Two2Travel Oslob Cebu

Swimming with the whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu

It felt like plunging into a humonguous aquarium.

The water was crystal clear, the visibility wickedly great. And right in front, below, to the right and left, and finally, behind, are the world’s biggest fish. Four, five, six—it was useless to even count. And they didn’t look like they were going anywhere else.

TWO2TRAVEL - CEBU - OSLOB'S WHALESHARKS
One, two, three. How many whalesharks do you see?

Oslob’s tuki

We came to Oslob, a seaside town in southern Cebu, to take photos of the whalesharks, locally called tuki. We did not leave disappointed.

Whaleshark watching, Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu
The moment we were out of the boat, a tuki was feeding right in front, about five meters away. Having previously seen only three seconds of them in Donsol, it felt amazing to finally see them from up close and under perfect weather conditions. The light was incredible. It was like seeing a film in 3D on the big screen at three meters away.

<Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com
As the tuki opened and closed its mouth near the surface, it was also displacing so much water that would cause the boat to bob slightly. Its gills were as long as an arm, but its eyes were incredibly small.

Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com
Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com
It was difficult to gauge how big it exactly was, however. Every single one of them was big anyway, the smallest even larger than our boat.

Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com
We had half an hour to snorkel around the area where the tuki are fed krill, and throughout that period, we swam with no fewer than four at a time.

Whaleshark watching, Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu
The area for whaleshark watching was no more than 20 meters from the shore, a swimmable distance
Though whale sharks have a gentle nature, we still felt a rush of panic when one of them comes up from behind and swims to our direction. Especially in Oslob, it was difficult to keep track of the surrounding waters. There were just too many of them.

Whaleshark watching, Oslob, Cebu | Two2Travel
Whaleshark watching, Oslob, Cebu | Two2Travel
Whaleshark watching, Oslob, Cebu | Two2Travel
TWO2TRAVEL - CEBU - OSLOB'S WHALESHARKS

To feed or not to feed—that is the question

Whaleshark watching, Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu
But then we are also aware that Oslob has since been under fire for feeding the whalesharks that pass by its waters. Without this feeding practice, it is unknown whether whalesharks will linger in Tan-Awan’s waters or swim away, along with the town’s newfound livelihood.

Underwater photographer Steve De Neef, which has worked extensively on whale shark conservation in the Philippines, has this to say.

Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com
Whalesharks of Oslob, Cebu | Photos by Two2Travel.com

What we believe should happen, especially in light of different practices in Donsol—where there are also whaleshark sightings—is that the government should intervene and come up with sustainable and uniform regulations that will apply not just to Oslob but also to Donsol.

In the meantime, tourists like us who can access these creatures via these means should always exercise good judgement and follow the rules—among others, no touching, no flash photography, no swimming near the tail, because gentle though they are, they’re so big that one brush against their tail will send you (or that part of you) in bandages and/or crutches sooner than you think.

Up next: Oslob travel guide


If you are looking for accommodations in Oslob or anywhere in Cebu, do check out Agoda or Airbnb.

Two2Travel

Owen Ballesteros & Nikka Corsino are trigger-happy travelers from the Philippines. They both swear by the sharpness of Nikon and almost always carry a packet of instant coffee when traveling. Photography is their bread and butter, their passion, and sometimes the only thing that prevents them from killing each other. If you have offers of work, collaborations, or an endless supply of instant coffee, please drop them a message here.

  • theclothesmuse

    I’m just envious! Next year na ito haha! Lovely photos and post, as usual. :)

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      Thanks Ate. This year na! Hehe :)

  • http://www.LakbayDiva.com/ Lakbay Diva

    oo nga ang sobrang liit liit ng mga mata nito, ewan ko ba kung makakita sila sa microscopic na mga pagkain nila hehehe

    nakakatakot talaga lalo na pag nasa likod pala, di mo alam! hahaha…

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      That happened a lot of times! Haha! Fin nalang palayo na hindi tumitingin sa likod, baka magpanic pa! :P

  • WanderfulTogether

    awesome pictures you got there!!

    I experienced this in Donsol way back 2009 and I did enjoy it…but what’s sad was, each whale shark I saw had a cut on its tail. :'(

    • http://www.LakbayDiva.com/ Lakbay Diva

      that’s nowhere near to the plight of the whalesharks in oslob, cebu. lucas, one of the big ones there, has gashes on its eyes, about 7 in total, most likely caused by a blade of a banka.

      • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

        Are these dive boats? I think I read somewhere that motorized bancas are supposed to be disallowed near the area but we saw a few when we were there.

        • http://www.LakbayDiva.com/ Lakbay Diva

          most likely dive boats coming from sumilon or any other island hopping jump-off points. but i think lucas wasn’t hit in the oslob area, it was off someplace else and must have mistaken a boat as feeder one.

          • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

            Awww that’s sad. It’s really confusing though. Sana maglabas naman ng uniform rule na both Donsol and Oslob should follow. Or is there already?

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      Thank you guys! You were lucky to have gone to Donsol that early. When we went there this summer, halos wala na nagpapakita. :(

      • WanderfulTogether

        I saw them 13 times that time, not certain though if the same whaleshark showed itself many times. The last one, he swam and swam around us for almost an hour. The Germans with us never got tired of tailing it. How much does it cost for a boat now, and how many people, still 7?

        • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

          We paid P3500 for the boat + P100 each, some sort of fee per person (I think that’s P500 for foreigners). The P3500 is good for six na lang.

  • raibecca

    wow! awesome pictures! sana magkaroon dn ako ng ganitong shots! will visit there on November 25.. Thanks to your blog, really enjoy browsing here.. :)

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      Thanks Raibecca! Hope you enjoy your trip to Oslob. :)

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  • Ana

    Hi! would like to ask what camera did you use for the underwater pics? :) so nice!

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      Hi Ana, we used a Nikon D600 for the underwater shots. Thanks for dropping by! :D

  • Mikes

    Hi All,
    all day lang po ba yung Whale shark watching or pang umaga lang xa?

    • http://www.two2travel.com/ Two2Travel

      Hi Mikes, as said in the article, whaleshark watching is only until 12 noon or 1 PM.

  • Ynel

    Hi! Just want to clarify if your trip was on Sept 3. We are to go here this year, same month but we are not sure if it is whale shark watching season.

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