Apo Island

Satellite image of Apo Island in Dauis, Negros Oriental

I think the top tourist attraction of Negros Oriental outside of Dumaguete is Apo Island (Wikipedia). Famous for its excellent snorkeling and diving sites, the island and its surrounding waters is a very successful case study of developing a sustainable community-managed marine protected area.

In the 1970s, fishing stocks around the island have been decreasing due to destructive fishing methods such as dynamite and cyanide fishing. Through the efforts of people from Silliman University in Dumaguete, the local fishermen were convinced that creating a marine sanctuary was beneficial and some families together with the local government agreed to start with designating a small no-fish zone in 1982. By 1985, the whole island community bought into the idea and they further implemented fishing restrictions all around the island. The coral cover increased and now the island derives additional income from ecotourism. The best article to read about Apo Island’s environmental turnabout is “Marine Sanctuary: Restoring a Coral-Reef Fishery” by Gerry Marten.

A view of mainland Negros as seen from the boat landing area at Apo Island. © Tom Bishop (CC)

Apo Island is 12 hectares in size and is located 7 kilometers off the coast of mainland Negros. Administratively, the whole island is a barangay, one of 23 that comprise the municipality of Dauin, Negros Oriental. I find this weird since Apo Island is closer to the municipality of Zamboanguita, and in fact, the ferry port that goes to Apo Island is located in Zamboanguita.

Despite being a popular diving spot, tourism is kept low-key on the island in order to preserve the marine sanctuary. The number of divers is restricted and there are only two major accommodations on the island: Apo Island Beach Resort and Liberty’s Lodge, both located on the western side near where the boats from the mainland dock. In addition to diving, visitors may also explore the island by hiking the trails. On the highest point of the island, there is a lighthouse located about 120 meters above sea level.

If you have a child and you want to let him or her learn more about the island, you should check out Mysteries of Apo Island, an interactive educational game produced by Shedd Aquarium that aims to teach about marine biodiversity.

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Posted on
September 1, 2013
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