Apo Island sustainable scuba diving during travelling in the Philippines


scuba diving photo Apo Island
Of course, the clownfish family of ´Nemo´ is almost everywhere to be found in the tropical waters, so also in the Philippines. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

The Philippines is a great destination for travelling and scuba diving

After travelling around the Philippines for the third time in my life, where I personally experienced some of the best times of my life as well one of the most dramatic ones, I again realise that this country has a special place in my heart. I will write more about why I love this country so much in one of my travel blog updates, but one of the reasons is the amazing scuba diving you encounter during travelling around the Philippines. In this post, I take you scuba diving to Apo Island with the eco-conscious and environmentally friendly scuba diving centre called ´Harolds Dive Center´ whilst travelling in the Visayas.

Apo Island: scuba diving from Negros Island during travelling the Philippines

From the most famous scuba diving in the Philippines, like the almost guaranteed thresher sharks on Malapascua Island, sardine runs in Cebu, and ship- and plane wreck diving in Coron, there are also some must-visit scuba diving places in between your travelling. One of them is Apo Island on Negros Island! In 2012, I already went to all the famous dive sites of the Philippines, and this time I returned to do some more travelling and scuba diving on a few islands in the Visayas. In this article, I will write about scuba diving on Negros Island, where I go on a triple tank dive trip to Apo Island with Harolds Diving Centre in Dumaguete.

Apo Island: a must whilst travelling and scuba diving in the Philippines
Apo Island, a must-do scuba dive destination, is situated in between Siquijor Island & Negros Island on the Philippines

Traditional ´Filipino-style´ experience during your scuba diving trip to Apo Island in the Philippines

It´s early morning when we are getting ready for our ´triple tank´ scuba diving trip to Apo Island. The staff of Harold Dive Centre in Dumaguete is all fresh awake and busy organising everything perfectly for our diving- and snorkelling excursion. There is a lot of staff, and although it´s only 06.45 am in the morning and I still feel a bit sleepy, the people at work all have a big smile, while they are helping us with getting our diving equipment packed for the day.

Transport to the scuba diving boat: travelling by a typical jeepney from the Philippines

After the paperwork is done and the diving equipment is packed, we board the back of a typical Filipino ´Jeepney´: a truck with two benches on the back for people to sit on. It´s a nice way to get to know each other and I chat with my fellow divers of the day. I talk with my ´Filipina dive buddy´, who I met a couple of days before when we went shore diving in Dauin on the Philippines. There couldn´t be a more typical Philippines feeling than to be driven to the dive boat whilst travelling by jeepney. Apo Island here we come!


enjoying scuba diving on Apo Island
My ´Filipina´ dive buddy (right for the viewer) & me (left) enjoying scuba diving on Apo Island

Typical ´Banca boat´ of the Philippines will bring us to our scuba diving sites around Apo Island

After waking up during our ´jeepney-ride´, we arrive at the beach in Dauin to board our, again typical Filipino, Banca or Bangka boat. This traditional boat in the Philippines is characterized by the double outriggers for stability. While the staff is loading the ´Bangka´, also called ´pump-boat´, we are not even allowed to help them.

Typical breakfast from the Philippines whilst listening to our scuba diving safety briefing for Apo Island

As soon as we are on board, we can enjoy a simple but nice breakfast, again in Filippino style. There is coffee, tea, bananas and bread with homemade banana jam, which is also typical for the Philippines. You can eat as much as you like, which is almost dangerous because it tastes very good!  I can stop in time telling myself I shouldn´t eat too much before scuba diving. At the same time, we listen to our boat safety briefing which is very clearly given and we are ready for travelling to Apo Island.


dive boat with diving tanks, on our way to Apo Island in the Philippines
On our way to Apo Island, scuba diving in the Philippines

Ready to go diving: dive site Chapel on Apo Island

As soon as we arrive at the waters around Apo Island we gear up for our first scuba dive of the day. After entering the water by a giant stride we already spot a turtle on the surface. Nice start! Also, I am impressed by the amount of staff and the service provided, not only on the boat but also during the dive! We are a small group of only four divers with one instructor leading the dive and two divemasters in the back. For me, this is a really nice scuba diving experience.

Many staff during scuba diving in the Philippines: relax!

As an instructor myself, I would like to take some photos but also knowing that my buddy does not have much experience yet, I feel responsible to keep an eye on her, more than on my camera. However, I realise very soon that the divemaster is every time right beside her as soon as she experiences a small problem, so I can completely relax and feel comfortable enough to also take photos of the beautiful diving on Apo Island.

