Pearl of the Orient Seas, the Philippines
The Philippines, dubbed as the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” is fortunate to form part of the Coral Triangle, an area considered to be the global center of tropical marine diversity supporting the highest number of species of coral reef fish and turtles. From the old wrecks in Subic, Zambales and Coron, Palawan, all the way down south to the great reefs of “Tubbataha Reefs”, the Jewel of Sulu Sea.
Apo Reef, Sablayan near Mindoro has 34 square kilometers of coral reefs and is on the tentative list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. It is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and the largest coral reef system in the Philippines. It is also a ‘natural park’ and is a must for any Calamian region itinerary.
The reef has a dual lagoon system divided by a narrow channel that runs west to east. The surrounding waters of reef is characterized with a rich and diverse marine flora and fauna. Schools of tuna, jacks, trevallies, barracudas, mantas, sharks and large pelagics are a common sight. Huge drop-offs with 400 metres walls teeming with colourful soft corals, big gorgonians and barrel sponges surround Apo Island (not to be confused with Apo Island, Dumaguete).
Apo Island has an area of about 22 hectares vegetated with healthy stands of mangroves which harbor birds and other of coastal and marine wildlife species. A stretch of white sand beach at the southeastern side of the island serves as a nesting site for turtles. A white lighthouse which stands at 110 feet and a ranger station is also located on this part of the island.
Off the west coast of the island where strong currents are present, there is the increased chance of sighting mantas, barracudas and sharks, especially during mating season from June and July.
Diving in Apo Reef is all-year round, usually by live-aboard boat (boat that divers sleep on during dive trips) which is highly recommended for the hard-core diver who wants to see as much as possible of the Philippines’ underwater world. Like Tubbataha, this is a reef system that offers many dive sites and is good for anywhere from two to five day excursions of a live-aboard boat trip.
Enjoy your undersea adventure!