Oslob Whale Watching Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly | Ish Meets World

I’m one of the biggest advocates of the “It’s more fun in the Philippines” and “Choose Philippines” movements. This is why it breaks my heart that this article is not 100% positive. Nevertheless, I’m here to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about my experience while SWIMMING with WHALE SHARKS in Oslob, Cebu.

A photo I took of one of the whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu

My friends and I booked a trip to Cebu over an extended weekend break. Apart from stuffing ourselves full of lechon (roast pig), swimming with whale sharks in Oslob was at the top of our agenda.

We booked a full day tour (scroll down for details) which started with WHALE SHARK WATCHING. We were told that we needed to leave as early as 3:00 a.m. to ensure that we will still be accommodated. Note that even if you pay for your tour, you are not guaranteed a slot if you arrive late.

Whale watching is only until 11:00 a.m. and there are only a limited number of boats that can go out for every batch. Also, the later you arrive, the longer the queue will get. We arrived shortly after sunrise to find the place already packed with almost a hundred people!

Everyone is “required” to listen to the briefing before entering the water. Basically, you’re not supposed to put on chemical-based sunscreen to avoid damaging the natural flora and fauna in the water. You’re also allowed to swim close to the whale sharks but you are not allowed to touch or try to ride them. They do not bite but it is best to avoid their gaping mouths and their tails. These are massive creatures and you can still get injured unintentionally if they accidentally hit you.

My friends and I piled into a paddle boat fully geared up to swim with the whale sharks

Luckily, the batches move along quickly and we waited for only about 20 minutes. We came well-prepared with our own aqua shoes so we didn’t waste time trying to find our size to rent. (You need these because the beach sand isn’t fine so you might get cuts and scrapes on your feet. We grabbed the mandatory life vests as well as some masks and snorkels before jumping into our paddle boat.
The first surprising part about this experience is how close to shore the “viewing” was. We only paddled out for about 50 meters before we were told that we could jump into the water to see the whale sharks.

Motorized boats are not allowed here since their propellers pose a danger both to the whale sharks and the swimmers. This is probably one reason why all the activities are kept fairly close to shore. This way, it doesn’t take too long for the boatmen to paddle out boatloads of tourists.

Even before I jumped into the water, I saw the multitude of whale sharks that were clearly visible near the surface!

We got into the water and waited beside our boat.

1. Even those who are too afraid to swim with the whale sharks can enjoy watching them from the boat. You can always wear a life vest but if you’re still uncomfortable with that, you still have a chance to enjoy this experience! Just stay on the boat and watch!

2. There are numerous whale sharks that could be viewed. Unlike my previous whale shark viewing experience in Sorsogon, this one isn’t a hit and miss! You are 100% guaranteed that you’ll see a lot of whale sharks!

I took photos as soon as the first whale shark swam behind us!

3. The whale sharks are kept docile because local boatmen are dumping chum into the water. They glide along slowly in a paddle boat while pouring out food. This results in the steady movement of the whale sharks as they follow along the line of where the boat men are dumping food.

The whale shark is seen here following the trail of food that a man is throwing from a paddle boat.

4. With the tourist boats lined up, everyone gets a chance to get up-close and personal with the whale sharks as the feeding boats guide them across along the line of swimming tourists.

5. The boat men are expert swimmers and are very adept at operating a GoPro and many other kinds of underwater camera equipment. They can guide you and take your photos as the whale sharks swim close to you.

I decided to take off my vest so I could get a better photo with a whale shark.

1. The call time is waaay too early for people on vacation! It’s never ideal to get up before dawn for any reason, but I suppose it’s worth it if only to avoid the next con:

2. During peak season, the place gets really, really crowded. Avoid coming here during the holy week, long weekends and most of the summer to be honest. You could end up waiting in line for over an hour. With more people, your time in the water can also become very rushed.

Back on the boat, we all smelled really fishy and could not wait to shower.

3. The water is DISGUSTINGLY SALTY. I nearly threw up. My friends said that I looked green. Because the boatmen were feeding the whale sharks, you will basically be swimming around with a bunch of really disgusting matter that are being throwing into the water. I learned that this could be anything from krill, cut up fish and any other seafood from yesterday’s catch. I took off my mouthpiece to dive and take pictures and I immediately regretted it.

4. Feeding whale sharks is clearly not natural. This isn’t part of their normal grazing behavior and migratory pattern. Feeding them keeps them in places that they might otherwise have left if they were allowed to feed normally. I can’t go into the scientific details but I can bet that this probably isn’t good for the species in the long run. Out of all the cons, this is probably the most significant.

Free diving beside a whale shark

After our session, we headed back to shore and rinsed ourselves off in makeshift showers that were built on one end of the beach. At this point, I could not stand the smell of the water, my hair, my swimsuit nor myself in general. I rinsed out my mouth before I gagged with the taste of the seawater. Gross.

Underwater “surfing” beside a whale shark

After whale shark watching, there wasn’t really any time to properly shower nor was it advisable to do so since we were heading out to Sumilon Island to swim again. Basically. We dried ourselves up as much as we possibly could before stuffing ourselves into the van (still in our swimsuits).

Overall, it was a fun, magical experience that everyone should try at least once in a lifetime. Just to be able to see these majestic creatures of the underwater world in such close proximity is worth every minute that I woke up before I actually wanted to.

To find out how much we paid for our tour and where we booked it, visit this site: Cebu Bohol Travel Tours.