Scuba diving next to a wall, Apo Island
I could relax and enjoy taking some photos during scuba dives in the Philippines. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

Healthy corals around Apo Islands in the Philippines

Even though I worked in Dumaguete (during travelling the Philippines) for a few days in the years 2012 and 2013, I had completely forgotten how beautiful the corals are in this part of the Philippines. Before travelling to the Philippines this time, I was doing some travelling and island hopping around the Andaman Sea and visited the Maldives again, to do some scuba diving there. But none of these places beat the corals you find around Apo Island in the Philippines.

Challenge during the first scuba dive on Apo Island: photograph the travelling Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips!

We first stay above a plateau at a depth of about 10 metres, before descending further down where we continue our scuba diving next to a wall at about 20 metres. Things we spot include clownfish, nudibranch, groupers, common reef fish and lionfish. Very elegant, but travelling around, quickly moving and disappearing once again, I do manage to take some photos of the Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips,  I think he was playing hideaway with me!

Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips fish during travelling the Philippines and scuba diving Apo Island
I did ´catch´ (on the photo) the Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips (Plectorhinchus chaetodonoides) during my scuba diving on the Philippines (tiger moray eel in the background)


The second diving site of Apo Island during travelling the Philippines: Cogon Point

Our second dive is a very relaxing drift dive. There is a little current which carries us comfortably along while a sea snake is following us in the current. He looks curious or maybe he is just simply enjoying our company. There is an amazingly big group of jackfish, we can enter the school of fish, swim between them and get lost in it, and they don´t even move away from us. Oh, how much I  missed scuba diving on the Philippines!

The Pajama Cardinalfish is playing the same game with me as the Juvenile Harlequin Sweetlips!

The divemaster shows a Pajama Cardinalfish, but like the Juvenile Sweetlips, he moves so quickly. Before I can catch him on a photo, he already disappears in the hard corals. This happens a few times, and I decide I should be satisfied with the photo of the Harlequin Sweetlips. A turtle is laying patiently on the reef waiting and posing for us when he gets photographed. We also spot a huge potato grouper (Epinephelus Tukula), also called Lapo Lapo in the Philippines. Overall, this dive site contains coral blocks, sandy paths and a wall on our side. The whole area is covered by beautiful purple and pinkish coral.


a sea snake was following us during diving on Apo Island in the Philippines
The sea snake followed us during a big part of the scuba dive
Sea turtle scuba diving Apo Island
This sea turtle is asking for a photo!! This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

Harold Dive Centre is an environmental conscious diving centre: no plastic waste during our scuba dives on Apo Island!

Even though my travelling in the Philippines this time is right in the rain season, and it was a little rainy in the morning, after the second dive the sun is shining brightly. All clouds have disappeared and they don´t return for the rest of the day. So it is nice to enjoy our lunch in the sunshine after scuba diving! Our ´Pancit´, a typical Filipino dish consisting of vegetarian fried noodles with a boiled egg on the side, is served in a reusable hard plastic container.

No use of throw-away plastic at all and food supplies from local people of the Philippines

I am told that the plastic boxes get washed at the end of the day and will be reused again, the same they do with the hard plastic cups for drinking water and coffee or tea.  There are only huge water bottles on the boat to refill your cup or your own bottle. Small water bottles are not available, so there is zero plastic waste created during the scuba diving day. The food supplies for the lunch, bought from local people in Dumaguete, are also collected in the hard-plastic containers to avoid any plastic throw-away waste.

Apo Island is full of nudibranch, travelling and scuba diving the Philippines
There are so many nudibranchs to be seen during scuba diving on Apo Island. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

Our third dive on Apo Island for this diving excursion on the Philippines: Rock Point

Rock Point is another impressive scuba diving site! First of all the amount, and variety of species, of nudibranchs, are remarkable at this dive site. They are all to be found among the amazingly colourful and healthy soft corals. There are also hard corals and sponges to be found all over the place. During diving, we spot frogfish, among a turtle, triggerfish, and more common reef fish. The current has picked up this afternoon so we enjoy another drift dive.


macro life to be found around scuba diving Apo
And yet another nudibranch in the waters around Apo Island in the Philippines. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

Fulfilment of my second mission of the diving day on Apo Island: a photo of the Pajama Cardinalfish

We end our dive at a protected spot, which is quieter and a bit away from the current, before going up to do our safety stop. And the divemaster (he must have an X-ray-vision!) shows me, once again, the Pajama Cardinalfish. This little fish is so quick, and again I feel like he is playing hideaway with me! Every time I get my camera ready, he quickly disappears in the hard corals. But at some point, I get him twice on camera.  My mission is fulfilled! No better ending to finish this third dive of the day!


