1. About Oslob
Oslob is situated South of Cebu Province. It is 2nd to the last municipality south of the province with Santander after it. The latter is a well known ferry link between Cebu and Dumaguete in the island of Negros. Oslob is a sleepy town with a population of only 26,000+ according to 2010 census. It is a 4th class Municipality which became popular due to Sumilon Island which is part of the municipality.
2. Transportation to Oslob
The best way to get to Oslob via public transportation is by bus from Cebu City. It is approximately 114 km South and travel time takes around 4 hours so I would't recommend a taxi unless you have money to burn. There are van rental options from Cebu city but at a cost.
To get here, be at Cebu South Terminal where buses both aircon or ordinary leave usually on hourly basis. Schedule tend to be more flexible on peak season and weekends as buses leave as soon as they are full to accommodate high traffic.
Look for buses bound for Bato. Ask the driver to drop you in Oslob, not in the main town but in Brgy. Tan-awan, which is 10 km away from the center town of Oslob.
3. About Whale Sharks
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 m (41.5 ft) and a weight of about 21.5 t (47,000 lb), and unconfirmed reports of considerably larger whale sharks exist.
The whale shark is found in open waters of the tropical oceans and is rarely found in water below 22 °C (72 °F). In the Philippines, it is called butanding and balilan. The whale shark is featured on the reverse of the Philippine 100-peso bill.
4. Don't Worry They Are Safe
As the description states, these giant sea creatures are filter feeders. They only feed on very small fish so don't be scared if you see one swimming towards you with big mouth open. They are safe, and they won't have any interest on eating you. hehe
.....and there are almost 10 of them in Oslob!!!
Don't be worried that you will not see a whale shark when you go to Oslob, there are not just two, not three but around 10 of them. Yes, imagine 10 whale sharks of varying sizes swimming around you. Our first encounter was with a medium-sized ine so I thought "ah, di naman pala ganun kalaki at nakakatakot". But came the largest one a few minutes before we finished and it was really huuuuuge! Ang laki at nakakatakot. The interesting thing is that fishermen know these whale sharks because they assigned them names! haha
You are only given 30 minutes to swim around with the whale sharks. They are quite strict with the time so be sure not to waste time as soon as the boat gets into position. Lusong, dive kagad!
5. Yes, they Feed the Whale Sharks
That's the well known secret in Oslob, fisherfolks and tourism stakeholders were so clever to come up with the idea of feeding that whale sharks with small shrimps. So you will notice a couple of folks on smaller boats going back and forth the feeding area dropping one by one pieces of shrimp and the whale shark would follow that boat. So if you want to timing your dives, the feeder folk will be your cue.
This makes the whale sharks traverse the whole length of the feeding area where tourists are positioned, so you don't have to go far from your boat. And it's very tiring I tell you, with or without life vest, so we were mostly clinging on the outrigger of our boat to stay afloat and grasp for air. Yes, you are allowed to remove you life vest so as to be able to dive a little deeper for that perfect shot with the butandings. Just make sure you know how to swim if you decide to.
The Feeding Area
You can notice the feeding area is just nearby shore. The nature of the sea in Oslob though is that at that point, (where you see small boats line up) that's where the visible part of the sea flood and the sudden deep converge. So when you dive and look down on the direction of the shore, you can see the bottom, thanks to the sandy nature of it. But when you look at the other directly, you see nothing but darkness. Scary! And that's where the surprise come, the whale sharks move from that part to the visible area so bigla nalang sila susulpot, surprise surprise nasa ilalim mo na! It adds to the thrill of the experience.
6. Fees and Time Schedule
Whale Watching only : 300 php (Locals)
Whale Watching plus Snorkeling- gears included
- Locals : 500 php
- Foreigners- 1,000 php
Daily, 6:00am-12:30pm Only
and other rules
So the normal mindset when you hit the beach or when you know you will be out in the open sea is to put on sunblock. Good thing my friend who has done whale watching before reminded me it is restricted because I was about to apply some. The chemical on the sunblock would harm the whale sharks. But I noticed that the ones at the registration are not strict with these. All they cared was to collect our fees and they didn't even brief us or anything. Maybe they though the big boards at the waiting area would be enough to remind people of what and what not but who reads them anyway? I noticed many foreign guests with face and body full of sunblock.
Boats are non-motorized and small. Non-motorized so as not to scare the whale sharks and also because these are more clean since they don't require oil or gasoline. They are small with maximum capacity of 5 pax plus 2 paddlers, one in front and one at the back. I thought our boat was almost at full capacity at that state, a rowdy move and it could sink. It has outriggers though so that provides a little reassurance the whole thing will float.
Don't worry if you come here solo, as a couple or as a family or big group, they assign a boat to e filled in 5 so it will not be a problem. You pay per head.
8. Take the Plunge, Don't just stay on the Boat
If you noticed the rates,
A. Whale Watching only : 300 php (Locals)
B. Whale Watching plus Snorkeling- gears included
- Locals : 500 php
- Foreign: 1,000 php
This means you got the option to 1. Stay on the boat and observe the frenzy of people swimming around you and if you ate lucky see parts of the whale sharks mouth above the water, or 2. Dive with whale sharks. Thus the rates, 300 and 500 pesos. But come on, the real fun is underwater, take the plunge, you traveled as far as Oslob to just stay on the boat.
9. Don't forget your Underwater Camera
Make sure you bring an underwater camera. The fun part of the experience is mostly underwater so a I envied those with action cams with them. Should you forget your there are camera's for rent at the registration area. The guides are very good at angles and timing so the advantage is that you get to have lots of fun photos after the activity.
Waterproof Camera Rent (without memory card) : 500 php
Waterproof Camera Rent (with memory card) : 550 php
And there is one thing I also discovered, ang hirap pumailalim!, and that is coming from me who has experienced freediving in the past. I guess it was because of over-excitement? Pag andyan na ang butanding di na kami magkanda-ugaga sa pag dive. We took tons of pictures and dalawa lang ang maayos. lol
So there. It is important to have a strategy and proper timing. Some tourists ask for the help of their guide. I noticed some being pushed down by their guide by foot para lang maka-ilalim. Nakakatuwa.
Take a side trip to Tumalog Falls
or Sumilon Island
Oslob is not just about Whale Sharks. It is home to other interesting attraction. From the whale watching area you can see Sumilon island which is very popular for its white sand beach. You will encounter some folks offering boat tours to the island. There is also the ruins in town which we didn't visit. Interestingly, they also have waterfalls, a beautiful waterfalls they named Tumalog Falls. I highly suggest you go there. You can pay for habal habal from Brgy. Tan-awan for around 10 minutes and you are there cost is at around 100-150 pesos per person. In our case, we took a multi-can for a little more protection from the sun also for 150 pesos each. I will write about the waterfalls next. Cheers!!!