I hurriedly finished my work and delegated tasks to my peers. I also made sure that all my client sessions were in place before I left. I clocked out early so I could meet up with my friends outside. We were going to see the whale sharks (butanding in Tagalog or tuki in Bisaya) in Oslob, Cebu!
Whale Shark Sighting in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines
December 23, 2011
Butanding or Tuki Encounter
photo by Doi
I’m really lucky that my day job has a little flexibility when it comes to special requests whenever the need arises. So long as I don’t compromise the deliverables, then all is well.
We arrived at the South Bus Terminal station around 3:30am and the bus left after 15 minutes. It was only a 3-hour ride – a quick nap that wasn’t even enough since I didn’t have any rest.
Entrance to the resort in Cebu’s Tanawan, Oslob, for whale shark watching
Whale Sharks in Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu, Philippines
We reached Tan-awan in Oslob and arrived at the resort where we could pay the fees so we could watch the whale sharks in Cebu. There’s no actual name of the resort, it was simply a sign that says Whale Shark Watching, The Ultimate Experience with the “Gentle Giants”.
A number of clients were already at the area and only a few meters from the shore, we could already see the whale sharks appearing from the surface!
After preparing our swimming gear and a bit of briefing, we hired one of the boats and headed to the area where the boatmen and whale sharks converged.
“Just wait and they’ll simply appear.” according to my guide. True enough, they did.
waiting to be fed
photo by Edgar
I immediately went into the water so I could swim with these beautiful creatures. I was excited when they came inches close. I could touch them if no one watched! Actually, nobody was really watching underwater and I could surely pat these whale sharks, but we were advised to stay clear a few feet away.
‘Gentle giants’ following a fisherman with shrimps
photo by Edgar
These whale shark sightings in Oslob have been around for quite some time already. There’s about 14 or 15 of them in their area which have grown to be the fishermen’s ‘pets’.
When Edwin shared this piece of information to us, I knew I had to see it for myself. I had a trip to Legazpi that was cancelled since I had other commitments. I was planning to go to Donsol in Sorsogon to see the whalesharks but I didn’t realize that they also exist here in Cebu! What’s even nicer was that you don’t have to go searching for them as they’ll normally appear right away!
Look but don’t touch!
photo by Doi
After 40 minutes or so, we finished our swim and headed back to shore. I didn’t realize how exhausted I was, I had to take my rash guard off because I had difficulty breathing. A small bottled water would’ve sufficed to replenish some energy.
It’s incredible to witness the relationship formed between these creatures and the fishermen which was evident with the way they interacted with each other. It was a surreal experience and I’m glad to have done this before the year ended.
I was told by my boatman that these creatures suddenly appeared and kept bugging them for food. Here’s an awesome photo set online showing how beautiful this close encounter with whale sharks in Oslob are: In the shallows: The never-before-seen moment fishermen feed shrimp to giant whale sharks by HAND
whalesharks as big as 27 feet
photo by Doi
NOTE: We were advised that the fishermen and caretakers are working on implementing policies to protect these whale sharks as this attraction is gaining more popularity. Soon enough, this will become a major destination in Cebu with all the media attention it’s getting. The boatmen are careful in making sure they take good care of the creatures but there are circumstances that we cannot prevent. “The process of feeding (the butandings) is altering the natural process of the ecosystem and our presence near them is giving them stress so they might die.” A friend who dives said. The situation their now is very alarming…”
Instructions when swimming with the butandings
Whale Shark Code of Conduct
Gathering more information online, here’s the whale shark code of conduct that everyone should be aware of when swimming with these animals. (Source – WhaleSharkProject.org)
- Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a Whale Shark
- Do not restrict normal movement or behavior of the Shark
- Maintain a minimum distance of 3 meters from the Whale Shark
- Do not undertake flash photography
- Do not use underwater motorized diver propulsions
These whale sharks are prone to hitting the small boats where the fishermen are feeding them and they tend to hurt themselves when doing so. Stay still if the whale shark approaches you and be careful you don’t bump into them. As much as I was hyped to touch these creatures, I didn’t do so. Let’s all practice discipline and help each other safeguard these animals so please follow instructions.
Whale Shark Video in Oslob, Cebu
Here’s a video of these whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu edited by yours truly.
How to Get There
- Ride a bus going to Oslob at the South Bus Terminal. You can get to the bus station from your hotel in Cebu or anywhere in the city. The bus station is located at Natalio Bacalso Avenue in Cebu. Advise the conductor to drop you off at the Barangay Hall in Tan-awan. It’s about a 3-hour ride.
- Walk a few steps back from the barangay hall and look for a blue gate with the ‘Whale Shark Watching’ sign just beside the road.
- Go inside the resort and then pay the fees.
Tip: Go there before 4pm, before it gets dark. Best to drop by on would be weekdays when there’s not much people around.
Air conditioned bus Fare from Cebu South Bus Terminal to Tan-awan, Oslob: 156 Php
Entrance Fee: 100 Php
Boat Fee for 40 minutes: 200 Php per person
Snorkelling Gear with Flippers: 100 Php
Bus back to Cebu City: 156 Php
*Fees may change soon when stricter regulations are implemented.
UPDATE: It’s sad to hear this news about 2 whale sharks in Oslob that were injured by a spear and a motorboat, definitely an accident waiting to happen. Hope everything’s well, please read through the article and follow rules when you visit the town to watch these creatures. Here’s the article by Cebu Daily News for reference: 2 Whale Sharks Injured by Spear and Motor Boat
UPDATE April 01, 2012: Just saw photos online of people playing with these whale sharks. It has not been confirmed if this is in Oslob or a nearby town or somewhere else. I thought of sharing them here so that people will become aware how NOT to act when swimming with these butandings. Photos taken from Facebook. Faces have been blurred.
Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase these Whale Sharks.
These whale sharks are also not surfboards!
UPDATE as of April 02, 2012: According to a resource I’ve read, the two photos above were taken in Boljoon, a nearby municipality of Oslob. Again, regardless of the place, this should not be happening. Click here to read more of the blog post: Whale Shark (Butanding) maltreatment in Boljoon and Oslob by Mark Maranga.