Lying about 30km off the west coast of Mindoro, Apo Reef stretches 26km from north to south and 20km east to west, making it a significant marine environment. There are two main atolls separated by deep channels and a number of shallow lagoons with beautiful white sandy bottoms. Only in three places does the coral rise above the sea’s surface, creating the islands of Cayos de Bajo, Binangaan and Apo. The largest of these, Apo, is home to a ranger station and a lighthouse. The diving is really something special, with sightings of sharks (even hammerheads), barracuda, tuna and turtles fairly common. Most of the Philippines’ 450 species of coral are here, from tiny bubble corals to huge gorgonian sea fans and brain corals, along with hundreds of species of smaller reef fishes such as angelfish, batfish, surgeonfish and jacks.
If you’re not staying at the Pandan Island Resort, you can head to the reef on one of the liveaboard trips offered by many dive operators in Coron Town (in Busuanga) or Manila. Alternatively the Sablayan Eco-Tourism Office can organize a 10-person boat out to the reef for P6500. However you get here, to snorkel on the reef you need to pay a fee of P350, or P1300 to dive.