I got the perfect gift a day before Christmas. Instead of receiving one gift, I received three unique holiday gifts! Yep! I received the best Christmas present in 2011. Those were unique holiday gifts in the form of amazing travel adventures. I got the chance to swim with the sharks in Oslob, Cebu, explore the beautiful town of Boljoon and climb Osmena Peak for the second time! Those adventures were done in a day trip when I joined a couple of my Pinoy Travel Blogger friends on an epic journey down south of Cebu.
This will be a 3-part series wherein I will let you in on the perfect gift I got last Christmas.
The Perfect Gift # 1
Edgar of www.eazytraveler.com planned to climb Osmena Peak last December 23rd and also planned to check out the heritage town of Boljoon before the climb. But I guess after hearing about the phenomenal whale shark watching in the town of Oslob, the town after Boljoon, that had to be included in the itinerary. Swimming with whale sharks is on top of my must-do-list and I knew back then that in order to swim with the sharks of Donsol, Sorsogon, I must prepare money since swimming with the Donsol whale sharks can be quite expensive. But after learning that it will only cost me roughly P700 to be able to go on whale swimming in Cebu, I never hesitated and grabbed the opportunity.
From Cebu City, it takes 3 hours to reach the town of Oslob. At first, I thought that the meet up time of 3am was crazy but since they wanted to be there early in the morning and since I’m game for crazy adventures I decided not to sleep the night before and make sure my watch wasn’t set to Filipino time to avoid being late. However, Edcel, Drew and I arrived at the South Bus Terminal 30 minutes late. The 1st trip where Edgar, Christine and the rest of our companions were riding, already left. Then Edcel and Sheena of thewanderingcouple.com arrived a few minutes after. We had to take the second bus which left after 15 minutes. It wasn’t long before I dozed off as soon as the bus left the terminal. The next thing I knew, I was dragging my feet out of the bus while still groggy from sleep. The early morning cool breeze and the dew from the previous night’s rain didn’t help my state of sleepiness.
After regaining my senses, I found myself standing in front of the Tanawan Barangay Hall in Oslob. We had to walk a couple of meters back and looked for a gate with whale shark drawings.
No, we were not lost nor did we miss the drop off point. I guess that barangay hall was their point of reference when going to the whale shark watching area.
We went to see the resort’s caretaker and soon fitted fins, grabbed the rest of the snorkelling gears we rented and changed our clothes.
The whale sharks (butanding in Tagalog or Tukî in Bisaya) have been around the place for quite some time now. Some say they’ve been passing by the waters of Oslob for 2 years while some say they’ve been there for a year. When I asked my boatman how the whale shark watching started or who discovered it, he told me that a foreigner (I forgot if it was Japanese or Korean) saw sharks where a boatman was feeding them with “uyap” or tiny shrimps. The foreigner took photos of what he saw since he was so fascinated with what he just witnessed. There may be other versions of stories coming out as to when the sightings started but the rest was history…
There are about 14 whale sharks in the area. The biggest whale shark is 27-feet long. Their so-called “feeding ground” was just a few meters off the shoreline. We could even see the fins of the giant creatures from the shoreline. We immediately rented a boat to reach the sighting area. For P200 per head, you can rent your own small fishing boat and get a boatman to bring you to the whale shark watching swimming area. One can easily swim to get near the whale sharks in Oslob but they say you have to pay the same rate once you get inside the sighting ground.
The experience was exhillirating. I don’t know if I need to be scared with the whale sharks. You really don’t need to know how to swim to be able to see them for the whale sharks will surely pass by your side so be ready with your waterproof cameras. As for me, I tried to take underwater shots of the whale sharks passing by our boat. When I knew I had enough videos and photos after I dipped my Canon Ixus 95 IS camera in the sea water, which was inside an underwater camera casing, I started wearing my flippers and jumped into the sea. I had diffifulty adjusting to the mask and snorkel I chose since the water gets inside my eyes and mouth. I couldn’t count the number of times I drank sea water too but I didn’t care. My main goal was to see the gentle giants of the sea and it was a truly amazing experience!
No one is allowed to touch the whale sharks or get too close to them. If they happen to swim in your direction, you need to swim away from them. This is not just to protect you from the whale sharks but also to protect themselves from YOU so you need to be extra cautious and be the resposible swimming tourist that you ought to be, k?
