Travel Guide: Sablayan (Apo Reef/Pandan Island)
Endowed with amazing and world class wonders, the heart of Occidental Mindoro, guarantees everyone with unforgettable rendezvous with its warm people, rich culture and diverse nature – welcome to the wonderful Sablayan!
The biggest municipality and the top ecotourism destination of the province, Sablayan offers variety of activities specially to those adventure driven souls who want to commune with nature.
The mountains and forests of Sablayan are home to diverse flora and fauna, some of which are endemic to the island, and harbor great rivers, lakes, caves and waterfalls. Its museum and parks offer a historical and recreational experience. Its surrounding islands shine with their white sand on waters teeming with vivid and superb marine life.
Sablayan also covers the world-famous Apo Reef National Marine Park, which is considered as Asia’s largest atoll-like reef, the second largest in the world next only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. It is a 34 square kilometer reef that serves as habitat of more than 350 marine species such as sharks, sea hawks, manta rays, stingrays and other tropical fishes and invertebrates.
But more than its striking scenery, both inland and underwater, Sablayan takes pride of its people with the rich culture of the indigenous Mangyans and the inborn hospitality of Sablayeños. Come and experience the wonderful Sablayan and be mesmerized with its unmatched offerings.
How to Get There
San Jose, Occidental Mindoro is the gateway to Sablayan by air. Airphil Express, Cebu Pacific and Zest Air have regular flights to San Jose from Manila, travel time takes 45 minutes. From San Jose airport, take a short ride by tricycle to bus terminal, then hop to a bus going to Sablayan, fare is a little over P100.00, for a travel time of two-and-a-half to three hours. There are also air-conditioned vans that can be rented from the airport although it costs higher at P3500.00 and up.
From Sampaloc, Manila, there are air-conditioned Dimple Star Buses that go to San Jose, Occidental Mindoro passing in Sablayan, fare to Sablayan is P800.00 inclusive of the ferry and terminal fee in Batangas Port, last trip is 8PM from Sampaloc. They also have terminal in Alabang. Contact No: +639086315495 and +639086964803.
From Cubao, RoRo buses going to San Jose also stop at Sablayan.
For budget travelers, the cheapest way to get to Sablayan from Manila by land and sea is to go to Batangas Port for P167.00 fare (as of February 2012 , cheaper on DLTB buses at P133 ) for a travel time of two-and-a-half to three hours, then catch a ferry to Abra de Ilog at P260.00 plus P30.00 terminal fee (as of February 2012), a two to two-and-a-half hours boat ride, and hop on to a Roro Bus or a Dimple Star Bus from Abra de Ilog at P220.00 (as of February 2012) for another three hours ride by bus. If there are still available bus from Batangas Port better arranged your seats from there as the buses are usually get filled even before reaching Abra de Ilog. Alternatively there are vans from Abra de Ilog to Sablayan though rare, charging at least P250.00 per passenger.
Montenegro and Besta are the ferry operators in Batangas Port to Abra de Ilog. Please verify the schedule if you are taking a ferry, their sites are not updated, you may call Montenegro at (043)723-6980 / (043)723-8294 or the Port of Batangas hotline at (043)7238243.
Going to Apo Reef, tours are managed and controlled by the local government of Sablayan, Contact No: Ate Norie/Ate Helen +639284659585, Email: amazingsablayan[at]yahoo[dot]com or ecotourism_sablayan_occmdo[at]yahoo[dot]com[dot]ph . Boat rental as of February 2012 is fixed at 7,500 (good for 10-12 persons) for 36 hours (payable in eco-tourism office). Entrance fee in Apo Reef is P225 per person for Filipinos and P450 for foreigners (payable in eco-tourism office). Tour guide is optional, but in case you need one (which I think not), it is P750.00. Snorkel and mask set can be rented also at the tourism office for 100.00/set, so as the tents at P150.00 that is good for two persons and P300.00 good for 4-5.
Where to Stay
The best way to experience Sablayan is to pitch a tent in Apo Reef and stay overnight, or stay in the resort in Pandan Island.
Pandan Island Beach Resort Corporation in Pandan Island, just a short boat ride from the mainland offers accommodations and various amenities and activities. For more information, please visit their website at www.pandan.com.
For those who prefer to stay in the mainland, there are several hotels, inns, apartelles and beach resorts located there. These include:
La Sofia Apartelle
Address: P. Urieta St. Buenavista, Sablayan
Contact: (43)7430209 / +639207013551
Emely Hotel & Restaurant
Address: 115 Gozar St., Buenavista, Sablayan
Feliz Del Mar Beach Park
Address: Sitio Puting Buhangin Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639214326796 / +63928-3574525
D.J. Beach Resort
Address: Sitio Busaran, Poblacion, Sablayan
Landmanz Hotel & Restaurant
Address; 8914 Arellano St. Buenavista, Sablayan
Contact: +639104284569 / +639196157184
Mega Pinoy Beach Resort
Address: Poblacion, Sablayan
Along D’ Beach Resort
Address: Poblacion, Sablayan
Country Wood Resort And Hotel
Address: Laya, Poblacion, Sablayan
Garden of Eden Resort
Contact No: +639084348034
Address: Sitio Laya, Barangay Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639186665479 / +639185111886
* Thanks to the official website of Municipality of Sablayan: www.sablayan.net for the list. The official website contains all you need to know about the town.
