Tiny, volcanic Apo Island, 7km off the south coast of Negros, has become a prime destination for divers, most of whom head out for the day from Dumaguete, Dauin or Siquijor. Site of one of the Philippines’ first and most successful marine reserves, Apo has a series of reefs teeming with marine life, from the smallest nudibranch to the largest deepwater fish. Snorkelling in the sanctuary costs P150 per person, while diving costs P300. The sanctuary area is on the island’s southeast coast, while much of the flat land to the north is occupied by the only village, home to four hundred fisherfolk and farmers. Non-divers needn’t be bored; Apo has some fantastic snorkelling and it’s a great little island to explore on foot.
Most tourists visiting Apo take an organized trip from Dumaguete or Bais, though you can travel independently on one of the regular bangkas from Silliman Beach in Dumaguete and from Malatapay. The trip takes about 45 minutes and the price should be P1500 for 5–6 people. There are only two places to stay on the island: Liberty’s Resort (P1000–1499) has a dive shop, dorms and rooms with private or shared bathrooms overlooking the ocean, while Apo Island Beach Resort (t035/225-5490, wwww.apoislandresort.com; P2000–2499) has lovely cottage rooms right on the beach, plus dorm beds (P700) and diving (P1300–1400 per dive).
Among other dive sites, Calong-Calong Point off the southern tip of Negros is known for its dazzling number of smaller reef fish. Nearby is Tacot, a tricky deep dive where sharks are common. From the coastal towns to the south of Dumaguete you can take a bangka to Siquijor, where sites such as Sandugan Point and San Juan go as deep as 65m, and where you can expect to see tuna, barracuda and sharks plus, from March to August, manta rays. You can arrange trips to these sites through the dive operators in Dauin or Dumaguete.