Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Apo Reef and Pandan Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro

Apo Reef
I've been dreaming of this island for four years already.
It started when I read a blog and somehow it captured my interest to explore the island.
In fact, this year (2015), I included it as part of my travel bucket list.
And unexpectedly, Red Chuca posted an invite in his facebook and it unfolded. Let me take you back to our adventure in this island called Apo Reef.

early morning arrival at Abra de Ilog Port
How to get there

From Buendia, Pasay or Cubao, ride a bus (either Jam, DLTB or Starex) en route to Batangas City Pier. Travel time from Buendia to Batangas City using the ACTEX route is more or less 2 hours. Alight at Batangas City Pier, then board the RoRo boat to Abra de Ilog. Montenegro Shipping Lines is servicing the route.  Fare is P270 and travel time is 3 hours. From Abra de Ilog Port, board either a van or bus to Sablayan Port. Travel time to the port is 2.5 - 3 hours or 124 kilometers (209 kilometers to San Jose). Fare using the van is P220. Alight at Sablayan Market and hire a tricycle ride to Sablayan Port. Fare using the trike is P10. Reaching Sablayan port, hire a boat going to Apo Reef. Rental of the boat is P8,000 -10,000. Travel time is 3 hours.

The fastest way to reach Sablayan is by air. Daily 45-minute flights are offered by Cebu Pacific in San Jose, Mindoro. Then, two to three hour land  travel by bus or van will take you to Sablayan.

Small chartered planes, upon prior arrangements, could land directly in Sablayan Airport or Mamburao Airport. Mamburao is a two-hour land trip to Sablayan.

Se planes can also land near Pandan Island, along the coastlines of Sablayan and in Apo Reef.

Tour-operated boats from Manila, Batangas, Palawan or Puerto Galera could also be pre-arranged. Coron, Palawan is just 3 hours away from Apo Reef. 

From Visayas, dailysix-hour boat trips from Libertad, Antique to San Jose are available, followed by a two to three hour land trip to Sablayan.

Sabang Hanging Bridge
Rico and I agreed to meet in Batangas City. I arrived 10:30 pm while Rico arrived a couple of minutes after. We are not new to Red's tour. In fact, this is my 3rd tour and Rico's 2nd tour with Red. But the twist is the fact that we are joining a new group (except for Bianca whom we met in Fortune Island). And that makes the tour exciting since you are going to meet, mingle, and explore with new set of friends.

Around 11:40 pm, Red and the rest arrived. We waited until 1 am and bought our ticket for our RoRo ride to Abra de Ilog. We boarded the boat around 2 am.

It was not a pleasant ride. I was not able to sleep. But the feeling of excitement compensated for whatever inconvenience I experienced.

waiting time in Sablayan market
Upon arrival in Abra de Ilog Port, we boarded the van to Sablayan Port. We took our breakfast in Sablayan market, waited a bit, bought our supplies, and past 10 am, we went towards Sablayan Port.

boarding the boat to Apo Reef
Weather was really nice that day while we were boarding the boat. 

Schedule of RoRo Boat from Batangas City to Abra de Ilog Port via Montenegro Lines
2:00 AM / 6:00 AM / 10:00 AM / 2:00 PM / 6:30 PM / 10:00 PM

Schedule of RoRo Boat from Abra de Ilog Port to Batangas City via Montenegro Lines
(Ship leaves every four hours)
Contact number - (043)- 723-8294

Boat Rental
Jojo - 0935-207-9942
Omar - 0930-9199-579

You have to bring your own food.
You can have your tent (P300) and snorkeling gears (P150) arranged with the boat rental.

 We traveled from Manila to Batangas City Pier for 2 hours.
We traveled and endured the RoRo boat for 3 hours.
We traveled from Abra de Ilog to Sablayan Port for 2 hours.
We waited for 3 hours.
There is no stopping us now!
On with the journey to Apo Reef! 

Apo Reef
And after 3 hours, we passed Pinanggaan Island and Apo Reef was within sight.

Apo Reef is the largest atoll-like reef in Asia. It is a 29 hectare of white sand island and is the favorite nesting grounds for hawksbill and green sea turtles. There are other two islets which are favorite spots for migrating birds. But for tourists, it is the favorite site for snorkeling and diving.

It was already past 1 pm when we arrived at the island.
We did not mind our late lunch.
We are in Apo Reef.


Red and Dolly immediately fixed our lunch. 
While the rest was busy pitching their tent and taking souvenir pictures.

Red while cooking our lunch
Past 2 pm, we were able to take our lunch. 
Thanks to Red and the group's concerted effort of preparing lunch.

trail to lighthouse

After eating lunch, I immediately went to the lighthouse. Our tour guide "Mang Jojo" conveyed that the group will proceed to the lighthouse at around 5 pm. But I did not have the luxury of waiting, I went alone.

After 10 minutes of walking, I reached the Apo Reef Lighthouse. The sun was about to set, it was past 5 pm and I immediately climbed the ladder towards the top of the lighthouse.

pointing to Coron
From the top of the lighthouse, you can see Coron, Palawan. From Apo Reef, Coron be reached by boat within 3 hours. From San Jose, Occidental Mindoro, the boat ride to Coron is 8 hours.
The Apo Reef lighthouse gives you a 360 degree view of the entire island. This is the best spot to watch the sunset and to have an aerial view of the lagoon.

top view 

Around 5:30 pm, the rest of the group arrived.

Rico, Earl, Jireh and Dana took their respective souvenir pictures.

Jireh, Earl, Rod and Max
And we watched the sunset.

I did not wait for the entire sunset. I descended and headed back to the camping site.

