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.

Apo Reef

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.

Sablayan

A hanging bridge in Sablayan Poblacion

How to Get There

By Air

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.

By Land/Sea

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

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
Contact: +639192859372

Feliz Del Mar Beach Park
Address: Sitio Puting Buhangin Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639214326796  / +63928-3574525

D.J.  Beach Resort
Address: Sitio Busaran, Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +63919-2859372

Landmanz Hotel & Restaurant
Address; 8914 Arellano St. Buenavista, Sablayan
Contact: +639104284569 / +639196157184

Mega Pinoy Beach Resort
Address: Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639203489415

Along D’ Beach Resort
Address: Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639214049242

Sablayan Adventure Camp Beach Resort
Address: Punta, Poblacion, Sablayan
Email: embabia@yahoo.com.ph
Website: www.sablayanadventurecamp.com

Country Wood Resort And Hotel
Address: Laya, Poblacion, Sablayan
Contact: +639208057255

Garden of Eden Resort
Contact No: +639084348034

Villa Ocampo
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.

Apo Reef

Sunset in Apo Reef

Activities

  • 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

Lakwatsero Experience

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/.

Apo Reef

Apo Island and Lighthouse

Summarized Tips

  • 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!
Apo Reef

More of Apo Island

Sample Itinerary (by land trip to and from Manila)

Day 0:
2130H – 2200H: Assembly in Pasay
2200H: Departure from Pasay to Batangas Port

Day 1:
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

Day 2:
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

Day 3:
0400H: Arrival in Batangas (Diversion Road)
0400H – 0730H: Transfer to Pasay bound bus, Batangas to Pasay
0730H – 0830H: Pasay to Home
0830H: Home

Estimated Budget: P2800.00-P3,000.00

*Updated to reflect recent rate 01-March-2012

73 Comments on “Travel Guide: Sablayan (Apo Reef/Pandan Island)

  1. Hi! Pwede bang mag-explore around Sablayan, Apo Reef or Pandan Island ng walang guide?

  2. Hello po! Good Day! Can we ask a favor po pwede po kme magpasagot ng mga questionnaire sa inyu about sa experiece nu sa Apo Reef.

  3. Hi Lakwatsero, thanks for sharing your wonderful experience in Amazing Sablayan. It helps us a lot in promoting the wonders of Sablayan. We are very glad to inform you that we are opening the Asia’s longest, and world’s second longest Island-Island Zip line soon, only in AmazingSablayan. For those individuals who plan to visit AmazingSablayan they my reach us on facebook : amazingsablayan, or follow us on twitter: AmazingSablayan

    Thank you very much, and we look forward to seeing you again visiting us!

    Regards,

    • Anyone who plans to explore Pandan Resort, Apo Reef and Sablayan this coming 2014. Please let me know we would like to join. Hope Tourism and local government of Sablayan will make a regular trip to Apo reef, Pandan to make the boat fare cheap. Its to difficult if you are only 2- 4 pax. It became expensive. Hope they can improve sea travel to those mentioned island to entice local tourist to visit this place. Just like El-Nido It might be far but beach hopping is very affordable.

  4. Pingback: Slideshow: Romancing the Memories of Apo Reef | Lakwatsero

  5. hi,

    The number of ms helen posted above can’t be contacted…do you know any contact number of her? I also emailed her and no answer till now.. thanks…planning to go there next month sana eh…sana nga hinde maulan.

    thanks in advance

  6. Pingback: Slideshow: Truly Amazing Sablayan | Lakwatsero

  7. apo reef ? superb…sun, sea @sand ….its more fun in sablayan

  8. We will be there from morning of April 26 till night of April 27. Pwede pa 3 sa boat na nirent namin. Anyone? Text me at 0917-866-1252.

    • Magkano po rent nyo sa boat? hindi po eto yun Tourism office na 7,500? Do you have contact number for the boat?

  9. be there at april 14, 5 lang kami .. anyone can join para makabudget sa
    boat rent

  10. angel,

    madali lang kayang sumakay from sablayan to batangas or manila? may idea kung anong oras ang byahe ng sablayan to batangas pag hapon na?

    balik kasi ako dito sa summer, ako daw mag-organize sabi ng mga girltalkers. sama ka rin dali =)

    • Hi Jen, sa pagkakatanda ko, 6PM ang byahe ng RoRo Bus and 8PM ang Amihan, pero that was in Feb 2012. Madali lang naman sumakay from Sablayan pero mas mabuti kung magpareserve na kaagad kayo ng return trip nyo pagdating nyo ng Sablayan to be sure. Ang ginagawa namin, pag dating namin ng Sablayan from Apo reef, may dumadaan sa amin sa bus terminal para magpareserve, bago magwash up. Baka bumalik ulit ako sa February, balitaan kita :) Pag natuloy kami sa feb baka di na ako makasama sa inyo :P

    • Ate Jen,

      Pwede b kmi Sumama sa pag balik mo jan? 2 Lang Kasi kme. Syempre backpackers so gusto namen mas tipid,
      We were from bulacan. Thanx!

  11. Angel, it’s always pleasant to visit your site :) ganda ng pictures. nakaka-enganyo. i might visit this as well this year :)

  12. Thank you for this very detailed and budget friendly travel guide! Apo Reef in on my bucket list for 2013! :D Happy new year and more travels! :)

  13. Just to be sure bring at least 6k. We were a group of 3 when we went to sablayan. The boat to apo reef is pricey because it’s about 2-hr of travel. Pero sobrang sulit… the people, the place, everything. The bigger the group, the cheaper since you can split the boat fare.

  14. may tanong po ako..ung sa sample itenerary po..ung sa budget po na 3K..kasama na po ba ung pamasahe papunta at pabalik ng manila?..salamat po.

  15. Pingback: CHEAP THRILLS: Apo Reef, Mindoro | Cents and the City

  16. HI guys, we’re planning to go to Apo Island this Saturday – Monday (APRIL 21 – 23, 2012)… And 3 pa lang kame… We’re looking for people na pede namin makasabay sa boat so we could split the bill… and meet new people na rin. :) if interested, please email me at dana_salazar@yahoo.com. Thanks, guys!

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