Oslob has been on the radar for many travelers these past few years because of the gentle giants we call whale sharks. It is basically a go-to place for people wanting adventure. Whale sharks have been always been part of Oslob but it wasn’t up until 5 years ago that the people of Oslob realized what these giants could do for their town, tourism and economically wise. So they did what all human beings do when struck with a tourism gold mine, they capitalized on it.
As far as I can remember, I have been fascinated with whale sharks and years ago I had an opportunity to see one when I was at Donsol, Sorsogon but unfortunately, there were none at that time we were there. So when I had my chance last year for my annual birthday trip, I took it.
HOW TO GET THERE
From the Cebu airport, ride a cab going to the South Cebu Bus Station. It took me around an hour to reach the bus station because in Cebu City, like every other major city in the Philippines, there’s traffic. When you arrive at the bus station, alight the Ceres bus going to Oslob. It takes roughly 4 hours till you reach the town of Tanaw-An, where the whale shark swimming happens. The main transportation in Oslob is the every trusty habal-habal. The habal-habal fare depends on how far your destination is and how good your haggling skills are. But the base fare is around 50 pesos per ride.
WHERE TO STAY
There are lots of hotels, hostels, and homestays in Oslob. It really depends on your budget. I didn’t stay in Barangay Tanaw-An so I had to use Google maps to locate the hotel I’m staying at and asked the driver to drop me off near the market where Hotel Sebastian is. One room costs around 1200 pesos a night. I know it’s not that expensive but for a budget traveler, it is. I just didn’t feel like staying at a hostel my first night in Cebu so I splurged. The place was nice, though when I was there, they had an issue with the water pressure and basically I didn’t have water in my bathroom. They did kindly let me use the bathroom in one of the suite rooms. The one thing that sold me to the place was their little infinity pool and the view of the ocean.
I know it’s such a cliché title but I couldn’t help it. After checking in and freshening up, I went out and looked for a habal-habal and with the hotel being near the market, it wasn’t that hard. After negotiating the price, I paid 150 pesos for a round trip ride. I asked Kuya Michael to bring me to Tumalog Falls. At the entrance, you either have to walk for 20 minutes or ride another habal-habal to reach the falls. Of course, I opted for the habal-habal. And as far as I can remember, the driver didn’t charge me for it. When I arrived at the falls itself, the river and falls were dry. The plus side is that I’m the only one there. I had my driver take pictures of me and boy, he took some good shots. He even showed me a cool trick I could do with my phone. So all in all, it wasn’t a wasted trip.
If you’re wondering, I did give my driver/photographer a tip. He refused at first because he said I didn’t need to since I’m the only one visited but I insisted.
I went back to the hotel and asked the staff if there are places I can go visit. They recommended going to the boulevard. Luckily, it was just walking distance from Hotel Sebastian. After 10 minutes of walking, I arrived and I was shocked because not only was the boulevard there, but there were also ruins of what seemed like a fort. I looked around and it said that it was a “Baluarte”. A baluarte basically means a stronghold which people take shelter in. Knowing our history with the Spanish, it made sense. There was also an old barracks and a church. It was dusk so I couldn’t take good pictures of them, but if you have the chance to visit, I highly recommend for you to just sit in one of the benches, and take in the view, the history and the general feel of the place. It will leave you in awe.
SWIMMING WITH THE WHALESHARKS
There is a schedule on when you can swim with the whale sharks and that’s 7 AM to 12 NOON. My tip is to go really early so it wouldn’t be that crowded and too hot. I woke up around 6 AM and had my habal-habal driver Kuya Michael from yesterday pick me up at the hotel. I paid him 200 pesos for the back and forth ride. He said the tourism office is quite far from my place and it would be around 20-25 minutes ride. I had no problem with it because there are beautiful sceneries on our way there.
When I arrived at the tourism office, I had to register and paid 500 pesos for a 30-minute swim with the whale sharks. If you’re a foreigner, you pay 1000 pesos.
Now, I’ve heard all the conflicts and issues that surround swimming and diving with the creatures. Some say that the fishermen overfeed them or that the whale sharks are being wounded but when I was there, that was not the case. I’ve seen around 7-10 whale sharks and NONE of them were wounded whatsoever. The tourism even gave us a seminar before the dive and they gave us specific rules on how to interact with them. The fishermen/drivers were basically just there to guide us and take awesome pictures.
After the seminar, you will be divided into groups of 3 per boat. The drivers then will bring you 500 meters (my estimation) from the shore where you will wait for the whale sharks to approach you. The boats actually form a circle and in the middle of that is where you will swim.
Seeing the whale sharks up close is surreal and a little scary because they are so big! You are not allowed to touch them and if I remember correctly, you have to be around 1 meter away from them. But sometimes that’s not the case because they go to you. I panicked when one was literally beside me. I didn’t want to get fined for touching them. The guide had to tell me to stay calm, so I did and then we had our little photo op. 30 minutes came by so fast and I didn’t want to leave. It was an experience I definitely would not forget!