I played a bit of beach volleyball with Rod and Neil and afterwards, proceeded to the kitchen.

Red,  Max, Joshua, Dolly and I started our drinking spree while Red was busy cooking our dinner. They prepared a very sumptuous and mouth-watering dinner consisting of grilled pork, grilled squid, grilled fish and some veggies!

Past 7 pm, the inevitable happened. It's dinner time!

After dinner, we continued with our drinking spree of Emperador light. But this time, the rest joined the spree. While we were drinking, we played our favorite game connect the word. We were having the best time of our lives!

I did not remember what happened next... =)


Around 5 am, I woke up and saw the enchanting and captivating horizon unfolding in the midst of the tranquility in Apo Reef. Behold the sunrise in Apo Reef.

After the sunrise, I took a bath and headed towards the lagoon. Good thing Rod was ready for the adventure and we headed to our destination.

Rod led the way to the lagoon.

We even crossed a bamboo bridge in order to reach the lagoon.

And after 10 minutes, we reached the Lagoon.

After a couple of minutes, the rest of the group arrived with Mang Jojo. Mang Jojo retrieved the bamboo raft for our ride in the lagoon. 

From the lagoon, you can see the lighthouse. The tour was good for 15-20 minutes.

The boat ride was a bit slow. But we did not mind. We were enjoying the cruise.

We took our souvenir pictures along the way.

We alighted at the opposite end and headed back to the camp for our breakfast.

While heading back, we passed the Apo Reef Natural Park Protected Area Office.

We took our breakfast, packed, cleaned the area and again, took our souvenir pictures.

Past 9 am, we were boarding the boat for our snorkeling adventure.

Within a few minutes, we were enjoying it!

The snorkeling experience in Apo Reef is totally different from my previous snorkeling. While the boat was slowly moving, we were dragged by the boat by holding to a rope and you do not have to swim. You simply have to enjoy! =)

photo by Rodrigo Acuzar
After 30 minutes, we transferred to the nearby island called Pinanggaan Island and continued our snorkeling adventure.

After our snorkeling experience, we headed back to Sablayan Port.
But along the way, we encountered DOLPHINS!
Yup! and there were 6-8 dolphins swimming and playing around with us. 
We were shouting at the top of our lungs and the others whistling to attract the dolphins.
A rare treat indeed!

We played another set of games along the way back and we were not mindful that time flew. 

  After more than 2 hours, we arrived at Pandan Island.

Pandan island is the nearest tourist spot in Sablayan and is known for its Sea Turtle or Pawikans! It is a tropical island retreat and one of the top resorts in the Philippines. The island can be reached by a twenty-minute boat ride from Sablayan mainland.

Activities in the island:
scuba diving

We took our late lunch in the island. 

photo by Rodrigo Acuzar
After eating, we had our pawikan encounter!
On my part, I was able to see/encounter 3 pawikans.

After 1 hour, we headed back to Sablayan Port and fixed ourselves.
Around 7 pm, we boarded the van to Abra de Ilog.
And by stroke of luck, we had a flat tire!!
It was already 8:30 pm when it was finally done replacing.
The RoRo ride was slated 10 pm.
Oops, I thought we'd missed it!

We arrived 10:20 and the RoRo was set to leave at exactly 10:30 pm. 

Luck was on our side, we made it!!! =)

WE definitely enjoyed Apo Reef!

Things to know about Apo Reef
No signal of networks
No food available
No store/market
No electricity (but they have solar panels)
No rentals for tent, hammock, sleeping bag
No mineral or drinking water
They have toilets!

Persons who joined the tour
Red Chuca
Rico Garcia
Jireh Betia
Rodrigo Acuzar
Rubec Moyano
Bianca Loredo
Pam Gamboa
EriKa Alconcel
Aris Tocrat
Hazel Grate
John Gotera
Natalie Del Rosario
Dolly de Gaia
Rejik Cauntay
Onil Castillo
Jun Villegas

Municipal Tourism Office
Buenavista, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro 5104
website: www.sablayan.net
wmial: amazing.sablayan@gmail.com
Facebook: sablayanweb@yahoo.com
Contact nos.  

Smart: +63 998 425 9898
Globe: +63 915 995 3895
 Landline: (043) 458 0028

Other Tourist Spots in Sablayan
Libuao Lake
Siburan Forest
Sablayan Museum
Sabang River Hanging Bridge
Eco-Waste Management Park
Dugoy Festival


  1. Awesome view and great place for camping. Looks fun!

  2. wow that was awesome...apo reef soon. :)

  3. incorrect na daw po yung globe number. I tried to call

  4. Hi! How much po ang budget sa tour na to? Thank you! ��

  5. Do you have to bring your own cook ware?

  6. We were there last weekend...
    Check out our video

  7. Hi! May I ask how much you spent each for the entire trip? Or a breakdown of the cost would be very helpful. Thanks!! :)

  8. Hello Ms. Lally Ocampo, would you like to join us in our trip to apo reefs and pandan island this coming Aug. 20-22, 2016. Call or text this nos. Ms. Rich Rino 0916-7721798 and Ms. Jen 0917-7757502 for more information.

  9. Hello guys! makikijoin po ako for apo ref tour nyo by 2017? may ok daw march to may ang travel

  10. Hi, pag ba nagcamping Sa apo reef pwede walk in Lang o need pareserve Kung San pa pareserve?

  11. This comment has been removed by the author.

  12. Hi, was so entertained with your blog, do you have apo reef tours for this coming May 2017? Me and my friends are planning to go to Apo Reef this summer. Will really appreciate your reply. :) Thanks.

  13. Im loving Apo reef!! Ill make it a part of my 2018 bucketlist!:-)