On Responsible Tourism and the Safety of the Whale Sharks in Oslob
There are quite a couple of whale sharks in the Philippines. Donsol is home to the biggest whale shark attraction in the country wherein you can swim and dive with sharks, the butandings – those gentle creatures of the sea. After word got out that you can also dive and swim with the sharks in Cebu, Oslob could soon become the next tourist destination in the country. Being a resident of Cebu, I am excited about the attention our province will get as the influx of tourist will surely rise. The whale shark watching will add up to the countless activities they can do in Cebu.
However, we should also not forget that proper agencies have to be consulted to ensure that the whale sharks won’t be threatened by tourists like me, who’s only goal is to swim with them. Let’s just hope we won’t attract the other kinds of tourists.
I asked an old buddy about the repercussions of the series of events that’s happened in Oslob and what’s his take on the matter. He told me that tourism-wise, this is a big thing for Cebu and this will help boost the tourism in the province. However, on an environmentalist’s perspective, it’s best to stop the whole swimming with the whale shark experience until proper measures and procedures are put in place. Before anything else, the community needs to be prepared first. They need to understand deeply why there’s a sudden rush of tourists. They need to know that from the moment they continue allowing tourists to see the gentle giants of Oslob, they are owning up on the responsibility for whatever’s going to happen to those whale sharks. They should be prepared to become the guardians of the sea of Oslob to protect those creatures.
Here’s a list of agencies to be contacted to ensure the welfare of both mankind and the gentle giants of the sea:
- Cebu Biodiversity Conservation Foundation (CBCF)
- Coastal Conservation and Education Foundation (CCEF)
- Law of Nature Foundation / School of the Seas of Atty. Antonio Oposa
I guess what’s lacking in the place right now is the proper implementation of a system that will not harm men and threaten the whale shark’s existence. Aside from thinking about the community, they also need to think about the whale shark’s welfare. For sure, those sharks also doesn’t understand why all of a sudden there are a lot of people swimming in their playground. They too should be prepared for what might happen. As to how they’ll do that, I have no idea. I just hope that they act on it immediately.
Here’s something you can read to increase your awareness of what might happen if proper measures are not followed – https://www.facebook.com/notes/elson-aca/grooming-a-disaster/296634240375271
Until no such procedures have been implemented, it is wise to practice extra caution when you swim or dive with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu provided that they haven’t ceased the whale shark watching yet.
Check out the articles written by my travel companions too:
Christine - Best Itinerary in 24 Hours for 2011! – Southern Cebu
Edcel - Cebu Trip: Whale Shark ‘Butanding’ Encounter in Oslob
Edcel and Sheena – Sidetrip: Swimming with the Whale Sharks in Cebu
Edgar - Swimming with Oslob’s Whalesharks (Tukî)
Lakbay Pilipino - Cebu’s Whale Shark: The Tukî Experience
How To Get There
1. Go to the South Bus Terminal located along N. Bacalso St. Cebu City
2. Take the bus going to Oslob. Fare is P149 for non-aircon and P159 for airconditioned buses
3. Tell the bus condcutor to drop you off at the Tan-awan Barangay Hall. If you can spot the gate on the left side, ask the bus driver to stop the bus.
Whale Shark Watching Expense (per head):
159 – Cebu to Oslob bus (aircon, one-way)
100 – resort entrance fee
200 – small fishing boat fee good for 40 minutes
100 – snorkelling gear rental
About the Resort
There’s only 1 common bathroom as of the moment, which is located in the resort owner’s house. You can wash up at a faucet outside and use one of the resort owner’s rooms to change clothes. There are cottages in the area for rent too. You can just leave your belongings in the resort owner’s house. There are not enough life vests provided though.
If you are looking for the best gift ideas you could give to your family or friends, why don’t you try one of the best Christmas present I received before Christmas – swimming with the whale sharks. But please become reponsible tourits once you are in the whale shark’s playground
Update as of January 10, 2012:
There were 2 whale sharks who have been hurt and are missing. To those who will see or witness these illegal activities done by men to harm the whale shaks in Oslob, please immediately report to the proper authorities. More story here – WOUNDED BEASTS
Update as of April 1, 2012:
These photos were uploaded online and was confirmed that this happened in Boljoon, the town before Oslo, Cebu. Please be reminded that no one is allowed to touch whale sharks or to get near them. This is to let everyone know what to do when you see whale sharks.
Whale sharks are not surfboards or pets!
Update as of April 3, 2012:
Diving with Whale Sharks: Code of Conduct
Please refer to the image below to know the code of conduct when diving with whale sharks. Please let this be a reminder to everyone to practice and promote responsible tourism.