Archive for Trips

Experience Apo Reef in Sablayan Occidental Mindoro

Apo Reef Natural Park was unfamiliar to me until our group decided to go there for our annual summer outing. It is located in Sablayan Occidental Mindoro. You need to go to the Port of Batangas and board a RoRo going to Abra de Ilog. RoRo travel time is about 2.5 hours. From Abra de Ilog it will be a 2 to 3 hour drive to Sablayan.

The drive to Sablayan was perfect for sight-seers like us. Views of mountain ranges, rice fields, rivers and the sea welcomed us while we were managing paved (with rice and corn being sun-dried) and rough roads, nothing which my Mitsubishi Strada can handle.  Be careful as there are many unwanted obstacles on the road. Better drive safely than be sorry as there are no nearby talyers (“car shops”) that can help if you have car troubles.

The weather was serene, hot and humid but perfect!


When my GPS Navigator informed us that we reached our destination we were in for a surprise. We were beside a cemetery. “What the heck!” I told myself. It seemed my GPS Navigator was referring to the “FINAL DESTINATION” so we thought and we all laughed hahaha.

We were hungry so we searched for Camalig restaurant. Since all of us were first-timers in Sablayan we asked the “LOCALS” for directions. The usual response when we asked where the restaurant is was “PASENSYA NA PO DAYO LANG AKO DITO” (“Sorry but I’m not a native of this place”)  hahaha. It seemed Sablayan was becoming a SABLAY YAN for us 😛 Fortunately we found the place and settled in while waiting for our food. I was really looking forward to adobong pugita (Octopus) but it was not on the menu. Talk about sablay (“fail”) but their pancit was quite good. After eating we headed straight to the Tourism Office to arrange our trip to Apo Reef Natural Park the next day. No sablay this time and we had a smooth transaction with our contact.

SInce we were the advanced party, we had the luxury to roam around Sablayan. We visited Presing Park (PAROLA) and climbed the old watch tower. The park is also where the longest zipline is being built but we were informed that the build was delayed due to a failure when they tested the zipline (the tester got stuck – ANOTHER SABLAY!!!). They need to add more height to the zipline tower. It would have been a great experience to zip from Presing Park to the other island but it will have to wait.

We also visited the “OLD CHURCH” which was near the park but because of another sablay we missed the entrance (a local pointed us to the wrong direction so we had to do a U-TURN to go back). The church facade was like from the spanish era. Unfortunately the church door was locked, so we do not know how it looked like inside.

After roaming around we checked-in to Emily’s Hotel and rested for a while. We ordered our dinner (adobong pusit and inihaw na tuna!!!) and went to the market to buy our provisions and to find some local delicacies. After marketing, we went back to the hotel and had our dinner food trip. It was a great first day in Sablayan despite the sablays that we encountered hehehe.

Sablayan Occidental Mindoro

Our first day in Sablayan and it was a blast!!!



We were in constant communication with our main team who left Manila Friday night. They encountered several delays during their trip so we decided to go ahead after making sure we have bought all of our provisions. First stop was Pandan Island which was 30 minutes away from Sablayan Main Land. It was my first time to encounter and swim with giant turtles (PAWIKANS). It was pretty awesome!!!

Pandan Island

Our boat docked in Pandan Island Beach. The water was clean and clear perfect for snorkeling and swimming!!!

Pandan Island Pawikan

It was awesome to swim with the giant turtles!!!

We wanted to reach Apo Reef Island early so after an hour of fun swimming, snorkeling and catching the pawikans, we continued our boat trip. There were several times that we encountered dolphins during our trip to the island and it was an exciting experience (you can view the videos located at the right side of the page). We reached the Apo Reef after 2 hours and our excitement sky-rocketed!!! Not far was the island and after 2.5 hours of boating from Pandan Island, we touched-down in Apo Reef Island!!!

The weather was really hot which made the fine white sand on our feet seemed to burn. Fortunately our campsite was under the trees.

While waiting for our main team, we cooked lunch and set up our tents. After 3 hours, the rest of our SMBerks arrived and boy were they tired and hungry hahaha. After everyone finished eating and setting up the camp, our guides gave us a short briefing and gave us a complete tour of the island. We were divided into 2 groups (yep we were many) and we took different routes to tour the island. The tour of Apo Reef Island took about 2 hours and after that we regrouped in our campsite and enjoyed our time in the island.

That night was a night with star-filled skies and some of us laid on the beach to witness the glorious beauty of the sky. “There’s a shooting star!!!”

Apo Reef Island Watch Tower

Whole team at the Watch Tower

Apo Reef Watch Tower

View from the watch tower in Apo Reef Island


DAY 3 (SUNDAY) – Goodbye Apo Reef Island but wait there is more ……

The next day we were very eager to pack up and experience being towed by our boats while snorkeling. Of course we had to catch the sunrise and it was breath-taking 😉

Apo Reef

Apo Reef Island Sunrise

Apo Reef Natural Park

Bye bye Apo Reef Island…..

Apo Reef

Mam Gabby enjoying the cool clear water during our snorkeling break

After our snorkeling tour, we also visited some of the reefs while we made our way back to Sablayan Main Land. I was astounded by the pristine condition of the corals and I saw a lot of creatures which I could not identify because it was my first time to see them. All I can say was that “the bio-system is diverse”.

Apo Reef


To sum everything up, Apo Reef is a place for everyone who wants to experience a secluded getaway. Yes the trip is quite long but really worth it! I enjoyed every bit of the drive and time I spent with my companions and with nature 🙂

If you want to visit Apo Reef Natural Park in Sablayan Occidental Mindoro, contact the local Tourism Office there and they will take care of everything, from guides, boats and other arrangements. There are a lot of attractions in Sablayan but Apo Reef is definitely the place to be. You will surely enjoy your time there specially if you have companions, as I did with my SMBerks 🙂

Thanks for reading. God bless!