In recent years Cebu has seen a huge influx of people making their way down to Oslob, on the southern tip of the island, searching for the their experience with the wonderfully majestic, gentle giants known as whale sharks. You can snorkel or scuba dive, whichever you prefer.I struggled in choosing how I wanted to write this article. On the one hand, this was one of my favorite experiences in the Philippines. On the other, there is talk of this type of tourism attraction being detrimental to the whale sharks, and I certainly am not ok with that.
From what I’ve read, due to this being a newer issue, the jury is still out on this grey area of ecotourism. I’ve read some people saying that the fisherman in Oslob were feeding droves of fish to the whale sharks, and would jump on their backs even. I never saw this, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. When I was there I barely saw any fish being fed to them, and it all seemed in line. The concern of this activity altering the migration routes is definitely worth looking at; as is the reports of whale sharks being injured by surfacing near boats. While I understand this is an awesome opportunity, once in a lifetime possibly, if it’s deemed harmful we should avoid doing it, until we can mitigate those effects. As responsible people we should strive to leave only footprints behind, giving others the chance to have the same experience we did in later years.
I’ve got the information you need to get to Oslob, and what to expect if you decide to participate, along with a couple reviews of the establishments in the area. All I ask is you do your own research on this issue. Keep in mind you can also dive in Donsol, where I’ve been told they do not feed the whale sharks; but it is also not a guarantee you will see them either.
- How to get to Oslob -
We arrived at Mactan Airport with the goal of getting to Oslob that night. We grabbed a metered taxi (Once you leave the airport go across the street, and up the stairs to the right) and headed for the South Bus Terminal. I didn’t write down the price from the airport to the bus terminal but it was no more than 500p ($10USD). Once you are at the bus terminal you need to locate the bus to your destination. I didn’t see a schedule posted anywhere, so we just walked to the bus line until we found the bus labeled “Bacolod, lilo-an,” some might say Oslob as well. Once you find your bus, walk up to the driver and ask if they have any seats (standing is also an option, but I wouldn’t recommend it). If they do, get in line. You don’t need to buy a ticket, you just pay enroute. The buses can get very crowded at times, so headphones would be advantageous. It is a five hour ride after all, with no breaks. Once you start getting close to Oslob you will see a lot of signs that say whale watching. The bus attendant will walk up and down the aisle asking who is going where, just tell him you are going whale shark diving and he will see you’re dropped off at the right place. I recall that we got off towards the outskirts of the town, as the diving spot is about 10km past the town itself. It might be a good idea to say Tumalog Falls, as that is right by the diving spot.
Whale Shark Diving
The diving starts at 06:30am. This might seem early, but it is the best time to go in my opinion; especially if you want to beat the crowds. By the time we got done the line was pretty long. I would have hated sitting in a boat (more like a glorified kayak) for an hour or two in the sun waiting for my turn. I expected it to take a lot longer to get going than it did. We woke up, walked next door to the briefing area for a three minute safety brief, and were swimming with the whale sharks in minutes. We decided to snorkel because it was cheaper, and just made more sense. Sure, you could scuba dive, but the sharks are going to be near the top of the water for the most part. Why waste the extra money? Once you pay you will get in a boat and are taken about 100 meters off shore. The boatman will tell you once you enter the water you have 40 minutes.
Pricing as of June 2014:
Boat viewing $500p
Scuba diving $1500p
- Tips for Oslob -
- Arrive early for whale shark diving. (6am will get you first dibbs on the day)
- Leave the sunscreen at the hotel. (Sunscreen is actually harmful to the whale sharks)
- Bring more cash than you will need. (No ATMs exist that will take foreign cards here)
- Bring a waterproof watch if you have one. (We lost 10 to 15 minutes diving due to not knowing when we got in)
- Visit Tumalog Falls while in the area. (See my post about this recently discovered paradise)
- Reviews -
Aaron’s Hotel – Once we arrived that night we grabbed a room at Aaron’s for 1500p. It was a decent room (AC,wifi), but the bathroom was pretty low quality. It is literally right next to the diving spot though.
Sizzlin’ & Shakes Restobar – The food is good, but the people are great. This small, open air restaurant isn’t fancy, but it is worth your time. Located in the Brumini Hotel area, amongst a couple other restaurants and trinket shops. Sizzlin’ and Shakes has the nicest people you will ever meet. They helped us get to Tumalog Falls, arrange our boat ride to Bohol, and when it turned out we didn’t have enough money with us; she had a friend drive us in to town to go to the bank to get some, free of charge. (Which is how I learned no banks or ATMs in the area take foreign cards.) But still, faith in humanity to restored.
My next article should be of interest to you if you are coming to Oslob, as Tumalog Falls is very close, and the most amazing thing I did while in the Philippines. Thanks for reading, please rate and share if you liked this post.