If swimming with whale sharks is on your bucket list, you may want to consider the quiet town of Oslob, the next time you’re in the Queen City of the South. Never mind the traffic and long way back to Cebu City—anyone who’s been there will tell you it’s worth the trouble.
According to a Cebu-based tour agency, whale shark watching in the town began in late 2011 when they began turning up in shallow waters. To keep them coming back, local fishermen began interacting with them by feeding them krill. Not long after, tourists have started to notice, resulting to a tourism boom.
Tan-awan, a small fishing village in Oslob, is the site for the whale shark encounters. When planning your Oslob, Cebu itinerary consider the three-hour travel time, which means that if you leave Cebu City around 6:30 AM, expect to arrive at exactly three hours later. Oslob is 115 kilometers from the capital via the Natalio Bacalso highway.
Off-peak season seemed foreign in the town so expect a long queue for the whale shark experience. With the local tourism government involved, it was however quick and organized. The locals made sure you were taken care of.
The beach is just a few steps off the highway by way of a dirt road. It is easy to recognize due to a throng of people milling about. Before you can go, you have to pay the registration fees at the tourism center, also in the area.
Tourists are required to undergo a seminar that will teach them the do’s and don’ts of swimming with the gentle giants. Rules include not putting on sunscreen, and swimming some good three meters away from the whale shark. No flash photography, either.
The bancas usually carry about four to six passengers at a time. It is possible for bancas to accommodate eight to ten people when the experience is in demand. Some bancas took even more passengers.
We were a few meters away from the shore when we had our first sighting. A smallish whale shark glided gracefully around our rowboat.
Some whale sharks have a school of fish circling them. The herd of fish were “scavengers” that fed off the shark’s dead skin. This behavior is known as “shoaling” or “schooling.”
These gentle giants were definitely not shy and have been used to people swimming about. One nearly brushed this writer’s leg with its tail. Another one went swimming in her direction at one point.
Do your best to maintain a safe distance from these creatures, no matter if they’re harmless and all. Accidents do happen, and remember some of them are as big as a bus.
The whole experience took only 30 minutes. It would be up to you if you would like to have another go at it, but 30 minutes should be good.