Whale Sharks in Oslob – Philippines
The whale sharks in Oslob can be a controversial subject for some - not everyone agrees with it , arguing that the feeding of them has interfered with their natural migration and feeding patterns...Others say they are well looked after, are not in captivity and free to come and go as they please. Here Ill discuss my experience !
We were tossing up whether to actually go as we didn't realise when we booked the Cebu accommodation that Oslob was a good 3 hour drive and required a 5am pickup....BUT going to swim with the whale sharks was the main reason we went to Cebu. Its been my dream since I was a little kid and the ones in Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, where I live are very hit and miss in regards to actually seeing them so we decided to suck up the early morning and long drive and go just do it.
We booked our tour through Island Trek Tours before we arrived and they were fantastic. All up for us 5 for the transport in a private minivan, light breakfast, lunch, entrance fees and the fees to snorkel with the whale sharks was around $400 AUD. The driver picked us up at 5am and we arrived in Oslob around 8am. We were taken to a local restaurant for breakfast which was sticky rice and fresh mango (kids weren't overly impressed by this haha!), then we headed to the whale shark area. We had to listen to a quick briefing on the rules and regulations - no suncream to be worn, strictly no touching them, what to do if they get too close etc then headed down to the beach. It took around 45mins for our turn - it was very chaotic.... there were tourists everywhere - either waiting on the beach, in boats or in the water but their system seemed to work. At any one time there were around 30 boats in the water, all holding around 4-5 people. These are the traditional Banca boats, so very small and narrow. Hubby and I took it in turns to snorkel as we had our little one sitting in the boat. I expected with the amount of people in the water, and the fact that there was only around 5 sharks there that day (the 12m mummy wasn't there, these were the babies at 8m!) that there would be a ton of people around the same shark ..but a lot of people didn't actually swim. I think a lot of the chinese tourists weren't strong swimmers so we actually had 2 sharks almost to ourselves.
My first impression was how big they are - I think I had a bit of a panic attack when I saw a huge mouth coming at me (the whale sharks certainly don't seem aware of the rule that they must keep 4m away !) they are just the most breathtaking animals. So big and gracious, it was incredible. I had a view straight into its mouth, and at one point its tale whipped me. The kids held onto the wooden poles on the banca and just watched in amazement.
The local guides were fantastic....they certainly know how to position you to take your photos with the whale sharks. My guide grabbed my GOPRO, told me what to do and he managed to get some amazing shots.
We spent around 30mins in the water the whole time, which went really fast but was fantastic. I can't describe the feeling of seeing these amazing gentle giants up close, it was the best experience and probably one of the coolest things I've ever done. We certainly didn't feel at any point that these animals were being harmed, treated badly or the subject of any cruelty...if anything quite the opposite!
We were taken for lunch at the same local restaurant where we were served spicy soup, fish, pork belly, chicken, spring rolls and rice aswell as drinks. It was good quality tasty food , and we just ordered the kids some French fries aswell for the fussy one 🙂
Our tour was meant to include a trip to Tumalog falls but there wasn't enough water to make it worthwhile so we decided to leave it. We set off at 11.30am and didn't arrive back to the hotel until 4.30pm. That was somewhat torture....5 hours stuck in traffic with a carsick vomiting child. Had we of known we could have done the trip from Bohol for much cheaper and 4 hours roundtrip on a boat, we defnitley would have done that !
All up I really can't fault our experience and would do it again....this time we would stay in Oslob or do the trip from Bohol - but if you have always wanted to swim with whale sharks, make sure you put this trip on your list... It was incredible 🙂