I got to know and explored Oslob’s historical attractions on the very first day. On the second day and for the entire day everything was when the gist of my trip happened! I can’t wait for the day to finally break.
I woke up early and so excited. The first stop in that day’s adventure was whale shark watching. I had asked around, and at the suggestion of Guilly’s Place, I had pre-arranged a habal-habal (a passenger motorcycle) to make the day’s journey easier. Renting one saved me the trouble of having to find public transport from my lodgings to the whale shark-watching site, and from there to Puerto Sumilon.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
After some preparation and travel time, I was already at the whale shark watching site! I knew the whole experience was only for up to 30 minutes, but I had been planning this visit for months. The fish crowd around the small barangay of Tan-awan, which is about 10 kilometers from Oslob town proper.
Since 2011 when the tourists started crowding here, the barangay has set forth some very specific rules to make sure swimming with the gigantic sea creatures is safe for everyone. You see, whale shark watching here isn’t just “watching” – tourists are given the opportunity to actually swim around these gentle sea giants. This is pretty controversial, as some assert that this could pose harm both to the tourists and to the whale sharks (there’s a strict no-contact policy, but some still manage to slip in a touch or two).
The use of feeding boats to attract these creatures even further has also been a cause for debate, with some saying that this disrupts their natural feeding pattern and hence may have unforeseen consequences. Regardless of any negative comments others have, I have seen during my visit that the local government is doing everything it can to enforce all rules and ensure the safety of all.
We were briefed on the ground (er, water) rules almost as soon as we came. No splashing noises when entering the water, and no flash photography allowed. No swimming within 5-6 meters of the whale sharks, too. While we could get up close and personal, we cannot touch the animals for our safety, and neither can we damage the corals beneath. Of course, we’re not allowed to leave or take anything on our way to and from the water!
We were assigned guides and given life vests for the swim. We were also asked whether we are using any sunblocks, oils, or similar skin products —- they had to check if they were biodegradable products, and if not we had to wash them off before entering the sea.
One of the highlights of the trip to the jump-off point was the fact that we used an old-school paddle-operated boat. The locals reasoned that motorized boats could hurt the whale sharks with their propellers, and their sounds could scare the giant fish off. Good call, there!
Finally, I had the opportunity to jump in and behold the sea giants first-hand, and this close. It was an amazing experience! It’s also one of those times when you’ll accept just how small humans are against the rest of nature. Here is a magnificent creature, at the top of his own pedestal, minding his business and unaware of the various problems and conflicts man makes for himself. The sea may sometimes be rough, and food may not always be plenty, but none of that seems to have rubbed off on the whale sharks. That’s something everyone could take home.
Whale Shark Watching Rates
|Local Tourists||30 minutes whale watching only (no swimming) + lifejacket||Php 300.00|
|Local Tourists||30 minutes snorkeling + lifejacket||Php 500.00|
|Foreign Tourists||30 minutes snorkeling + lifejacket||Php 1000.00|
- underwater video cam rental for Php 550.00
- Whale shark watching starts from 6:00am until12:30pm everyday for whole year round except on Good Friday
After the half hour dedicated to whale shark watching, I made my way to the nearby restaurant where I decided to have breakfast. I took this opportunity for a short break, as the Sumilon Island tour is up next!