I ticked “Swam with Whale Sharks” activity off my bucket list in January 2013. I was on my way to Sinulog Festival in Cebu City, Philippines (a yearly awesome-crazy street party) but i bloody missed the date by a week, so i ended up detouring to Oslob from Cebu City. Cebu is the central Visaya region. The main language at this region is not Tagalog but rather a dialect called Visaya. The people here are amazingly great, they are nice and they are sooooo smiley ! This is my 2-cent worth of opinion … Cebuana people are alot nicer than those from the Tagalog (north-main) region of Philippines. You could literally tell the huge difference (no offense to my Filipino friends 😛 ). Cebu has many amazing natural beautiful sites to visit such as Kawasan Waterfalls, Komates Island, old cathedrals (will be covered in my other blogs).
Oslob is a quiet fishing town which faces the deep open sea & particularly famous for Whale shark tourism. After much persuasion from other backpackers, I changed my plans from going to Bohol from Cebu City (there are ships heading to Bohol from here) , but instead decided to lay my piece of mind to a LESSER TOURISTIC tiny town of Oslob. I HAD NO REGRETS !
How to get there?
Started from Cebu City, I rode an express bus from the South Bus Terminal (about 30 mins from Mactan airport) all the way down to Oslob, which took about 2-3hours bus ride. It is best, in order to catch the whale sharks, to reach the Oslob whale shark village very early in the morning, but by 9 or 10am THE LATEST ! Those are the best times to watch & swim with the whales. Buses from the terminal begins running from 1am. So, best to grab a bus from 3am – 5am (bus schedules every 30 mins), probably in time to catch the sunrise as well. Just mention to the driver you want to watch the whale sharks, so they would drop you along a road near Tanawan. There would be probably 3-5 spots which offers such activity, so choose wisely. Please note that prices differ for local Filipinos and foreigners because their activities are funded by their government (for their people only).
Price difference for locals & foreigners (as of 2013):
P500 for Filipinos ONLY
P1500 for foreigners (roughly USD 34 per person)
The price above was for tourist to snorkle & swim with the whale sharks. You could opt to just stay in the boat and watch (why dafuq would you wanna do that) … or choose to swim with rented snorkling gears … and be UBER CLOSE to the whale sharks.Scuba divers are allowed to scuba dive underwater and stay longer with the whale sharks too (that would be a different fee, which is double the price above).
The whale sharks were so humongous ! The exhilarating feeling was a mixture of awe + shocked + scared + happy … having the feeling gushed all at the same time. I almost choked from swallowing too much sea water coz of it 😛 Occasionally i almost get swatted by its tail 😛 At the same time, it was fun to swim together with the group of marine biologist and watch them doing their thing (taking notes, snapping pictures, hand signaling each other under water, admiring their under water swimming skills with just the fin & goggle !! I swear they reminded me of Aquaman)
oslob, cebu, visaya, philippines, whale sharks
I was lucky enough to swim with at least 5 whale sharks on that day of my visit
Notes of precaution:
You are not allowed to touch the whale sharks nor swim too close to it
You are not allowed to wear sunblock. Sunblock would pollute the water & it seems to be hazardous to the whale sharks.
Use underwater camera or you could rent waterproof casings. The pictures would be totally worth it
There are no ATMs here at all … and they dont accept credit card (just cash in PESO). Please allow yourself to carry enough PESOs
There are marine biologist around who monitors the amount of tourists allowed out each time to swim with the whale sharks and also scheduled feeding times for the fisherman to do so. By 12.30 noon, no boats were allowed out to the whale sharks spot. Therefore, there is nothing ELSE to do there after lunch time, except to hire a local guide to escort you to the nearest waterfall called Tumalog Waterfalls. Other than that, all you could do is hang around the resort/hostel with very limited eating place & activities. IF this sounds really “boring”, it is best to head back to Cebu City after lunch time or take the next bus to the nearest port to catch a ferry to a university town called Dumaguete.
The long stretchy, one-way road of Tanawan faces the open sea. Oslob was an important fisherman’s village, where fishing was the means to an end. With the rise spike of whale shark tourism in this tiny village, more & more opportunity and business options were catered for the people here. It was said that the fishermen had been feeding these gentle large mammals with krill fish rather too often, to attract them closer to shore (yes, near the shore – which is RATHER DEEP, look at pictures below). This act is rather harmful to the whale sharks because it destroys the eating habitual cycle of the whale sharks & causes them to come to shore to dependently being fed, rather than swimming out in the open ocean to hunt for their food.
The view of the open sea was marvelous! Every picture shot in the morning, afternoon & sun set are amazing.
Open sea of Oslob in the afternoon
The village of Oslob was rather quiet, stunningly beautiful, the air was great, people were nice … so, naturally i ended up staying for 2 nights in a dorm of 10-beds but I was the only occupant there 😀 Wonderful stress-free, tourist-free getaway. I manage to finish reading a book at that time! There is no such thing as Wi-Fi or cyber cafe here. The only internet service you could use is via the local 3G data service from your mobile phone (service was good enough for whatsapp chats & loading pictures to your instagram).
oslob, philippines, cebu, visaya, whale sharks
Lights of sunset in Oslob
Put this in your bucket-list ! Swimming with whale sharks cannot get any cheaper as compared to anywhere else in the world.
Share your experiences with me here, .. leave a comment !