Friday, 11 July 2008

Rushing beneath the sultry atmosphere...

Her refreshing wildness waves far and near...
A scene that gives my heart a soothing stir...

from Seascapes, 4th Triplet

A Poem by simelguwapo


All Images Published Are Owned by

· Updated 2008.07.11 ·

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

The Reef

The Apo Reef Lighthouse: Two Perspective

If there is one dive site which is frequently visited by divers who go to Occidental Mindoro, it is none other than Apo Reef Natural Park. Acclaimed as: [1.] Asia’s Best; [2.] The Second Largest Coral Reef in the World; and [3.] The Diving Mecca of the Philippines.

It is located 20 miles west of mainland Mindoro. The Reef offers a good drift-diving opportunity with crystalline blue water covering an area of 35 square kilometres of coral reefs teeming with a wide variety of marine life. This atoll-like reef is divided by a narrow channel into two lagoon systems (north and south). The channel runs east to west from 1.80 and 27.00 metres deep with a fine white sand bottom, numerous mounds and patches of branching corals under the deep blue water.

The reef water abound with 385 species of colourful marine fishes live in the general area, including families of sharks, stingrays, mantas, school of jacks and snappers, swarms of tropical aquarium fish and the crevice-dwelling morays, blennies and gobies. It has no less than 500 species of corals which includes soft corals and branching types of hard corals. All of these conspire to give divers a rewarding experience that should never be missed.

The Reef has three islands namely Apo Island, Apo Menor also known as Binangaan Island, and Caios del Bajo. The white beaches and the physical attributes of these islands offers tourists a wholesome place for rest and recreation. The islands are accessible by outrigger boats.

The Reef encompasses 15,792 hectares of both land (29 hectares) and water (15,763 hectares). The buffer zone surrounding the protected area has a marine area of 11,677 hectares. It is located within the municipality of Sablayan.

Note · Most of the information were taken from the official website of the Local Government of Sablayan. For further information about the province and its other tourist attractions, please visit: You may also visit Philippine Tourism's official website:

Our Experience

Before we got there our only vision of the famous Apo Reef was its photos found across the internet. And ironically, most of the sources aren’t Asian, but European—particularly German and French.

It was Summer of 2006, we were excited to get there (since it will be our first time). We left DJ Beach Resort at around 5.00 am to go to Pondohan, the terminal for boats going to Apo Reef. We left Pondohan at 5.15 am. We were informed that by the time the Island of Mindoro is no more to be seen, its already half-way to the Largest Reef in Asia. It would take more or less three hours of travel.

We slept at the first hour. By the time I and Lekoi woke up, the Island of Mindoro was already too small to be seen. Few minutes more as we look back to where we came from, Mindoro was no where in sight. What we saw was a straight line surrounding us. The sky was clear Blue. It was too beautiful and exhilarating! As we speedily cruised the open sea, we saw schools of Flying Fish! We saw a big one which dashed under one of the outriggers. Its flight was high and long. We saw lots of them all around.

As we were nearing the Reef, I suddenly felt the excitement when I saw a small but familiar figure of the White Lighthouse! I pointed it to them, they got excited too. But as our boat cruised nearer and nearer we noticed that the waters—the OPEN SEA—was strangely calm and undisturbed despite the presence of the rushing wind. From our vantage point, the sea looks like glass! So clear and still! It was a strange experience. It was a very fascinating sensation. We were there out in the open sea and its waters were still. Strange indeed!

Our fascination escalated more and more when we saw the splendid arrays of corals under us! It was an impressive display of corals after corals. We got so excited that we don't even know what to do! We stood then we looked down. Then sit and looked down again. Then we changed places then sit and looked, stood and looked. Maybe each one of us had that feeling of wanting to already dive and start the fun! Upon our arrival, we were welcomed by the Tourism Officer and we were introduced to the Apo Reef Team stationed on that island. We arrived 8.30 am.

The picture I just related to you is my very first experience of the Reef. I had a different experience when I came back November of the same year. The original four people who went there 2006 came back in Summer of 2007—plus six more! And again, NO SAME experience! That’s Apo Reef! It is essentially the same Reef but your senses’ reception to its beauty takes on another form—not inferior nor superior—but of a different form (I hope I made sense). The next accounts I’m about to share are already collective experiences of my three trips to the Reef.


