Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob

On Friday 28th of October we flew from Kalibo airport to Cebu city as we were keen to do the whale sharks. We arrived in Cebu city around midday and we then shared a taxi with an English couple to the South Bus Terminal to catch the bus down to Oslob. We had heard from many people and bloggers that you really don't want to spend any time in Cebu city, so we booked our accommodation in Oslob on Booking.com for that evening. The taxi drive to the bus terminal would have been quite quick as it wasn't that far, but the traffic was mental. Allow at least one hour to get there from the airport. Once we arrived at the terminal, we didn't have to wait long until the next bus to Oslob. We left Cebu about 3pm and knew it was about a 4 hour drive to Oslob, so we got there just after 7pm. The bus cost us about 45 pesos per person as it was a local bus and the conductor kindly said they would drop us off outside our hotel. When we arrived they dropped us off at the side of the road, and there was a moment when we were thinking we had been dropped off in the middle of nowhere in the dark. But they stuck to their word and sure enough there was a sign for our hotel, Lagnason’s Place, on the other side of the road. Once we had checked into our room the staff asked us if we had had any dinner yet, to which we said no. So one of the men offered to drive us into town on his scooter for 100 pesos to get some food. He recommended a BBQ place on the side of the road which had a few tourists eating in, so we thought we would give it a shot. You chose what meat you wanted - pork, chicken, sausage, chorizo, squid and fish - and they cooked it for you there and then using a delicious marinade. The hotel staff member came to pick us up an hour later and we headed back to our room for the night as we were tired from a long day of travelling.

The reason that everyone goes to Oslob is to swim and snorkel with the whale sharks, and we knew we had to get there early to beat the crowds as the activity closed at midday. So the next day we got up at 5am and the same staff member drove us on his moped to the whale shark booking office. It was already busy at 6am. There was a short induction explaining that you shouldn't touch them, use flash photography or wear sun cream as these can all affect the whale sharks. After the induction we lined up to pay the 1,000 pesos each to snorkel with them - the best $30AUD we've ever spent! It was absolutely amazing! You get into a small paddle boat that can hold about 6-8 people and your guide paddles out about 35 metres off the shore to where there are some other paddle boats with men feeding the whale sharks krill. They are so close to the shore line that you can see them when you are waiting for your boat. We were told we had half an hour in the water with them but we think it was about 45 minutes in the end. It was incredible. As soon as you jumped off the boat there was a magnificent whale shark gently swimming next to you.

The first one we saw was big, but nothing like we imagined. We both discussed it afterwards and concluded that th first one we saw was a baby as the rest of them were absolutely huge. They can get up to a massive 12.5 metres in length, a weight of 21.5 tonnes, and live up until 100 years old. They were so beautiful with their iconic patterned skin and very wide mouths. They swam so gracefully and it was fascinating watching their gills move as they breathed in and out.

We were surprised just how close they came to us, with one’s tail catching Jordan’s leg as he was filming. Lots of people disagree with swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob because the locals feed them. But to be honest, we didn’t see anything wrong with it. The whale sharks all looked healthy, they are feeding them their natural food (krill), they do not use motor boats which will pollute the water, and the locals who feed them wear gloves in case they touch the whale sharks. These beautiful creatures are not sectioned off in one area - they are free to swim about in the ocean as they choose. There is no barrier or netting keeping them constraint. We understand that it’s nicer to see them completely in the wild with no form of human contact, but you always take a risk of not being able to see them.

 

After the excitement had worn off and we had some breakfast, we wondered what to do for the rest of the day. Unfortunately we made the wrong decision to go to Sumilon Island, off the shore just past the whale shark office. We were told this island was beautiful but it cost a bomb to get there (same as swimming with the whale sharks) and was a huge disappointment. It was tiny and absolutely heaving with locals and tourists alike. We had to pay an additional fee when we arrived on the island that apparently goes towards upkeep of the island. There’s a small area of sand surrounded by rocks, but you can’t really sit down and sunbathe there as boats are coming in all the time and asking you to move so they can anchor up etc. As it was so busy in the sea, we walked up some steps to a viewpoint area. It was from here that you could really appreciate just how blue the sea was - it looked very tropical from up there.

We had a wander around the small pathways, wanting to get to the other side of the island. But the majority of the island is a private resort so we couldn’t get very far. After getting back down to the beach the sea was much quieter so we went for a swim. You really don’t need to spend long there - an hour or two will do as it’s just too busy. But if you do want to stay there longer, we suggest taking some food or snacks with you as there is no where to get something to eat. Instead of going to this island, we would recommend going to one of the many waterfalls there. Tumalog Falls is the most popular and looks amazing. After an hour and a half on Sumilon island we got the boat back to the mainland. For the rest of the afternoon we just chilled out watching something on the laptop, before going to the BBQ place on the side of the road again for dinner. We had booked to catch the boat over to Bohol the next morning, but actually you don’t need more than a day in Oslob. Several people we met had got to Oslob, stayed there one night, got up early the next day to do the whale sharks, then caught a boat over to Bohol or drove back up to Cebu city to go to their next destination in the Philippines.

So the next day we got a boat over from Oslob to Bohol…