Apo Island is often cited as the jewel in the Philippines' diving crown. Thanks largely to its community-led protected marine sanctuary, established almost forty years ago, this volcanic island is surrounded by some of the healthiest reefs in the Philippines, boasting over 400 coral species and 650 species of fish. With colourful coral gardens in the shallows, huge gorgonians swaying in the deep, and myriad fish flitting between them, every dive Apo Island is an assault on the senses. The island features around a dozen dive sites, but for time-sensitive divers looking to experience the best sites, read on to see our pick of the bunch...
Be sure to pack your magnifying glass for Largahan as this site is tailor-made for critter enthusiasts. Eagle-eyed divers can pick out frogfish blending into corals and sponges, while the black sandy seabed can make it easier to spot colourful flatworms and nudis inching their way along the bottom. As with the other sites surrounding Apo Island, keep your eyes peeled for green and hawksbill turtles munching on bubble coral.
Largahan is a gentle dive accessible to divers of all skill levels, and with a maximum depth of around 20 metres, you can enjoy a longer dive. Apo Island's volcanic nature is unmissable underwater, as ongoing geothermal activity beneath the sandy seabed produces a stream of bubbles, making a dive at Largahan that little bit different too.
Thrill-seekers in search of currents won't be disappointed with Coconut Point. This site, also known as the 'Washing Machine,' is renowned for its swirling currents and diverse marine life. Away from the reef, you'll witness towering tornadoes of trevallies and jacks hunting for a meal, and in some areas, clouds of colourful anthias may partially obstruct your view.
Apo Island's ubiquitous turtles are likely to make an appearance here, and bumphead wrasses can often be seen bimbling out in the blue too. When the currents are strong, keep an eye peeled for a few reef sharks, and if you're in the right place at the right time, you may even catch a glimpse of a swooping manta or a giant whale shark gliding by...
No trip to dive Apo Island is complete without experiencing the Chapel. This dive starts with a slow meander between coral bommies on a gentle slope, which gradually descends before plunging into an almost-vertical wall. Reaching a maximum depth of around 30 metres, this site is ideally suited for advanced divers, and carrying a torch will allow you to peer inside the dark crevices and caverns carved by the currents.
The wall is festooned with vibrant tube and finger sponges, and as you start to ascend, there are a number of overhangs waiting to be illuminated by your torch. Keep your eyes peeled for nudibranchs and moray eels hiding in the corals, while a quick glance into the blue might reveal a turtle or two. Following your safety stop in the shallow coral gardens, you will resurface at the church that lends this site its name.
If you're looking to dive Apo Island, staying at Dauin, a 45-minute boat ride away, is your best bet. Plus, when not diving around Apo Island, you can shore dive till your heart's content, with some of the Philippines' best macro sites just a few sandy steps from your front door...