Dried mangoes, beaches, canyoneering, diving, and whale sharks—one of these inevitably comes to mind when Cebu is mentioned. And rightly so, because these are what keeps the tourists coming to the Queen of the South.
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In this article, we’ll be tackling Cebu’s iconic whale shark watching activity in Oslob. Keep reading to find out how to get there, important tips, what to expect, and why it’s so controversial.
How to Get from Cebu City to Oslob
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From Cebu City, you can hire a private car to bring you directly to Oslob’s whale shark watching site. Travel time is about 3 to 4 hours before you reach the town of Tan-awan. If you prefer the comforts of having your own transfer, make sure to book it in advance.
Via Public Bus
Commuting via bus to Oslob from Cebu City is also an option. Take a Ceres bus bound for Bato-Oslob from the South Bus Terminal in Cebu. Travel time is also 3 to 4 hours, but be prepared for delays as the bus might stop every now and then to drop off or pick up passengers.
The earliest trip to Oslob starts at 1:00 AM, with departures until 11:00 PM. Bus intervals are about 30 minutes to an hour. However, not all buses have air conditioning. Be aware that the next available bus when you arrive at the South Bus Terminal Cebu might be an open-air type. It is recommended that you leave at around 2:00 AM or 3:00 AM to get to Oslob early.
What to Expect at Oslob’s Whale Shark Watching
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Our recommended departure time had a reason behind it. Oslob’s whale shark watching is only available from 6:00 AM to 12:00 NN. If you have limited time, you will have to prioritize this activity as the first stop in your itinerary. Reservations are not allowed, this experience is on a first come first served basis. You can avoid the bulk of the crowds if you’re one of the earliest visitors to arrive.
At the Oslob whale shark watching site, you can choose to snorkel or scuba right next to these harmless creatures. If you’re Filipino, prices are 1,000 PHP and 4,000 PHP respectively. For foreigners, the rate for snorkeling is 1,500 PHP while the rate for scuba is 5,000 PHP. There is also an option to just watch them from the boat which costs 500 PHP for locals and 1,000 PHP for foreigners. Rental of underwater cameras is also available.
The whole activity will last for only 30 minutes, and it’s conducted in batches. Before heading out into the water, there will be a short briefing session for the guidelines to follow.
Here are some key rules that are good to know beforehand:
- No feeding or unauthorized feeding of the whale sharks.
- No flash photography allowed.
- Always keep a distance of 6 feet away from the whale sharks.
Do not restrict their movement.
- No sunblock before going in to the water.
Should you Visit the Oslob Whale Sharks?
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Ever since the whale shark tourism has boomed in Oslob, nobody can deny the progress and wealth that it brought to the once impoverished town. However, the many ethical issues that arise from feeding the whale sharks cannot be ignored.
To start, the regular feeding disrupts the natural migratory behavior of this endangered species.
Some of the whale sharks decide to reside in Oslob all year round, instead of moving on to other waters. There is a worry that this new behavior might affect reproduction. It’s also likely that whale sharks may start associating humans and boats with food—which will be dangerous if they ever encounter poachers. At the site itself, the “no touching” rule is not strictly enforced especially with the dozens of people who come to visit every day.
Oslob’s whale shark watching attraction still has a long way to go in improving its regulations. Think carefully before you decide to go. Consider visiting the whale sharks in Donsol, Sorsogon instead, where they practice responsible ecotourism. If you do decide to skip on this activity (kudos to you!), there are plenty of other things to do in Cebu.