Pajama Cardinalfish during scuba diving Apo Island
My second mission to photograph the Pajama Cardinalfish (Sphaeramia nematoptera)
The Pajama Cardinal is not easy to catch on a photo during scuba diving
Not the best dive photo, but I want to show I won the game and caught the Pajama Cardinalfish twice, LOL! Can you find him? (Sphaeramia nematoptera)

The local boat crew & scuba dive team from the Philippines create a great vibe during our Apo Island diving excursion!

I really like to mention our great local dive guide & instructor, who is leading all scuba diving during the day and has a great eye for even the smallest macro life. Without him, I would have missed a lot of interesting sea life! Also, the divemasters are incredibly helpful, keeping an eye constantly and attending to all divers in the group. The whole day, we have so much fun with all the staff of Harolds Dive Center, even on our way back to Dauin. They are chatting with us all the time, are in for many jokes and making us laugh. They definitely are a factor in creating a great vibe on the dive boat.


fun during our Apo Island trip with Harolds Dive Center
Look at those local style scuba diving fins of the Philippines: So much fun with the dive team of Harolds Dive Center

Harold´s Dive Center is environmentally conscious: support marine conservation during travelling and diving in the Philippines

Besides of not creating any plastic, the dive centre is also involved with coral replanting projects, removal of the crown-of-thorns starfish and cooperating with the regular ocean- and beach clean-ups. The scuba diving centre helps in building an artificial reef too. Not to forget that they always use local and fresh products for food on the dive boat, as well for the food provided in Harolds Mansion, always buy the supplies in their own big containers and refuse to take throw away plastic from their suppliers.

Harold, the local owner of the scuba diving centre, is involved with ocean conservation and marine biology projects in the Philippines

At the end of the day, Harold tells me that he volunteers on a regular base. He has done volunteering for ´Green Peace´, ´Save Philippines Seas´, a project involved with marine conservation on the Philippines, Project Seahorse, and Zero Waste Negros. He also works together sometimes with students or projects from the marine biology faculty of the university in Dumaguete, with things as reef fixing projects, fish restoration, laboratory work, monitoring and much more. Click here for an overview of all blogposts about eco-conscious and environmentally friendly scuba diving centres for more green travelling.


Would you like to do more conscious travelling and help protect the environment during scuba diving?

There are many things you can do yourself to help preserve the environment. In addition to choosing an environmentally friendly accommodation or environmentally conscious scuba dive centre, you can choose to refill a stainless steel bottle with water instead of buying plastic bottles. And what about biodegradable hair conditioner or sunscreen? I earn a small commission on your purchase through the Amazon ad below.

Environmentally conscious scuba diving and travelling at Apo Island on the Philippines
Harolds Dive Center is focussed on being sustainable & environmentally conscious. Environmental Protection wall painting in Dumaguete in the Philippines.

Harolds Dive Center is under Filipino management and supports the local population of the Philippines

All of this, together with the big amount of Filipino staff working at the diving centre and their positive attitude, I can see that this scuba dive centre helps not only the environment. The dive centre is extremely sustainable and helps in ocean conservation, protects the environment, supports the local population of the Philippines and provides a great guest experience for their divers, snorkellers and travellers. Shortly, a way of sustainable and conscious travelling and scuba diving Apo Island on the Philippines.



Dolphins & different whale species are seen during scuba diving on Apo Island

Harold also tells me a bit more about scuba diving in general. “Sometimes bigger stuff pass by here”, says Harold Biglete, owner of Harold´s Divecenter, “Because there is a channel between Negros and Siquijor Island, everything is possible.” He tells me that sometimes dolphins, blue whales and pilot whales pass through the channel. Also, the whale shark has been seen scuba diving here. He continues to tell me that Apo Island is more famous for reef fish, the huge schools of jackfish, reef dwellers and macro life but that they also have seen the thresher shark and manta rays.


