It was a total of numbing 8 hours of travel. Bus-Boat-Bus-Boat and the cycle continues. We met at Batangas port at around 5 PM. We waited for the RO-RO Vessel bound to Sablayan Port to board at around 8:00 PM. Good thing I was dead tired so I just slept the 5 hours travel time to Sablayan Port. As soon as we reached Sablayan port, we waited for our boatmen to dock the boat going to Apo Reef. It was a bit delayed as we have to wait for the boatmen to settle some things first. Finally, after few hours of waiting, we’re ready to see Apo Reef. I asked the boatmen on how long will it take to reach the island, then he said “Mga tatlo or apat na oras po Ma’am!”. Okay, 4 hours. Imagine waking up occasionally to see nothing around but just plain view of the ocean. It feels like forever.
We reached Apo Reef as soon as the sun rises. It was around 7 in the morning. The tourism officer gathered us for a short talk on what are the do’s and dont’s. Apo Reef is a natural park and the largest coral atoll-like reef in the Philippines. The island is isolated but guarded with rangers so it is generally safe.
After the brief orientation, we looked for a shaded area on where we can set up our camp. Everyone was tired but we have to survive. Haha. There’s no accommodation on the island. You have to bring your own camping gears and cooking utensils. There’s no electricity, no fresh water, nothing. I can’t remember seeing a decent comfort room too but this was all part of the adventure.
We had our brunch while setting up our camp. Took a rest for a while. Then our tour guide (forgive me, I am not good with names) fetched us to start our tour around the island. First activity was snorkeling. I was so excited I slipped off the boat! Gaga lang! Haha. Anyways, Apo Reef’s sea bed was too marvelous. It was an awestruck moment for me. The marine life of Apo Reef was lively and colorful. However, no turtle sighting for us, sad!
After snorkeling, our guide led us to a bamboo bridge surrounded by mangroves. This led us to the lagoon. We rode an improvised raft made from bamboo and styro. You can see small fishes swimming. According to our guide, stingrays or sharks are seen swimming occasionally in the lagoon. The raft led us to to the southern part of the island.
Last stop was Apo Reef’s Lighthouse. From here you can see the beauty of Apo Reef in bird’s eye view. The island is surrounded by mangroves, lagoon and white sand shore. It was a short Acrophobia moment for me. The lighthouse stands 33.5 meters above sea level. The view from the top was really amazing. I can see how lucky we are for owning a land that holds it’s own natural beauty.
After that short trip, we all went back to the camp and played Frisbee. Yes, we still have the energy! We made sure our dinner is ready before the sun sets down. We slept without taking a decent shower. Remember, no fresh water! It’s kinda “malagkit sa balat” sleeping wet with salt water! Hahaha.
I woke up early next morning to make coffee and catch the sunrise. After a while, we camped out and went to the next island, Pandan Island. It’s a short 20 minute boat ride. The island is a bit commercialized. It has electricity thru generator, accommodations and cottages. They offer different type of activities, like scuba diving, island hopping and snorkeling.You can see foreign tourist wandering off the shore. We had our breakfast on their small cafeteria. Food’s a bit pricey though. After breakfast, we had fun playing darts and billiards. We all went drunk thru beer bets. Loser gets to buy a drink and pay for it. Lol. We spent the rest of the afternoon drunk and played frisbee afterwards! Haha
We can’t afford to stay overnight in Pandan Island because accommodations are hella pricey. Our group decided to look for a cheaper room to stay. So, we went back to the mainland and luckily booked an overnight stay at La Sofia Apartelle. It’s 450 a night/head. Not bad for us whose main goal is to rest, take a bath (fresh water bath) and sleep.
The next morning, we went to Camalig Restaurant for lunch. It’s a known restaurant in town. So far, it’s one of the best local restaurant I’ve been to. Food’s really tasty and price is not that bad. The place is cozy and homey. Don’t forget to visit this place once you’re in Sablayan!
This is by far one of my most memorable trip. Probably ranks 5th on my list. The first time I saw Apo Reef on Google, I told myself that it would be close to impossible seeing this island in my naked eyes. But nothing is impossible if you follow your travel desires.