food (breakfast, lunch, dinner). The dive center als offers basic PADI Open Water Diving for PHP 16,000 and Rescue Diver course for PHP 18,000.

Diving center 3: Apo Reef Club

Apo Reef Club not only offers superior accommodation but also world-class Apo Reef Natural Park diving. The resort has 2 boats that can accommodate 10 to 12 persons each. If a day trip isn’t enough, Apo Reef Club also has an overnight trip package with 5 dives  to satisfy your crave for diving. The package also includes a 2 night-stay at the hotel and costs around PHP 20, 300. Do you want to learn proper SDI or PADI diving? This dive center offers the courses you need from beginner to professional level.

Liveaboards to Apo Reef Natural Park

Liveaboards in Apo Reef Natural Park will provide you a great diving experience. As mentioned above, the dive sites are fabulous and marine life such as sharks and massive coral colonies can be found.

Liveaboard 1: Stella Maris Explorer

If you're looking for the perfect mix of diving adventures and ultimate relaxation, this liveaboard provides an ideal blend of the two. It was built for not only world-class diving but also pure enjoyment. With its open-air top deck, you'll see a perfect view of the sunset. With 10 spacious cabins, this liveaboard can accommodate up to 21 persons starting at $297/day per person.

The Stella Maris Explorer liveaboard in the Philippines
The Stella Maris Explorer liveaboard

Liveaboard 2: Infiniti

A beautiful liveaboard built for diving the fantastic dive sites of the Philippines year-round. Infiniti is equipped with state of the art diving amenities, and they offer 11 newly renovated rooms with an en-suite bathroom with shower and a large picture window or a porthole. Price starts at USD 253/day.

A drone shote from the Infiniti liveaboard in the Philippines
The Infiniti liveaboard

Liveaboard 3: Discovery Palawan

An excellent liveaboard choice for spectacular diving of Apo Reef. Diving with the Discovery Palawan will give you a memorable experience with a spacious dive platform and experienced guides. They also offer a modern look, fresh, spacious relaxation areas, and tastefully decorated cabins. Price starts at USD 279/day.

Liveaboard 4: Philippine Siren

Divers designed this luxurious liveaboard for divers to provide superior ease and comfort. It has a large shaded diving deck that provides individual stations and storage lockers. Guests are also provided with equipment such as an aluminum tank, BCD, regulator, 3mm wetsuit, weights, mask, and fins. From USD 317/day, you can spend a great time on this massive liveaboard.

The dive deck of the Philippine Siren liveaboard

Liveaboard 5: Resolute

A budget-friendly (from $215/day) yet spacious cruiser, Resolute will take you to untouched, pristine islands, stunning wrecks, and great drift dive sites, as well as the best locations, to witness migrating whale sharks. It offers intimacy and cozyness while on tour, accommodating only a maximum of 16 guests on its 8 relaxing cabins.

Best Apo Reef Natural Park dive sites

Dive site 1: South Corner

The South Corner dive spot has an average depth of 8 meters 61 meters. At this depth, you have the chance to see a large school of Red tooth triggerfish and Pyramid butterflyfish on the edge of the reef. The wall goes down a slope to 150+ ft, and white tip reef sharks are resting in some ledges. Square Spot anthias and Regal Angelfish can also be seen down deeper. Large resident Napoleon Wrasse can be found around the mooring line while lobsters can be seen in the shallows' crevices.

Dive site 2: Ego Wall

This area is located on the northwest corner of Apo Island with a depth of 8 to 61 meters. The Ego Wall dive has got a few exciting cuts to explore. The wall has a lot of soft corals, sea fans, and colorful sponges. There are schools of Midnight snapper and unicorn fish that can be seen here. Giant Trevally can also be seen in large numbers feeding on the schools of Fusiliers near the surface. While in the hard coral gardens, you'll be able to witness the scrawled filefish, false anemonefish, and Bluefin jacks.

Dive site 3: Apo 29

This diving spot is for advanced divers only. It has a depth of 29 to 152 meters. The top of the reef is approximately 100ft, which is a great nitrox dive. You can expect to see a large school of Barracuda on this spot, and sharks can be around when the current is right. Note that there are not many corals around here. Always remember to watch your air and deco time on this advanced dive.

Dive site 4: Mabuti Wall

The shallows on this spot are the perfect habitat for Black Tip Reef sharks. It has a depth of 4.5 to 61 meters where you'll see Titan Triggerfish crushing coral with their powerful jaws here. Expect to witness giant moray eels along the wall. You can see several common reef fish here including Porcupinefish, Moorish idols, and the Peacock grouper.

Dive site 5: Hunters Rock

10 miles away from Apo Reef, Hunter's Rock can be an unpredictable dive so we recommend at least an advanced certified diver. It has a depth of 4.5 to 91 meters and is famous for mating sea snakes. It is perfect for aquatic species with any isolated seamount, and of course, sharks are aplenty. As the diving circumstances can be more advanced, we recommend checking the conditions with the local diving centers before diving on Hunters Rock.

