Swimming with the Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu

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When I first traveled to Oslob to swim with the whale sharks I was excited for the experience. But as I learned more about the place and why there are so many of these enormous creatures in the area, it is an experience that I have grown to regret.

The feeding of the Butanding has a very obvious negative effect on the animals and the experience is more like a trip to the zoo.

I would encourage anyone wanting to swim with the whale sharks to skip Oslob and go to Donsol instead.

Oslob is great for pictures. So if you are an Instagram junkie then the clear water and staged animals will give you some great shots. You will also be spoilt for whale shark interactions.

whale sharks in oslob

I counted at least eight whale sharks on the day I was in the water. At one point I had one on either side of me, and one swim underneath me. A very surreal experience. But it is one that I feel uneasy about to this day.

Something I will never forget though is the moment I came face to face with a whale shark. I was keeping my distance as you are asked to, and when this monstrously big fish finished feeding he turned and swam straight at me.

I held my ground and didn’t my, stayed as still as possible and hoped that this thing would not try and swim through me.

I know that they are gentle animals, but this thing was still much bigger than me and i am sure they can do some damage.

As he got closer it felt like we locked eyes. Luckily he did just glide past me and as our eyes met i could have easily reached out and touched him. I could do nothing but float and admire this magnificent animal as it swam on. I am grateful for the chance to get up close with the big fella, and just as grateful to have remained in one piece afterward.

butanding in oslob

As you can tell, this was in the days before I had a waterproof camera or GoPro. So I paid the fee to have a guy follow me around with a camera snapping pictures for you. Was glad he was there for this little encounter.

They move so slowly through the water that if you are a half decent swimmer you can dive down and swim alongside them. This gives you an incredible feeling.

The majority of other visitors in the water were not strong swimmers and had life jackets on. So I had the depths all to myself and I shared a few moments of solitude racing alongside and admiring the whale sharks.

As you can tell, I enjoyed the experience a lot. But I wouldn’t do it again. Besides, Donsol is more fun. It is a very different experience though.

If you do choose to go do yourself a favour and book some accommodation in Oslob. The bus ride out there is not fun at 2am. I assumed that at this time the bus would be mostly empty and i could try and sleep on the bus… Ambitious i know.

Not only was the bus full, but it took two buses for me to get on one because the line was so long. So I stood for most of the trip.

butanding in cebu

If you do not want to stay in Oslob you may be better off to just book a car for the day. The convenience is worth the expense ten times over!! If you are on a budget though the bus is very cheap and has options with AC and no AC.

I took the no AC bus back to Cebu and it was ok. By this time I was so tired I slept half of the trip anyway. The breeze through they open windows was quite pleasant… Until we go closer to the city and the nice breeze was replaced with jeepney smoke.

So if you are in Cebu and looking for a good day trip then this is a good activity to do, but it’s one you probably shouldn’t.

Environmental sustainability is not given as much attention as it deserves in the Philippines so you are perpetuating this for the sake of a few pesos by going along.

If the interactions were done on the terms of the Butanding then I would return over and over again. But feeding them and luring them to do this on our terms I don’t think is a good thing.

whale sharks in cebu

On the other hand, it’s an unforgettable experience and a personal choice for all.

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