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Last updated on January 10, 2021
Apo Reef is the largest coral reef in the Philippines. Protected by a national park, it is home to exceptional marine biodiversity and allows visitors to encounter sharks, turtles, schools of barracuda and Maori wrasse. In most locations, however, the depth exceeds 15ft, which can limit the underwater life observation.
Apo Reef is an atoll-type reef located some 25 miles from the west coast of Mindoro Island. You can get there by boat from Calintaan (with the Apo Reef Club) or from Pandan Island, which faces Sablayan.
From Pandan, tours are organized by the Pandan Island Resort. Day tours cost 3,600 Philippine pesos per person (around 75$US, minimum 5 persons). Most day tours include 3 snorkeling stops at different locations. On the way, you may sight dolphins swimming around the boat.
You’ll enter the water directly from the boat.
Apo Reef is a very large reef, with a dozen inventoried sites for diving and snorkeling. When booking the tour, it is difficult to get confirmation of the exact sites that will be visited, as they are often chosen at the last moment, depending on sea conditions.
Boat trips to Apo Reef generally mix scuba divers and snorkelers. As a result, you will often snorkel near diving spots, and therefore in areas with a significant depth, exceeding 15ft/5m.
Even with great underwater visibility, this depth can be frustrating, especially if you only snorkel on the surface. Apo Reef is a national park, where the reef is well preserved.
The coral health varies from good to excellent depending on the area, with beautiful beds of branching coral, finger coral, and brain coral.
Hundreds of species of reef fish can be seen at Apo Reef, including butterflyfish, boxfish, jacks, parrotfish, and angelfish. In some areas, there are impressive schools of barracuda, humphead parrotfish and bignose unicornfish.
The reef, protected, also allows encounters with blacktip reef sharks, hawksbill sea turtles (very common), and the iconic Maori wrasse.
A barbecue on the beach at Apo Island (not to be confused with the island of the same name which is found in the Visayas) is generally included in day tours. It is also possible to organize overnight stays near the reef, with a night in a tent on the island.
These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.
This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.
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Snorkeling spots are part of a wild environment and their aspect can be significantly altered by weather, seasons, sea conditions, human impact and climate events (storms, hurricanes, seawater-warming episodes…). The consequences can be an alteration of the seabed (coral bleaching, coral destruction, and invasive seagrass), a poor underwater visibility, or a decrease of the sea life present in the area. Snorkeling Report makes every effort to ensure that all the information displayed on this website is accurate and up-to-date, but no guarantee is given that the underwater visibility and seabed aspect will be exactly as described on this page the day you will snorkel the spot. If you recently snorkeled this area and noticed some changes compared to the information contained on this page, please contact us.
The data contained in this website is for general information purposes only, and is not legal advice. It is intended to provide snorkelers with the information that will enable them to engage in safe and enjoyable snorkeling, and it is not meant as a substitute for swim level, physical condition, experience, or local knowledge. Remember that all marine activities, including snorkeling, are potentially dangerous, and that you enter the water at your own risk. You must take an individual weather, sea conditions and hazards assessment before entering the water. If snorkeling conditions are degraded, postpone your snorkeling or select an alternate site. Know and obey local laws and regulations, including regulated areas, protected species, wildlife interaction and dive flag laws.
Coral reef and seagrass beds with sea turtles and tropical fish
Sheltered bay with seagrass beds and dugongs
Reef drop off with sea turtles, reef fish and barracudas
House reef with colorful coral and tropical fish
Coral reef with a nice diversity of corals
Rocks and corals area with fish and turtles
Free shore access