Swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines

Whale Shark Oslob Philippines

Our relationship with whale sharks has been off and on… our first attempt to build something took place at Coral Bay, Western Australia. We had done everything we could to make it work: we went during the good season (March to June) and we used a boat that had a very high success rate for viewings (they used a spotter plane!). Despite all this, and after a full day on the boat in choppy waters fighting off sea sickness, the whale sharks didn’t come to the party… fail! Then another opportunity came up to meet the elusive whale sharks – this time at Oslob, in the Philippines. Based on our first experience with the shy sharks I wasn’t holding on to much hope to meet them as we penciled in this stop!

whale shark oslob philippines

Diver observing the shark

On arrival in Oslob we saw immediately that this was going to be a totally different (and much easier) experience than Australia.  As the locals are feeding the sharks just off shore these huge creatures have now opted for a more sedentary lifestyle allowing tourists to easily access them. Local people have found a (massive) goose that lays golden eggs. After a brief briefing, explaining us a few security rules and telling us to keep a distance at all time of at least 4 meters (but even before we started we had the impression they had difficulties dealing with the influx of tourists), we boarded a small wooden boat and arrived very quickly at the whale sharks.

whale shark oslob cebu philippines

Two “small” whale sharks

I jumped in the water, I turned my head and immediately I am facing a whale shark… frightening! There are a lot of them around and it is actually very difficult to keep to the safety distance because they move around and come at you from everywhere! This didn’t seem to bother our fellow snorkelers and divers and eventually we settled in to enjoy this special experience and take some pictures. Whale sharks are supposed to be harmless but they are huge and you wouldn’t want to bump into one! We only swam with them 30 minutes but it took us a whole day for the experience to settle in.

Philippines was a great place for us to meet new animals : after the whale sharks the next introduction was to the tarsier. Awesome!

whale sharks oslob philippines

Bye Bye Whale Sharks

Voyagista’s tips

  • You can find the whale sharks in Oslob, on the south tip of Cebu Island. It takes 2 to 3 hours to get there from Cebu depending on which means of transportation you use. The entrance costs 1,000 pesos for foreigners (about 23 USD).
  • Close by you can sleep or go for a day trip to Sumilon Island, a charming island with some of the best snorkeling we experienced in the Visayas. If you want to go early to see the whale sharks you can try and sleep in one of the rooms the hotel has on the mainland.
  • Go early in the morning to avoid the crowds and better to bring your own mask and snorkel (but they do rent some). Do not forget a waterproof camera as this is a pretty unique photo opportunity.

    sumilon island philippines

    Arrival on Sumilon Island

sumilon island philippines swimming pool

The swimming pool on Sumilon island

The whale shark attraction in Oslob raises some ethical issues: should we favour poor area development at the cost of nature protection? It seems that a real environmental protection policy is difficult to implement there.

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