Swimming with whale sharks is a dream of many ocean lovers. Huge slowly and safety animals go as giant barge a few meters from you. It’s like a fairytale, isn’t it? Breathing stops, primal fear and a joy capture your mind.
There are several places in Philippines where you can swim with whale sharks. I’m going to tell about the one on Cebu island, near by Oslob. The place is known as “Oslob Whale Shark Watching“.
Why Sharks Come Here?
It’s simple – sharks are lured to the coast. People throw shrimps into the water from boats, and sharks go to the cost every morning, and then swim back to the sea. This organization is a government agency, all the money from the tickets go to the government. At some point, environmentalists sounded the alarm, because artificially lured sharks no longer afraid of people and potentially could lose the knack to find food themselves. Also it’s maybe negative because of uneven redistribution of sharks in the ocean, ie simply becomes too many animals in one place – near by the coast of Cebu. Therefore, the feeding occurs only in the morning 6 – 12 am. During the rest of the time sharks have to find food in the ocean.
Are Whale Sharks Dangerous?
Whale shark is the biggest shark and the largest fish in the world. Its length can reach 18 meters, but usually the length of an adult shark is about 10-12 meters. They feed plankton, spent most of the time at the surface and swim very slowly, often no more than 5 km / h. In fact, they have a lot of small teeth. But they use them not to bite a prey, but in order not to let a food go out of the mouth. So it’s a kind of a lock.
Whale sharks are completely safe for humans.
Whale sharks are completely safe for humans. They often do not respond to people swimming near by or even touching them. Unfortunately such actions can scare the fish, and it will go into the depth with the speed of a torpedo.
There is an opinion that a whale shark can swipe tail or suck into a huge mouth. I think it’s an exaggeration. I can’t imagine how to ruffle the fish so much that it started beating tail. I’ve been hit with shark’s tail a couple of times, nothing even vaguely resembling a blow. What about a huge mouth, well, a whale shark is not a whale. Its mouth is much smaller. But caution is always welcome.
How It Happens?
You pay for the ticket, listening the briefing, change clothes, get into the boat and go 100 meters to the accumulation of boats, where people feed sharks. Then everything depends on a kind of entertainment you choose: watching from a boat, swimming with sharks or diving.
There is no need to pay for a shower or a place for your belongings.
It is necessary to be aware of some features of the organization. The price for the tickets are fixed, so it doesn’t matter where you get it. However, along the coast it’s not the only one “point of departure”, where you can buy a ticket, attend the briefing and catch a boat. Some of them are located in resorts and may request additional fee for the opportunity to use a shower, toilets, parking and just to leave your bags on the site while you swimming. If you come by a taxi, it’s most likely that a taxi driver brings you to a place like this. Do not get fooled! Go about 200 meters on the road to the place where all these facilities are available free of charge. Do not believe that there are long queues and poor conditions in the “free” place. In our case there were a lot of people in the water, but it never took a lot of time to take a shower and change clothes.
If you get hungry, there are a few cafes near by. But the quality of food is not good. Honestly, I would not recommend to eat there.
Touching whale sharks is strictly prohibited!
During the briefing you get some information about rules. You can’t use camera flash, you can’t use sunscreen lotions, it’s prohibited to approach the sharks more than 4 meters (completely impossible to comply). And the most important rule: Do not touch the sharks! The fine for touching a whale shark is 2000 pesos. They say that you may even go to jail.
Time in the water is limited to 30 minutes. But it is enough for swimming, photo and watching of sea giants. By the way, do not forget the number of your boat, you go back on the same boat.
There are a lot of staff into the water with tourists. They are easily recognizable by their T-shirts and ensure that sharks don’t get too close to people.
How Much Does It Cost?
There are three main options to spend time with whale sharks:
- Watching from the boat. 600 pesos. The cheapest option. You just sitting in the boat and looking around.
- Swimming with sharks. 1,000 pesos. You jump into the water from the boat and then you can do whatever you want – snorkling, diving, making photo and video, looking into huge mouthes, lying on the bottom or hanging on the boat, looking at beatiful ocean animals around. Freediving with whale sharks is also included into this ticket.
- Diving. 1,500 pesos. You simple go down to the bottom and look at silhouettes above. Sharks are almost all the time at the surface, so divers just watching from the bottom, unable to maneuver between huge fishes.
Children under 6 years don’t need a ticket. Prices for Filipinos are significantly lower.
What to Bring with You?
- Swimsuit. You can wear a lycra shirt as a sunscreen. No need for a wetsuit. You are not get cold for a half an hour of active swimming in 29°C water .
- Mask and snorkel. Otherwise, how to look in the water?
- Fins. I would highly recommend to take fins to improve maneuverability and be able to dive into the water. A depth of 3-4 meters is enough to watch a shark from all sides.
