I have always been fascinated with creatures underwater and enjoyed looking at their pictures in one of our encyclopedias when I was a kid that I wanted to see them with my own eyes.
My first time in the water with a bunch of colorful fishes, sea snakes and other marine life was in Camiguin Island. Then I realized that I wanted to see more; to experience more. When I bought tickets for Cebu, I think Alex and I were only excited for Oslob’s whale shark. Who wouldn’t be? Whale shark, locally known as Butanding, is the largest fish in the sea and the thought of swimming with them would be awesome.
Oslob’s whale shark encounter is the town’s main tourist attraction since 2011. The whale sharks are lured very near the shoreline with food so the tourists can swim and interact with them. My initial reaction upon seeing them was “They’re huge and beautiful”. Then I started to panic when one of them opened its mouth to eat. Suddenly, one of the boatmen grabbed me and took me near the Butanding and told me to stay there because he’ll take a picture of me. Still terrified, I posed for a photo. While in the water, I realized that I have nothing to fear about these giant fishes and they aren’t interested with me; they just swam around and eat. I thought they were shy and will swim away once we get near them but they were sociable. They seem not to care when we take photos of them while they’re feeding.
While it is one of the best experiences I had, I felt sad and guilty because an everyday encounter with humans might stress them out and the way they feed is not natural. Yes, there are rules that are being implemented before swimming and interacting with these giants (no sunscreen, interaction is limited to only 30 minutes, no flash photography, no touching of sharks, and swim within a distance) but sometimes they are not being followed. There were too many of us swimming with the whale sharks. What irked me is that some of the local tourists touched them and they were very proud of it. Kaya di umuunlad ang Pilipinas eh. Nyeta! I hope that the local government unit of Oslob will look into this issue.
How to get there:
From Cebu City:
-Take a bus at South Bus Terminal bound for Oslob. Tell the bus driver you’re getting off at the "whale shark". Alam na nila yun.
-Travel time is around 3 hours.
***Watch out for vendors that sell Cebu torta cakes: they look like ensaymada and mamon in one. They’re delicious!
-The bus driver will probably drop you off at the first resort in Tan-awan.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know anyone from Oslob, two words “whale shark” and you’ll do just fine.
goodnight - donna