Young Thais are drawn by the big city lifestyle
The main island, Apo Island -- not to be confused with the better known island of the same name off the island of Negros in the central Philippines -- is a palm-fringed beauty, ringed by golden sand and home to an emerald-green interior lagoon embraced by mangroves. Dive boats stop on the island, and travellers can spend the time drifting in the lagoon on a makeshift bamboo raft, lounging on the perfect beaches and exploring the mangroves. You can also arrange to stay the night in the hammocks at Apo Island’s open-air park ranger station through the Sablayan Municipal Ecotourism Office.
Then there is Sablayan, which has an entirely different kind of appeal. Between San Jose and Sablayan lies the 750sqkm Mount Iglit-Baco National Park, the last remaining refuge of the tamaraw, a critically-endangered wild bovine. There are numerous hiking opportunities in the park, including the ascent of the 2,364m-high Mount Iglit, and the loincloth-wearing indigenous Mangyan people who populate Mindoro's virtually impenetrable interior offer serious explorers a chance to visit one of Southeast Asia's most isolated tribes. Closer to Sablayan is the Sablayan Prison Farm where, among other quirky eco-experiences, you can go bird watching with prison guides. Visits to all of the above can be arranged through the Sablayan Municipal Ecotourism Office.
While tourism in the Philippines remains a trickle compared with Southeast Asian brethren like Thailand and Vietnam, and air links to western Mindoro are still infrequent, you should consider visiting now to experience the full effect of Apo Reef's untouched magnetism.