Asia | Philippines

I left my heart in the Philippines: diving in Pandan Island, Sablayan and Apo Reef

June 10, 2018
diving apo reef philippines pandan

The plan was get my diving certification in the Philippines and go on a trip to Apo Reef Reserve. At first, I couldn’t figure out how to plan an itinerary for a country that has about 2000 tropical islands (inhabited). Each destination seemed more beautiful and welcoming than the last. I delved into the paperback guide-book for days. In the end, I felt really attracted to the small Pandan Island in Mindoro Province. Pandan Island had a diving centre and offered trips to Apo Reef. I decided to give it a chance.

ACCOMMODATION ON PANDAN ISLAND: A COULPE OF HOURS BOAT RIDE FROM APO REEF, TOP DIVING DESTINATION IN THE PHILIPPINES

Pandan is situated a short boat ride from Sablayan, a town on the coast of Mindoro. A small island with only one accomodation and one diving center on it. I was afraid that might be too exclusive and outside of my budget. However, I had a look at the resort’s website, and I was surprised to find out that the price of a “budget hut” would be a good deal for me. I booked my stay at Pandan Island Resort for a week, just the time I would need to attend diving classes at the Mariposa Diving Centre and visit Apo Reef. After that, I had in mind to explore a bit more of the Philippines. Pandan Island seemed quite out of the way from other more popular destinations, which could make it complicated to move around to those other places, but somehow I felt that I should go there.

diving philippines apo reef pandan

diving philippines apo reef pandan

 

 

PANDAN ISLAND RESORT: THE DOORWAY TO DIVING IN  APO REEF

As soon as I stepped on the island, I felt that I had started a very special part of my life. I don’t want to exaggerate here, but how I chose to visit the Philippines and how I found out about Pandan island needs a post of its own – it has a lot to do with synchronicity, it’s like the place somehow drew me to it. One of the reasons why this place is so special is the fact that the resort and all the facilities are the result of the creativity and the synergy of a crew of foreign divers and Filipino locals. This is the place where foreign cultures have been integrated with local traditions, creating a unique dimension that fully won me over and made me want to stay.

diving philippines apo reef

 

WHY SHOULD YOU STAY ON PANDAN ISLAND AND GET YOUR DIVING CERTIFICATION THERE, AMONG ALL THE PLACES IN THE PHILIPPINES?…

 

MARIPOSA DIVING CENTER ON PANDAN ISLAND

Mariposa’s diving center on Pandan Island has been operating for decades and teaches how to dive, providing up to a Divemaster certification. The center is cozy, located approximately ten steps from your hut, with a small library with books about diving and fishes, top quality gear and teachers, and a Wifi access with tables and benches. The diving spots around the island are perfect for learning and exercising, and you can actually get to see groups of sea turtles, even if you´re just snorkeling.

DIVE IN APO REEF WITH THE STAFF FROM PANDAN ISLAND’S DIVING CENTER

The team offers day trips to Apo Reef featuring three dives and lunch on board. There are hundreds of reviews about Apo Reef. I was looking forward to diving there and I was excited and a bit distressed. We started descending and the visibility was extremely good. In a couple of minutes I was literally surrounded by fish of every shape, size and color and I spotted schools of sharks and barracudas without having to wait very long. It was such a surprising, mind-blowing experience for me, that I had to hold the dive master´s arm to make sure I was still awake and not dreaming. I’m not an expert diver, but the dives in Apo Reef went far beyond my expectations!

diving philippines apo reef

Diving Philippines apo reef day trip

 

diving apo reef philippines boat trip

HEALTHY COMPROMISE BETWEEN A FRIENDLY SOCIAL ENVIRONMENT AND A PRIVATE RETREAT OFF THE BEATEN PATH IN THE PHILIPPINES

White sand, palm trees, crystal-clear water. You sleep a few meters from the sea. A nice breeze through the nights. The huts and other facilities are conceived to have a minimum impact on the natural ecosystem. You’ll be able to drink water from the coconuts which grow on the island. There are hammock all along the beach. But you can also sit at the few social meeting points and chat with other visitors or the locals. If you need time for yourself, you can take a solitary walk along the untouched beach behind the resort or in the forest. The path in the forest easily reaches two secluded lagoons. At night, the only kiosk-bar on the island is open and board games, darts and pool will remind you how easy it is to have fun in simple ways. More photos about Pandan on their FB  page.