nudibranch scuba dive photo Apo Island
One nudibranch at the time: scuba diving Apo Island is known for great macro life. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 
Frogfish, during scuba diving on Apo Island and travelling the philippines
We also saw a frogfish during scuba diving on Apo Island. This photo is taken with the Nikon Coolpix. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

More information about this scuba diving centre in Dumaguete on the Philippines

Harolds Dive Center is an SSI scuba dive centre but courses from PADI and SDI & TDI (scuba diving international) are available too. The diving centre offers guided diving and courses from the above organisations. The dive centre has 15 years of experience, is probably the most affordable diving centre in the area and has well-maintained scuba equipment available for rent. They are opened all year round and next to scuba diving, they offer snorkel tours and other excursions around Negros Island for you to book during travelling around in the Philippines.  The dive centre is a sister company of ´Harolds Mansion´, offering you affordable and eco-friendly accommodation during your scuba diving holiday.

Click on the advertisement below to book your room in Harold´s Mansion with Agoda. I earn a small commission on your purchase through this link.

Harolds Dive Center is completely in line with the Splashpacker ethics

As an independent Splashpacker, but at the same time being a friend of the owner of this dive centre, I can say that I always provide my honest opinion. I honestly think that this scuba dive centre is completely in line with the Splashpacker ethics, looking at the following points:

  • environmental friendly and consciously reduce plastic waste
  • positively attitude to keep the oceans healthy and marine conservation
  • use of local products and support of the local population
  • creating an excellent guest experience
  • sustainable & eco-conscious scuba dive accommodation for your diving holiday


so many sea snails around Apo Island diving
So many sea snails around Apo Island!

How to get to Dumaguete on Negros Island in order to do scuba diving on Apo Island?

There are a few options to reach Dumaguete on Negros Island in the Visayas region in the Philippines. From Cebu, the most affordable way is to buy a combination ticket for the bus and boat, you can also take a ferry from Cebu or book a national flight from Cebu to Dumaguete. From Manilla, the easiest way is to book a flight to Dumaguete Airport. No matter if you´re looking for your international flight ticket to the Philippines, your national tavels to Dumaguete, or a combination of both, you can always scan the best deal for your transport on 12go.asia.

I earn a small commission on your purchase through the above links or through the search table below.

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Looking for a room in the budget accommodation of Harolds Mansion in Dumaguete the Philippines?

I can recommend staying in Harolds Mansion during your stay in Dumaguete. You are at the right place to book your scuba diving to Apo Island and to do other excursion or travel on. The place is located at walking distance from Dumaguete port and is also a nice place to meet other scuba divers. There´s a full vegetarian menu available on the rooftop restaurant and the place is extremely affordable. I will soon write a full article about this eco-friendly accommodation. If you like to book your stay in Harold´s Mansion you can do so on Agoda by clicking on this link. I earn a small commission on your purchase through this link.

Looking for other excursions than scuba diving Apo Island whilst travelling the Philippines?

The Philippines has, besides of scuba diving a lot more to offer in regards to travelling around the islands and doing excursions. From Negros Island there are many day tours to do and places to visit. You can use ´Get your Guide´ to book any activities during travelling around the Philippines. The twin lakes on Negros Island are a recommended visit but I absolutely recommend travelling to the island of Siquijor, it´s unmissable whilst travelling through this part of the Philippines. A blogpost about Siquijor will follow soon, it´s one of my favourite islands! If you book through the advertisement below, I earn a small commission.

What more to expect about the Philippines, on Splashpacker?

As always, I am excited when I find eco-friendly and sustainable projects, serving nature and the local population. Therefore, I am already planning of writing another article about my stay in Harolds Mansion and about my experience going shore diving in Dauin. Also, I have visited a friend and colleague diving instructor in Anda on Bohol Island. In 2012, I travelled all around the Philippines for almost 2 months, you can read more about that in my book Safety Stop. When I find more time I will definitely write a general article about diving & travelling the Philippines. The country has a special place in my heart!

New! Splaspacker YouTube channel: all about scuba diving and travelling

Splashpacker has recently started a YouTube channel, it´s focussed on scuba diving and travelling. And not only about Apo Island and the Philippines, of course! I share video´s on the road, underwater diving video´s, tips for scuba diving & travelling, updates in between, working as an instructor and much more. Here is an introduction video:


As an associate from Booking, Agoda, 12go.co, Get your Guide and Amazon, I earn from qualifying purchases

healthy corals around Apo Island in the Visayas
Playing with my Nikon Coolpix camera. Click for my full review of this dive camera. 

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