5 Reasons to Visit a Stormy Apo Island

Should I smile underwater or touch the turtle’s back, in spite of the risk of the picture angering animal rights activists, should it become viral? These thoughts didn’t last as the bus window showed a gray sky outside, halfway through Dumaguete City. A storm was coming.

Good thing I’m with hardcore travelers, and they seem to share the local guides’ downplaying of the conditions as totally normal. And off we sailed.

The wind and the waves didn’t wait for the pleasantries of introduction to linger, slapping us with biting coldness and dousing everyone with saltwater.

But don’t let this seemingly treacherous recollection deter you from experiencing Apo Island at its stormiest. Here are five reasons:

The waves will be awesome
I used to think that to see big, foamy, surfy waves and genuinely enjoy them, I’d have to go to Hawaii. A stormy Apo Island visit changed that.

Growing up near the beach, stormy seas had been a favorite family bonding; siblings would spend a day swimming against raging waves, feeling a sense of completeness every time we outwit them.

I experienced that again on our visit. And this time, it’s on a white sand beach. There’s no single wave that is ugly in Apo Island. And with each shot, the waves lit up the entire island. They’re so picture perfect you’d think you’re in another country.

It’s sad the Philippines is just so exotic that mistaking it for another country is the only way to fully grasp the magnitude of its beauty.

There will still be turtles
What’s the difference between an astronaut and an astronomer? Besides their last four letters, it’s in their approach to getting to know their subjects: the astronaut spends years training to get into space to collect data. While the astronomer does the same, he can study the subject without missing all the earthly fun during lunch breaks.

I don’t get the point either, but when it’s stormy in Apo Island, you are the astronomer.

Witnessing the creatures in all their Chelonian glory, frolicking in and out of the water like the nonchalant beauties that they are, while you sat on the sand, the blowing wind and the melancholic sky complementing the mystery that will envelope the heart, and excitement the mind.

There is more to Apo Island than a bunch of turtle selfies.

There are its magnificent rock formations, lush pasture that Frodo and the rest of the dirty Hobbitses will approve of, the challenging-yet-fulfilling concrete steps to the lighthouse, and of course, the complicated safety guidelines.  

You don’t have to have the same pictures as everyone else. And the island will thank you for that.

You will be creative
Breaking: Not everyone you know actually likes the beach. And the sun.

Visiting Apo Island on a stormy day gave me this opportunity to have fun getting dragged by the playful waves for hours, being pictured not squinting like there’s someone suspicious around and to chill with everyone like we were in an indoor pool. It’s a joy without the sun.

One of the drawbacks, however, is the pictures will need enhancements to be captivating.

A gloomy sky is not the best backdrop for photoshoots; blues, greens and yellows won’t be as expressive, while most of the selfies end up having lots of noises, if you’re using a smartphone camera.

And this is where a stormy Apo Island visit gets to be that elusive muse showing herself. For instance, I spent a day or two forgetting about watching porn and cooking videos online, while enhancing all the pics posted here to be presentable. In raw, they were gloomy and not Retina-display ready.

If it weren’t for the trip, I wouldn’t have had the chance to up my photo enhancement skills and discover new ways to make selfies less irritating.

There won’t be other people
May it be fear for one’s life or fear of not having the best picture to share, a stormy Apo Island visit won’t be on everyone’s list. This is the perfect time to visit the island.

If you’re a frequent traveler, you’d know other people, not the locals, the monkeys or the immigration, are the reason most trips end up not as pleasant as you’d expect them to be.

They crowd the places, they compete for spots and some of them can be plain rude. They make hating other people easy.

On our visit, we were the only tourists. We captured pictures without struggle, we pranced through the greenery without prying eyes and we had the resort facilities all by ourselves.

But of course, the exclusiveness had to stop by midday as other tourists finally caught up with us. But compared to a usual sunny visit, they were bearable and all covered up. I didn’t hate people that day.

It will be memorable
I’ve had several travels after Apo Island, yet the struggle and the rewards of bracing through the weather, and making it into the island, remained etched in my weekly throwback Thursdays.

The trip was unlike any other I’ve been to before; we were fearing for our lives, while crossing the turbulent sea, worried that it won’t be worth it in the end; all the thoughts of someone whose expectations had been lowered to protect himself from disappointment. But no.

A stormy Apo Island visit was a needed retreat from the comfort zone that had become the norm. The first step on the island, after a standoff with a moody Poseidon, was a reminder that what required resilience will impart fulfillment in the end. And it felt good.

The best thing about opening to the fact that Apo Island might still be a fascinating haven, rain or shine, is you’ll be prepared for sudden weather changes. After all, I experienced the same.

While this article, hopefully, made you consider the possibilities of a stormy Apo Island getaway, many would still choose to visit it when the sun is scorching and the sky is periwinkle blue.

Regardless, a stormy Apo Island visit will be one of those unexpected trips your old wrinkled self will remember. And you’ll smile. Every time.

Photos by Issa and Neil.