- Camera. What could be better than a photo “Meeting with sea giants”?
- Towel and a swimsuit to change after swimming.
How We Swam with Whale Sharks
I love whale sharks. They are probably the best ocean animals. The first time I swam with a whale shark was on safari in the Maldives. After I jumped into the water, I was at arm’s length from a 12 feet long giant. My heart almost stopped. An incredible delight was mingled with admiration and a wild fear to hurt or frighten a huge animal accidentally. But a gorgeous speckled beauty calmly swam past me. It swam, swam, swam… It was a real shark in the real ocean.
Oslob Whale Shark Watching is quite different. The attraction reminds enclosure at the zoo. The territory where boats and sharks are located is very small. The maximum depth is 8 meters. And there are a lot of people almost all the time. Boats that brought tourists stay in place. So you have to maneuver between people, boats and sharks, and take care not to inadvertently touch a shark and did not bump into a boat “log-float”.
We were in a large group of 20 people, almost all of which are freedivers. Even if we discard all the other tourists, it’s a lot. On a surface and under the water. :) I had a very strong stress, especially on the surface. It was a feeling that there is no any free space around. Screaming and splashing everywhere. No sense of unity with nature at all.
It’s much better under the water. You just need to dive alone. :) It’s even better, if a whale shark goes horizontally under the water at the same time. In this case you can get the very moment of happiness “I swim near by the whale shark!”. This very moment worth getting to the place, learning how to dive, taking long fins with you and throwing away any fears.
Some time later, after the stress of crowds passed away, I can say that I liked it. And, of course, you must go if you never saw whale sharks so close.
I have a recommendation to those who are afraid to swim in the epicenter. There is an opportunity to hang out on the boat, holding the float. It is especially suitable for children. Completely safe position, which nevertheless allows to see and to be close to sharks.
Video of our dives with whale sharks.
How to Get to Whale Sharks in Oslob?
You need to go to Tan-Awan village, 10 km to the south from Oslob. All drivers know where the place is. So if you get there by public transport or by a taxi, the main thing is to inform a driver or a conductor that your final destination is “Whale sharks”.
How to get to Oslob Whale Sharks from Cebu City?
Take a bus at South Bus Terminal and go to Oslob. The journey takes around three hours, a distance of over 100 km. Buses run every half hour, the first goes around 4am. You need to go a little bit more after Oslob stop.
How to get to Oslob Whale Sharks from Moalboal?
Take a bus that goes south to Bato. Go to the very last stop (about 60 km). Then either catch another bus that goes in the same direction to Cebu (through the southern point, then north through Oslob). Or take a tricycle or motorbike and go the remaining 15 km. The whole journey will take about 4 hours. You can also take a taxi. Round trip costs about 3,000 pesos (5,000 pesos for minivan). It’s cheaper than a tour in a dive center.
How to get to Oslob Whale Sharks from Negros island?
Take a direct bus from Dumaguete to Cebu. It goes through the Tan-Awan and Oslob. The way is about 30 km, it takes an hour and a half. You need to get out before reaching Oslob (because the bus goes from south to north).
How to get to Oslob Whale Sharks from Bohol island?
Option 1. Take a fast ferry from Tagbilaran or Tubigon in Bohol to Cebu-Mactan Ferry Terminal. The ferry goes 1 – 3 hours depending on the route and a type of a boat. Then take a bus that goes from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu to Oslob.
Option 2: There are many boats on Alona Beach in Panglao island that go directly to the whale sharks center and return the same day. The cost of this trip usually is pretty expecsive. The way takes 2.5-4 hours depending on the type of a boat and weather conditions. Ask dive centers on Alona beach if they have this option.
Read more about transfer from Bohol to Cebu.
There is no need to stay in Oslob exactly, but a lot of people prefer this option to avoid long trip before and after visiting sharks. It makes sense, because there are beaches around, so you can take a rest. If you wish to stay near by whale sharks watching, I would recommend BSDS as a low-cost option and MB Sunrise View Resort or Oslob Sea Safari Resort for more comfortable stay.
If you would prefer to stay on the beach, than please look at Moalboal Backpackers Lodge as the cheapest option in Cebu; Savedra Beach Bungalows, Cabana Beach Resort, Turtle Bay Dive Resort, Love’s Beach and Dive Resort or Dolphin House Resort as the best value for money options.
For those who enjoy comfort of beautiful rooms, freshness of open pools, clean private beaches, best service and tasty food, I recommend to look at option in Mactan Island like Shangri-La’s Mactan Resort & Spa or Crimson Beach Resort & Spa.
- Scenic Spot: Oslob Whale Sharks Watching
- Location: Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu, Philippines
- Nearest town: Oslob, Cebu, Philippines
- Ticket price: 1000 PHP
- Time for visiting: 1-2 hours