Plunge deep into the sea and meet the gentle giants of the Queen City of the South.
Once a quiet fishing town, Oslob now has been welcoming flock of tourists all over the world for one main reason, whale shark watching. Compared to the whale sharks in Donsol, the one in Cebu are domesticated. Locally known as tuki, these creatures relies on krill (small shrimps) that those fishermen-cum-tourist guides generously fed with their hands.
From South Bus Terminal in Cebu City, embark on a bus bound to Oslob. Earliest trip for this 3-hour drive is around 5:00 am and one-way ticket costs Php150 per passenger. You can ask the driver to dropped you off in Brgy. Tan-awan, which is situated just along the highway. From there, you can choose among the plethora of resorts that offers whale shark watching.
As our tour guide suggested, since we’re not planning to stay overnight, we just left our things on one of the sari-sari stores nearby. They have public restrooms in the area, wherein you can just pay Php10 for the shower and Php5 for toilet use. Not bad.
Visitors must also strictly observe the ordinance that the Municipality of Oslob has just released to control whale shark watching. With that, a mandatory orientation was adhered to the whale shark watchers on how to properly interact with the whale sharks.
We memorized it by heart, and here are the important points that we have kept in mind:
1. Don’t touch the whale shark. No matter how keen you are to have that Instagram-worthy shot, avoid it. This will cause stress to the fish and we don’t want that. Do we?
2. You must keep at least 5 meters from the whale shark. Apart from the fact that it is related to the issue in number 1, believe it or not, it’s for your own safety as well. When the tail of this humongous fish hits you, it can send you flying God knows where. Better be safe than sorry.
3. No flash photography please. This can shock the whale shark and may go wild. Yes, you want a good shot, but what are those filters made for?
4. Don’t wear sunblock. Just this time. Just for the whale shark. According to the experts, those chemicals can cause harm to these gentle creatures of the sea. We can still have our natural skin tone after a few days but we can never bring back the life of a poisoned whale shark.
Since the water was too deep and was not recommended for amateur swimmers like us, we were provided life jackets for safety. The life jackets were color-coded. For those who were brave enough to swim with the gentle giants of the sea, you’ll be given the blue one and orange for those who were contented enough to watch them from the boat. Mine was blue and Em’s vest was orange.
Around 20 meters from the shore, pile of boats and watchers can be visibly seen. From afar, they look like ants floating in the open sea.
While in the boat that will take us to the whale shark area, I am thrilled but anxious as well. As we go near, because of the crystal cold waters, the shadow of the biggest fish in the world was evident.
At first, I was hesitant to jump off the boat, but the clock is ticking so I mustered all the guts that I have and quickly immersed myself in the tuki-infested waters. I was even too scared to let go of the bamboo pole for support. But then again, I put on my goggles and started snorkeling for a better view of the whale shark.
Since this Oslob trip was spontaneous, we don’t have any waterproof camera. We were just informed that there were underwater cameras for rent when we were already in the boat. So, we just make use of whatever we have and just absorbed all those awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping scenic views from the cold waters below. I swear I can have my face ducked in the sea for years. It was just amazing.
There were 14 whale sharks swimming around the area. And the smallest of them was even bigger than the boat itself. It was hard to believe that these fellow living things, no matter how enormous they are, were quiet and amiable to the visitors.
I can’t help but felt a rush of panic whenever they open their mouths, it’s like a jumbo basin that’s gulping a lot of water. I thought for a moment that I could be eaten whole.
After all the encouragement, Em, my good friend, was able to take a short dip too. And together, we peacefully watched those animals eat.
Whale Shark watching schedule is from 6:30 am to 12:30 pm. They are open from Mondays thru Fridays except Good Friday.
• Whale shark watching from a boat = Php 500.00
• Snorkelling with whale sharks = Php 1,000.00
• Scuba diving = Php 1,500.00
Philippine Visitors (not from Oslob):
• Whale shark watching from a boat = Php 300.00
• Snorkelling with whale sharks = Php 500.00
• Scuba diving = Php 600.00
(Courtesy of http://www.turtlebaydiveresort.com)
Swimming with this tamed creatures was just one of the gazillion reasons why it is definitely more fun in the Philippines. If you’re up into a one helluva adventure, get up on those seats and book those tickets already.
I swam with them for half an hour but the effect is tremendous. Experience for yourself and marvel on these gentle giants that is bigger than life. It is totally worth it. 😉
Note: This Oslob trip was held last June 2012. Topmost photo courtesy of Julius Marzan)