The 34-square kilometer Apo Reef in Occidental Mindoro is the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world and the largest in the country. It is on the tentative list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The Apo Reef Natural Park lies approximately 33 kilometers off the coast of Sablayan in the province of Occidental Mindoro. The coral reefs cover a total area of 34 square kilometers, making it the second largest contiguous coral reef in the world, next only to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.
Apo-Island-webAlso considered as the second largest atoll-like reef in the country, Apo Reef consists of two separate coral reefs that are separated by a 30-meter deep channel with a fine white sand bottom, numerous mounds and patches of branching corals under the deep blue water.

Three islands comprise the Apo Reef Natural Park. Apo Menor or Binangaan Island is marked of limestone rock with few vegetation. Cayos del Bajo Island is a coralline rock formation with no vegetation. Apo Island, the largest of the three at 22 hectares, features a shallow lagoon surrounded by a mangrove forest that benefit many of the coastal and marine species in the area, as well as a sanctuary for sea birds. 

It is in Apo Island where park rangers who patrol the reef’s boundaries have put up their quarters, as well as basic amenities for visiting divers – except potable water or electricity. It also features a historic lighthouse that dates back to the Spanish Colonial Period. 

The Apo Reef Natural Park, including its peripheral buffer zone, is a marine sanctuary and is thus a “no-take zone”. This means fishing within the reef is banned. It is a popular site for tourists, who bask in its fine white sands, leisurely stroll along boardwalks within the mangrove area, or marvel at the extremely diverse coral species and other marine life that include sharks and rays. 

The Apo Reef was proclaimed as a protected area under the category of Natural Park by virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 868 issued in 1996. In May 2006, the DENR’s Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau (PAWB) submitted the reef for consideration as a World Heritage Site of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

Its protection and conservation is a joint effort of the DENR, the local government unit, and civil society.

To know more about:The country’s protected areas, click: http://pawb.gov.ph/
Apo Reef on the World Heritage List, click: http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5033/