- Dive in the world-famous Apo Reef guarantees sightings of sharks and other rare marine species sighting
- Dive and snorkel in the waters around Pandan Island
- For non divers, experience a unique and the best snorkeling by holding on a bamboo frame being dragged slowly by a pumpboat, see the sharks, turtles, manta and other pelagic underneath
- Trek and swim to Malatungtong and Pandurucan Waterfalls
- Enjoy the white sand beaches of Pandan Grande, Pandan Pequeño and Apo Island
- Spend overnight in Apo Island on a tent
- Climb to the Apo Reef Lighthouse and see the 360 degrees unobstructed view of the marine park
- Visit Mindoro Pines dubbed as Little Baguio of Mindoro, Libuao Lake, Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm, Siburan Forest and Sablayan Eco Park
- Trek Mt. Iglit-Baco National Park, a sanctuary for endangered Tamaraws
- Witness the best view of sunset at Parola Park
- Trace the history with the town’s old churches and museums
- Immerse with the rich culture of indigenous Mangyans
- Trek the hills of Mt. Agsuli
- Explore Carungcaban Cave
Read the narrative of Lakwatsero’s DIY trip to Apo Reef and Pandan Island, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro in June of 2010 at http://www.lakwatsero.com/travelogues/apo-reef-and-pandan-island-on-a-budget-a-diy-guide/.
- Tours are managed and controlled by the local government of Sablayan, Contact No: +639284659585 (Ate Norie/Ate Helen), email: amazingsablayan[at]yahoo[dot]com or ecotourism_sablayan_occmdo[at]yahoo[dot]com[dot]ph
- Boat rental rate ranges from P7,500-P9,000 for 36 hours good for 10-15 persons, payable in eco-tourism office
- Entrance fee in Apo Reef is P225 per person (Filipinos) and P450 per person (foreigners), payable in eco-tourism office
- Tour guide is optional, but in case you need one (which I think not) P750.00
- Diving in Apo Reef can also be arranged in the tourism office. Cost: One-time diving fee of is P1,350 (Filipinos) and P1,700 (foreigners); Dive Master fee of P500/dive; complete set of equipment/gear rental for a day at P1,600; tank rental of P300/tank; plus the boat rental which is P7,500-P9000 that can fit 10-15 persons. It would be best to join a group to share cost for the boat.
- Snorkel and Mask set can be rented at the tourism office for 100.00/set
- Tents can also be rented at P150.00/tent that is good for 2 persons and P300.00/tent good for 4-5 persons
- Tourism office offers various tours, trips and packages which include trip to Island Experience, Caving, Diving, Snorkeling, Trekking, Museum Tour, etc.
- No celfone signal of any network in the island, but radio communication present is available
- Solar powered electricity is available only in the evening
- Verify the schedule of Montenegro ferry if you are commuting from Batangas to Abra de Ilog, their site is not updated, you may call them at (043)723-6980 / (043)723-8294
- From Sampaloc, Manila, there are air-conditioned Dimple Star Buses that go San Jose Mindoro and pass through Sablayan, fare is P800 (P175 higher if you commute per leg Manila-Batangas-Abra de Ilog-Sablayan), their last trip is 8PM from Sampaloc. They also have terminal in Alabang. Contact No: +639086315495 & +639086964803. Occidental Mindoro Transport Services buses also ply the same route
- Going home, there are vans direct to home in Sablayan, rate is P900+
- There are vans from Sablayan going to Abra de Ilog, fare is P220 – P230 but trips are rare and limited
- There are Dimple Star buses that transport passenger from Abra de Ilog Port to San Jose via Sablayan
- There are provincial non-airconditioned buses in Sablayan going to Abra de Ilog but the trip takes more than four hours due to numerous stops
- The most convenient way for me is to ride a Dimple Star Bus from Sablayan to Batangas for P550 (inclusive of Ro-Ro and Terminal Fee), if you decide to take Dimple Star reserve your seat ahead!
Sample Itinerary (by land trip to and from Manila)
2130H – 2200H: Assembly in Pasay
2200H: Departure from Pasay to Batangas Port
0030H: Arrival in Batangas Port
0030H – 0200H: Assembly/Buy Ticket/Board Ferry
0200H – 0400H: Batangas to Abra de Ilog via Montenegro Lines
0400H – 0700H: Abra de Ilog to Sablayan by Dimples Bus
0700H – 1000H: Arrival in Sablayan/Register and Settle Payments at Sablayan Eco-Tourism Office/Breakfast/Shop for camping supplies
1000H – 1300H: Sablayan to Apo Reef by boat
1300H – 1430H: Arrival in Apo Reef/Setup Camp/Prepare Lunch/Lunch
1430H – 1800H: Explore Apo Reef: Trek the lighthouse, rafting in lagoon, swim, snorkel, photo ops, prepare dinner
1800H – 1900H: Dinner
1900H: Socials, Bonfire, Lights off
0500H – 0630H: Call time/Watch Sunrise/Prepare Breakfast
0630H – 0800H: Breakfast/Prepare for Snorkeling Tour
0800H – 1000H: Guided Snorkeling
1000H – 1030H: Break Camp
1030H – 1330H: Apo Reef to Pandan Island
1330H – 1430H: Lunch in Pandan Island
1430H – 1600H: Explore Pandan Island/Swim/Snorkel/Photo Ops
1600H – 1630H: Pandan to Sablayan
1630H – 1800H: Wash up in Eco-Tourism Complex
1800H – 2100H: Buy bus ticket to Batangas/Dinner/Rest
2100H: Wait for Bus/Depart from Sablayan to Batangas
0400H: Arrival in Batangas (Diversion Road)
0400H – 0730H: Transfer to Pasay bound bus, Batangas to Pasay
0730H – 0830H: Pasay to Home
Estimated Budget: P2800.00-P3,000.00
*Updated to reflect recent rate 01-March-2012