We were informed that the Lagoon is a breeding ground for Manta Rays and Turtles. It was actually my first time to be surrounded by these mangrove trees. They built a bamboo walkway so you could walk pass through them towards the Lagoon. Fortunately we saw a small Manta Ray! Cool! The sensation of being surrounded by these Rhizophora Mangles is a little bit eerie. I think these are Mother Nature’s varicose veins.


Afterwards, we went straight to the highest lighthouse I've ever seen (and ever been). We called it the White Lighthouse. Obviously we named it after its colour (how profound indeed). If you think it's already beautiful on the outside, it is equally beautiful on the inside. We climbed up to the middle section. It was a thrilling experience. And up there? Let me tell you, the view from this place was so ELATING. Some of us don't want to go down anymore!

The Raft-Drag Experience
Before taking our lunch, we were asked if we want to join snorkelling on a balsa (raft). The raft can accommodate 12 people. Well, it was not really a raft but it was just a raft without the flat surface but only the skeleton. It was my first time to snorkel without having the effort to do it since the raft was being drawn slowly by an outrigger boat. It was splendid! Splendid indeed! We snorkelled for one-and-a-half hours! We just held to one of its poles. We did not even notice the time. Well, that was my first. The last time we did it was quite exhausting but still managed to have some fun, but only the first half. The boat captain was not aware that he was dragging us a little bit faster than it should be. We, the men had to hold on to dear shorts! But on our way back, the drag or drift was back to normal.

The Turtle Hatchlings
Summer 2007 is a different experience for all of us—we witnessed 28 turtle hatchlings emerged from the sand. We were able to take some photos of them. The DENR staff who was assigned to monitor the wildlife activities at the Reef allowed us to pick one of them and take some photos with the hatchling. We were also invited to watched them go to the sea at night. It was 8.00 pm. It was quite an experience.

The Sea · The Corals · The Beach
After the drag, we just swam and enjoyed the The Sea, The Corals, and the Beach. The scenes were too beautiful! Schools after schools of fishes just passed by! Fishes of different colours, sizes, and even movements can be seen all around and I am NOT exaggerating! It is true! Angel Fish, Lion Fish, Nemo and Friends, there were just too many to tell! There were also Barracudas, Turtles, and few Reef Sharks. We also saw dolphins afar off.

Clams of different sizes and colours! Soft and hard corals! There were Tongue Coral (Polyphyllia); Xenia/Anthellia (Soft Corals); Platygyra (Brain Corals); Bubble Corals; Bird’s Nest (Seriatopora); Flower Leather; Finger Leathers; Montipora; and Purple Acropora. Wow! And there are a lot more which I do not know what they are called. You name it Apo has it!

Well, my only regret was that I had no underwater camera. Oh, before I forget, one AMAZING thing about this experience was that we did not see urchins, not even one. Apo Reef is indeed a Coral Paradise!Before this experience, we just looked at Apo Reef from the images of photographs. This time—the images were alive and we were enjoying every minute of it. Mother Nature has indeed blessed my every experience of the Reef and I am thankful for the beautiful living memories of this beautiful place.

The colours of dusk were breath-taking! We had a wonderful night together as FRIENDS and FAMILY. In the evening, the picture of the Reef is like a small native community, having only hydrocarbon lanterns and candles to light our activities. As I have already mentioned, we witnessed the turtle hatchlings march toward to where they belongthe SEA! We slept in the tents. By the way, we rented 3 tents. The sea breeze provided us an excellent air-conditioned atmosphere—from Mother Nature herself.

The colours of dawn were equally breath-taking! Just look at the photos. By the time of our departure—around 6.30 am—yes, that early, the sky was already bright and blue. I was able to take some excellent view of The Sky and The Reef together. We had to leave early because the boat captain told us that the wind would get a little rough before lunch time and we might encounter some problem if we leave the place in the afternoon. Yes, safety first before pleasure (extended pleasure for that matter).