Have you ever seen sea turtles swimming in the wild? I have. But normally, I’d have to look down 30 feet deep with my eyeballs almost popping out then squinting them carefully every now and then to find these elusive creatures swimming in the bottomless reef of Moalboal. Sometimes, I’d silently pray and hope that luck would be on my side just to catch a glimpse of those wonderful creatures. So when an opportunity presented itself to visit a remote island in the Visayas region known as the Apo Island just to see sea turtles, I didn’t think twice and said yes to the invitation. Only 2 of us were supposed to join a family of [free]divers on their quest to discover Apo Island. But after word got out of this road trip down south of Cebu to cross the Tañon Strait to get to Apo Island, more friends enlisted on that small expedition.
After carefully planning everything, eight individuals (Nayki, Rapzkie, Johnn, Earl, Cynthia, Rowell, Carl and I) went on a 2-hr road trip on a cloudless Friday night and headed for the town of Dalaguete. Thanks to Tita Maharlika’s generosity, though feeling bad she couldn’t join us, we got the chance to borrow their SUV and cruised the eastern side of Cebu to their home in Dalaguete where we would be resting for a few hours before heading south to Negros. By 10 pm, we arrived safely at their place and was greeted with videoke by Doc Edwin and his family.
Cynthia and Johnn singing; Earl preparing for bedtime
Our Argentinian friend, Cynthia, and Johnn immediately grabbed the microphone and started belting out songs to their heart’s content. The rest of the gang settled in comfortably too.
Kung Fu Panda noodles
We had to wake up at 4am and leave at 5am to catch the 7am ferry boat that will bring us to the island of Negros. But instead of sleeping immediately to get a good night’s rest, we found ourselves walking towards the 24-hr restaurant in the town and feasted on batchoy, which Cynthia refers to as Kung Fu Panda noodles, to feed our hungry tummies. It was only after 12 that some of us considered getting sleep.
Just before my phone started sounding the alarm clock, I was awakened by the sudden pang of hunger caused by the strong aroma of cooked dried fish. While the stinking scent was irritatingly appetizing, some of us, those who were not accustomed to such vile stench, thought otherwise. hehehe. But the heavy odor was very useful in waking up everyone to make it in time for our 7am deadline. So after preparing all the things we needed to bring for our great Apo Island freediving adventure, a party of 11 adults and 2 kids on board 2 cars pulled out of the Fonghe family’s garage and started driving south towards Santander, the southern tip of Cebu, before heading over to Bato, Samboan (the next town after Santander on the western side of Cebu).
The drive from Dalaguete to Samboan took us 2 hours. We even almost didn’t make it because of a huge tree that got uprooted from the previous night’s rain, which blocked the highway at the town of Oslob. When we arrived at the port of the Lite Shipping company in Bato, Samboan at exactly 7am, we thought the ferry left without us.
Lite Shipping ferry boat from Bato, Samboan to Tampi, Amlan
We let out a sigh of relief after learning that it’s still in the middle of the sea and will just be a little delayed. Whew! We were supposed to meet up with Edcel at that port but it seemed that he’ll be delayed too and had to find his way to Apo Island instead if he couldn’t catch up with us on time.
inside the ferry boat
As soon as the ferry unloaded its passengers and cargo, we started rolling over the cars inside the boat and headed to the passenger’s deck admiring the clear waters and the fishes swimming beside the boat before it steered away and cruised towards Negros Island. We paid P500 per SUV. That’s P1000 for the 2 SUVs on the one-way RORO trip from Bato to Tampi inclusive of all 13 passengers 🙂
arriving at Tampi wharf at Amlan, Negros Oriental
After 40 minutes of crossing the Tañon Strait, we docked at the Tampi wharf in Amlan, Negros Oriental. After skillfully rolling off the cars from the ferry, we started cruising the road of Amlan and Sibulan and made way for Dauin passing by Dumaguete City. We didn’t know where we were going but with the help of a Google Maps app, we smoothly navigated the road going to Apo Island.
signage leading to the jump-off point for Apo Island
Once we entered the town of Zamboanguita, we started paying attention to the road signage in case we missed the marker for Apo Island. When we spotted what we were looking for, we made a left turn and entered the road going to the Malatapay Tabo Market.
I expected to see a busy road filled with locals selling different goods but we only saw empty cottages that lined up the street of the market. I later learned that the market only comes to life every Wednesdays. At the end of the road, we got a glimpse of the sea and finally reached the jump off point going to Apo Island.
There was a wide parking area available and as soon as we parked our cars, we went to check on the boat rates going to Apo Island. A large boat costs 3000 and is good for 8-9 heads whereas a medium boat costs 2000 and is good for 4-5 heads. The second car somehow got lost so while waiting for our other companions, I scanned Malatapay’s beach to see what kind of boats they have and to also check on the waves.
the waves of Malatapay Beach
When I saw the waves splashing through the black sandy beach of Malatapay, I realized that we’re really going to experience a rough ride when going to the island. I’ve read from blogs online that travellers going to Apo would have to brace themselves for huge waves. I never fully understood what that meant until I saw the waves for myself. From a distance, I could see white caps, an indication of strong currents ahead of us. I snickered silently at the thought of us going through those waves. I found the idea of holding on to the boat rails too amusing and blocked any thoughts of the possibility of the boat capsizing along the way. Well actually I did and thoughts of wearing my fins ahead entered my mind…just in case. hehe
having brunch before we go to Apo Island
When the rest of the gang arrived, we decided to take our brunch at one of the eateries in the area before we set sail for the island. We haven’t really had the chance to eat a proper breakfast except for some bread we ate before leaving Dalaguete. Now that I think of it as of writing this, eating that time would have been a bad idea before riding the boat going to Apo Island with a full stomach as it’s a sure way to get the boat flooded with puke for those with sensitive senses. hehehe. But since we were too excited to swim once we reach the island, we decided it’s best to eat first.
Edcel, the one who got left behind was already on his way to Malatapay so to avoid wasting time, we let the bigger boat leave ahead. The rest of us waited impatiently for our friend. 15 minutes after the 1st boat left, our friend arrived and after he bought food for breakfast, we immediately climbed our boat and started the swell ride to Apo Island.
the boat ride going to Apo Island
Our boatman had to secure our bags inside the boat before letting us climb in. The tide was at its peak during that time and it was impossible not to get wet while climbing aboard our boat. I even had to grab the hand of the boat crew to avoid slipping and falling off. Once we were all settled, Edcel started eating his food (rice+dish) while the boatman steered the boat away from the shore with its engine roaring to life as it started heading for the island.
Not long after we left the shore, big waves greeted us. We were like riding a roller coaster and each of us had to get a good grip of any stable thing we could find to avoid falling off from our seats. I was seated on the front part of the boat and I had a clear view of the huge waves that were heading towards us. Then out of the blue, each of us got splashed with sea water. The wavy ride was really something. Suddenly, Edcel was getting free salt juice to what he was chowing down. And since I was seated at the front part of the boat, I had to concede to the sea’s outbursts and welcomed the free salty shower with open arms.
My companions and I had to endure the generous cross fire of the sea for the next 45 minutes. We didn’t mind. We’ve come a long way after driving almost non-stop for 16 hours from Cebu City to Apo Island for one thing only…to go swimming and freediving with sea turtles. And as soon as we got near the docking area, we immediately saw sea turtles swimming on waist deep waters welcoming our arrival. The sight of those sea creatures lifted our spirits and we instantly knew we landed in paradise.