Apo Reef, located just off the west coast of Mindoro, Philippines, is a place meant for world class diving. It is actually a number of reef systems spread out over 115,000 hectares in the South China Sea and boasting of vertical drops up to 80 meters. Apo Reef will not fail to amaze you with its large schools of trevally, tuna, barracuda, hammerhead sharks, white and black tip reef sharks, manta, eagle and sting rays, and turtles galore. And as though that is not enough, Apo Reef also houses close to 500 coral and invertebrate species. It was protected and declared a National Park in 1996.
Apo Island, located to the west of the majority of the reef system, is a flat island about 25 hectares in size. A 35 meter lighthouse stands on the island, used to warn unsuspecting boats from crashing into the island. A number of them have crashed a few times before and have caused massive damage. The Apo National Park has a station which is manned by rangers.
Apo Reef is located along the west coast of Mindoro Island, which is a part of Occidental Mindoro province. It is about 32 kilometers off the coast in the South China Sea. To the south is the Calamian Island group which is north of Palawan.
Apo Island is a very isolated location, and there is nothing other than the lighthouse and the island’s rangers, so be sure to bring with you everything that you need for the trip. Scuba diving trips to Apo Reef are conducted live aboard dive vessels, which gives you access to the various dive sites with little travel time.
Weather conditions in Apo Reef are characterized by two seasons: Dry from December to May and wet from June to November with an average humidity of 75% year round. It is always best to visit during the dry season when weather is more stable and visibility is much higher.
Apo Island: This Island has some lovely and scenic views with a good assortment of dive sites. Stunning and outstanding species of hard and soft corals can be seen, as well as enormous table corals, stag horns, brain corals, and fire corals.
Huge drop-offs and spectacular walls are found in the southern, northern and eastern sides of the island. Exotic and enchanting marine life can be seen when the currents are strong because a variety of large pelagic species that make the area around the island their home. Stunning marine life can also be encountered such as tuna, jacks, humphead wrasses, mantas, and hammerheads.
Binangaan Drop-off: This drop-off site is located at the southwest side of Apo Island, and is another good wall to explore. Impressive gorgonians and plenty of soft and hard corals can be seen on this site. Exotic marine life is vibrant and schools of humphead parrotfish, tuna, groupers, snappers, and other large pelagics can be experienced.
Hunters Rock: This reef is located 20 kilometers off the west coast of Apo Reef. The strong currents on this site make this unsuitable for beginners. An experienced guide is needed to find the spot. Numerous sea snakes can be found here especially during the mating season during the months of June and July. Beautiful marine life can be seen in here, as well as masses of corals and sponges. This reef is home to schools of tropical fish, including butterfly fishes, snappers and sweetlips. Sharks, big trevallys, and other predatory fish are also common.
Merope Rock: This is similar to Hunters Rock and is located 20 kilometers off the west coast of Apo Reef. There is a good wall on the eastern side of this rock and you will find big fish, sharks, barracuda, and trevally.
Pandan Island: Pandan Island is a private resort located off the west coast of Apo Reef. There are numerous beautiful dive sites here in Pandan Island with depths ranging from 2- 20m, which is ideal for beginners. Wide varieties of marine life, from colorful corals to small reef fish and larger pelagic, can be found in here.
The Apo Reef system is so large that the dive sites listed above are only a sampling of what you can expect from this place. There are many other numerous spots to explore where you can see exotic marine life. During surface intervals you are blessed with some of the greatest snorkeling in the world. Put it this way: You are going to enjoy your dives so much that you are going to look like a prune by the end of your trip.
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