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Apo Island: The Ultimate Travel Guide

Adventurer Mayan Benedicto heads south for an underwater excursion in Dumaguete’s thriving waters.

Apo Island is the place to visit when you want to go swim with the turtles, and is quite popular for diving. The island’s surrounding waters is a marine reserve, so you’re guaranteed the corals are alive—in fact, they’re the most colorful I’ve seen so far in the Philippines. Avid divers can attest to this, too.

If you’re solely out to see the turtles, they’re only a few meters away from the shore. It’s a thriving population, and they move closer when they feed.

How to get there:

Apo Island is in Dumaguete, so your first task is to reach Dumaguete. Rent a van or take one of the buses next to the local Robinsons Mall that can take you out to Malapatay, about 30 minutes outside of town. From there, you can take a bangka to Apo Island.

If you’re from Cebu, you have three options. If you like a scenic trip, or if ferry and flight schedules aren’t convenient for you, you can take a bus from the South Bus Terminal headed for Liloan Port, Santander or rent a van to take you there. A 30-minute ferry ride leads you to Sibulan Port in Duamguete. There are also daily ferries from Pier 1 that go straight to Dumaguete, which can take four to six hours, depending if you take a fast ferry or not. The easiest way is to fly from Cebu to Dumaguete. However, flights are in the afternoon and you may have to stay in Dumaguete overnight, as bangkas to Apo Island only operate until 5:00 PM.

Essentials to bring:

  • Snorkeling gear, because the rentals can get pricey
  • • Fins, because the current gets pretty strong
  • • Aqua shoes, because it’s not all sand there! You find some pretty sharp rocks
  • • Food. There are only two resorts, and the food can be a bit expensive

Apo Island is ideal for a day trip, especially if you’re already traveling to Dumaguete. Otherwise, you can stay overnight in either of the resorts or you can settle for home stays. There’s no electricity there, though, so they give you solar lamps. The bright side—you get to see a clear sky full of stars at night.

The bangkas are quite pricey, so it’s best to travel in groups. It’s P2,000 for a roundtrip four-person bangka, P3,000 for an eight person one. If you’re a solo traveler or a couple, you can take a while and wait for others to share the cost.

Aside from snorkeling, swimming and diving, you can walk around the little town. It’s quite interesting to see the locals and how they live. Facing the island, there’s a little lake on the right side. You can also climb up to the lighthouse. The foot of the stairs starts out just by Liberty Lodge.


The two resorts on the island is Liberty’s Lodge and Apo Island Beach Resort. Liberty’s Lodge has hillside rooms that have breathtaking views of the island, and has a lighthouse on the property. Apo Island Beach Resort has a secluded beachfront location, and has a generator that supplies the resort with electricity all night.

Before you venture off to swim with the turtles, stop by the Marine Park Office to pay the conservation fees. Some packages already have these built in, so make sure to discuss it with your operator.

After exploring underwater, check out Boluarte, a volcanic rock formation that is one of the island’s landmarks.

Some sites to see in Dumaguete:

  1. Twin Lakes
  2. Casaroro Falls
  3. Pulang Bato Falls

Must try restaurants in Dumaguete:

  1. Kri
  2. Sans Rival


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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise


Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard


With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant

Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.

Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.

Visit Da-In restaurant today!

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