THE FOOD AT ON PANDAN ISLAND RESORT

Oh!!! The food at the Pandan Island Resort! Eating on Pandan Island couldn’t be more convenient and delicious. The dining hall is in front of the open kitchen which serves freshly baked bread and all kinds of fresh and cooked veggies, pasta and rice, meat and fish, desserts and fresh fruits all in the buffet-dinner format. You’ll be satisfied and full, no matter what. I really came to wait expectantly for 7:30 in the evening, when dinner was served. The style of the food? Mixed, and you’ll like it, but it has to be a surprise. You’re gonna look forward to dinner every day, I promise.

THE PEOPLE ON PANDAN ISLAND

Pandan Island Resort was born as a family business. What the traveler calls “staff” there has lived on the island since they were born. The family or community atmosphere can be felt on many, many levels. There is a harmony which underlies every action and routine. You aren’t only a visitor there, but a guest. As long as you’re happy to find yourself there, you’ll be sharing a lot with the community. People from Pandan and Sablayan were more than friendly to me.

philippines diving apo reef pandan

A SAFE DIVING DESTINATION FOR FEMALE SOLO TRAVELERS IN THE PHILIPPINES

As a female solo traveler, I felt safe and supported. Furthermore, the people on Pandan Island showed me how open and radiant Filipino culture is. Among countless interesting conversations and laughter, I’ve learned how much I had been starving for a laid-back atmosphere and cheerful connections. I felt at home to the extent that I spent three weeks on Pandan Island. The original plan was to to be there for only 6 nights! I visited Coron because I thought it was a pity to miss out  on other destinations in the Philippines. After hanging out in Coron for a week, I decided to go back to Pandan.

diving philippines apo reef pandan

diving philippines apo reef

 

 

diving philippines apo reef
Scuba diving in Apo Reef

Diving Philippines Apo Reef

  1. Hi! I have found your article very interesting and the photos great. I agree your surprise about what you got with your arriving in Philippines.
    When we travel and visit a place, often what we get is more than what we could have thought.
    Mayad

    1. The water is crystal clear in Pandan! I’ve heard the off-season can be quite rainy though. I was there in February-March and it was perfect 😉

  2. I am envious that you’ve been to all these places. I am from the Philippines and admittedly, I have yet to see Pandan Island. I am happy though that you had a blast & a wonderful experience during your stay. Thank you for all the beautiful words you shared with your readers about fellow Filipinos you had the chance to interact with and about our country. Hope to meet you when you visit again.

    1. Thank you so much Russ! I’d love to visit again. I feel you when you say that you are Filipino and did not travel to many places in the Philippines, included Pandan! I am the same over here, a 35 yo Italian who hasn’t visited Venice yet! And I also discover Pandan before I went to Florence for the first time 😀

  3. Wow! This just looks spectacular! I am totally down with more low key vacations and avoiding all the tourist so I will have to check this location out. I need a break from the hectic life!

    1. Hello Ola! Do you write about travels too? Any place you fell in love with recently to recommend? Thank you 🙂

  4. Philippines is good when it terms of beaches and island well. I’m from the Philippines and I’m just wanna say I’m soo proud to post your vacation here in Philippines! I love my country!

    1. Hello Maysz, thank you! Would you like to share your favorite place in the Philippines? I’d always go back to Mindoro, I don’t know much about other places…

  5. You know i keep seeing tons of posts about the philippines…. and i am really jonsing to go… however i am afraid if i go i may not come back!

  6. This looks like a marvelous place to vacation! Not only is it totally gorgeous but it sounds like the staff makes the vacation worth it with their welcoming energy. I love the synchronicity of people coming together for a wonderful purpose like this. 👍🏼

    1. Hello Evelyn, I know you are a light-worker, one day in front of a cup of tea I’ll share the circumstances that brought me there, you’ll be amazed 🙂

  7. Apo reef has a stretch of 30km and it is second largest next to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Hence this is one of the best dives site in the country. I’m glad you had a blast while vacationing here in the Philippines!! Be sure to come back and visit other places, I’m sure you’ll love it too. <3 <3 <3

    1. Hello Polly! Thank you for your contribution, I didn’t know it was just after the Great Barrier, awesome! What other place would you recommend? With or without diving 🙂

  8. Panda island sounds interesting for me too! I never been to any place like this because it is a dream for me to see places like this. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you, Sara! This is a safe place to make your dream come true, and zero regrets, only good memories 🙂

  9. I wish I would have kept a few days aside to explore Apo reef on my last trip to Philippines. It looks magical and just so stunning. Great pictures as well.

    1. Hi Prerna! Thank you, Apo Reef is a beautiful day-trip snorkeling, but diving is 100 times better, therefore when you go back there, make sure you will dive in Apo Reef!

  10. Wow, great to know that you enjoyed your stay. I’ve been to Mindoro too (Puerto Galera). I should visit Pandan very soon! <3 You should go and check my blog about Philippines <3

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