I have just got back from another (being my third) day trip out to Apo Island. After hearing so much about the place within the Philippines from people ‘in the know’, how it is one of the top two places in the Philippines for diving, I must say that it is one of the most over-rated dive sites I have ever dived. I’ve dived there now 8 times, including the advanced sites of Coconuts and Cogan, and my findings are as follows: Fish and marine life – poor to average. Admittedly the currents were not strong when I dived there, but still I can get a reasonable picture of the life from the resident reef fish rather than the pelagic action. There was a reasonable size school of big-eye trevally, and a few sweetlips and emporers, but apart from that just a few small sprinklings of anthias. This is all very consistent with dive sites that are over-fished, and considering the vast numbers of fish traps that I saw all around the island, hardly surprising. Still, when I give Apo a score of ‘poor to average’, it’s still a better score than every other place I have dived in Philippines, except Palawan. The fish life is a huge disappointment throughout all of the Philippines. Admittedly I have not dived Tubbataha and Bohol yet, but I’ve dived pretty much everywhere else, and the fish life has been shocking. Reef health and diversity – average. Nothing much to rave about here, mainly soft leather corals and featherstars, some small hard corals, but nothing of significant size. I saw no evidence of dynamite fishing, which was encouraging, but the coral formations are all pretty small without much colour. The soft corals in Moalboal are much more colourful, and the hard corals in El Nido are much larger and more diverse. Conservation – very poor. Having read so much about Apo being a shining example of public involvement in reef conservation, I was disgusted to see the reality of the situation. On all sites that I dived, whether fish zones or no take zones, the reef was covered in active fish traps, and fishermen were fishing freely at will. To have to pay P 300 per day is an insult to all divers. I am quite pleased when I contribute to the upkeep of a marine sanctuary, but paying out so much for no protection whatsoever is quite blatant tourist extortion. The local diving community really must take matters in to their own hands and be more proactive in policing the rules, otherwise word will get out that Apo is just a tourist rip-off. In addition to the quite evident lack of policing and breaking of park rules, the local village bay was filthy with waste in the shallow waters, and many of the sites had plastic bags and other garbage floating though the water column. Again, these show a lack of respect for the environment, lack of upkeep, and also endanger some of the creatures such as turtles. Why there are so many local people gathered on the island is beyond comprehension and must be one of the main causes of the pollution. So, is Apo one of the best places in the Philippines for diving? Maybe, but that’s not saying a great deal. In my experience (I have over 1,000 logged dives and work for a dive travel company) the Philippine reefs condition and protection are in a shocking state – most places are badly and actively dynamited, and all are heavily over-fished. Is Apo in the top 10 places in the world to dive? Don’t make me laugh! Anyone that makes that kind of claim must support it with some justifiable grounds, and must also be totally ignorant of other diving spots around the world. All of the Philippines neighbours have better diving than Apo – Malaysia, Indonesia, PNG, Solomon Islands, Micronesia – I could name 20 places in Indonesia alone that are better than anything the Philippines has to offer. And in terms of value for money – again, pretty poor for SE Asia – beach dives at P 1,250!! Come on! And the boat trips to Apo – anything from P 2,500 up to P 4,000 plus – on the worst quality dive boats I have ever experienced. Sorry to be so negative, but I’d be interested to hear an alternative perspective on why Apo is supposed to be so good. I think the public deserves better.