Dive site 6: Apo Wreck

This is a perfect dive to finish up your trip to Apo Reef. With a depth of 9 to 30 meters, you will see some excellent macro subjects on the wreck at 12 meters, which has incredible coral growth. The rest of the reef is made up of extensive coral gardens and sand patches. Titan triggerfish, Juvenile Napoleon wrasse, and Surgeonfish schools are some of the marines that can be seen.

Most parts of the wreck can be explored outside, but in case you enter the wreck, please be prepared.

Best time to visit Apo Reef Natural Park

Though you can dive all year round in Apo Reef, the best time to scuba dive is from November to May. This is considered the dry season in the Philippines, so there are fewer chances of heavy rain and the diving conditions are better (e.g. such as visibility, water temperature).

How to get to Apo Reef Natural Park

Apo Reef Natural Park lies around 40 kilometers west of Sablayan in Occidental Mindoro.

By airplane to Occidental Mindoro

To reach Occidental Mindoro by airplane, you can fly directly to San Jose Airport. From the airport, get on a bus or van going to Sablayan. The ticket costs around P190 and P220. From the town proper, you can rent a boat to Apo Reef.

From Sablayan to Apo Reef Natural Park

To get there by sea, there are two options:

Option 1: By Dimple Star

Board a Dimple Star bus from Cubao, Sampaloc, or Alabang. The fare for the trip is approximately P800. From the town, you can rent a boat to Apo Reef.

Option 2: By Bus

Board a bus traveling to Batangas Pier from Buendia, Kamuning, or Alabang. Travel time may take an hour and a half to three hours. After arriving at the pier, get on a RoRo going to Abra de Ilog. Travel time may take around 3 to 4 hours per way.

Once in Abra de Ilog, get on a van or bus heading to Sablayan. Travel time may take about 2 to 3 hours. From the town proper, you may rent a boat to Apo Reef.

Accommodations near Apo Reef Natural Park

If you're looking for the best hotel and resorts where you can enjoy your stay in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, here are the top accommodations you can choose that are located near Apo Reef Natural Park:

Accommodation 1: Apo Reef Travellers Hotel

Apo Reef Travellers Hotel in Sablayan offers 12 forms of air-conditioned rooms with free toiletries. The hotel features a shuttle service, a 24-hour front desk, a shared lounge, and free WiFi throughout the property. The rooms here are fitted with flat-screen televisions that come with cable channels. Bathrooms include a shower and bidets. Housekeeping is provided daily as well.

Price: An air-conditioned room for two costs around $29 per night, including taxes & fees.

Accommodation 2: Apo Reef Club

Apo Reef Club is a peaceful home managed by Swiss with professional diving experience. They have a range of accommodations, including Beachfront Bungalows, Beachfront Rooms, Garden Bungalows, and Backpackers Room. Apo Reef Club is settled in a 5 hectare land between the mountains and the sea. It's a tranquil place with tropical surroundings, and it's very well-known for diving at Apo Reef Natural Park.

Price: Overnight rates at Apo Reef Club Resort are as low as $23.

Accommodation 3: Sablayan Adventure Camp Beach Resort

Sablayan Adventure Camp is a beach resort located along the beachfront of Sablayan in the island of Occidental Mindoro, Philippines. All the rooms are uniquely created to showcase Mindoro's craftsmanship from a single room to a two-story duplex. Some of the resort’s facilities include FREE Wi-Fi, a 24-hour front desk, a restaurant, and a shared kitchen. The resort provides a concierge service and evening entertainment too.

Sablayan Adventure Camp Beach Resort offers scuba diving packages at Apo Reef  Park. They have three Dives with Complete Equipment and Lunch to a package of three days and two nights maximum of 8 dives with a complete set of equipment and seven meals.

Price: You can stay overnight at Sablayan Adventure Camp Beach Resort for around $50 per night.

Accommodation 4: Sablayan Paraiso Beach Resort

Famous for snorkeling and diving, Sablayan Paraiso Beach Resort offers affordable accommodations in bungalows and Nipa huts. All rooms feature free WiFi access and private parking, have a mosquito net, seating area, and sofa. The bathrooms come with a shower, free toiletries, towels. Guests at Sablayan Paraiso Beach Resort can admire the sea turtles and coral reefs on Pandan Island. They can arrange a day trip to Apo Reef coral atoll.  Local and international food and drinks in the restaurant and bar on-site can be enjoyed here as well.

Price: You can book a room at Sablayan Paraiso Beach Resort for as low as $10

Accommodation 5: Gustav's Place Beach Resort

If you are looking for a place to relax, away from the crowd, and to watch incredible sunsets, Gustav's Place Beach Resort is the place for you! It's an impressive resort with a dive shop and training center for CMAS diving courses. Palms and other exotic plants cover most of the premises, and there's a view of the sea from almost anywhere. The bungalows on the beachfront are big enough for a couple or a single person. You can go snorkeling or diving from the resort to Apo reef world-famous site, or Pandan island in front of the resort. It's also a nice place to see some sea turtles and a lot of marine life.

Price: Overnight stay in a standard room costs around $15

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