I never thought that “butandings” or whale sharks exist in Cebu. As someone who has this on his bucket list, I made it to a point to see one. My initial plan was to visit the province of Sorsogon, a destination known to have sightings of this big creatures. But since I was already in Cebu, and Oslob is just a three hour bus ride away, I took the opportunity.
I, together with some of my office mates waited for the first bus going to Oslob at the South Bus Terminal and traveled for almost three hours for this. The sun was already up when we reached the town of Tan-awan and right then right there we knew that a fun-filled weekend has just began. After some sort of tidying up and getting ready, we took a tricycle to bring us to the first leg of our itinerary – the whale shark watching.
We went there at almost ten in the morning and we were advised that whale shark watching was only until one in the afternoon. That time, only two resorts offer whale shark watching and it costs Php 300 – that already includes the entrance fee and the fee for the boat. The life vest rental was for a separate Php 20 fee and one can also rent snorkeling gears and goggles for Php 50 each but all were optional. For the Php 300 fee, we were advised that 60% of it normally goes to the fishermen, 30% to the town and the 10% goes to the Barangay.
As of 2015, rate has increased to 600 php for local tourists and 1000 php for foreign tourists. If you wish to only see the whale sharks on the boat, it will cost you 300 php.
We waited for our turn for the briefing, and it is mandatory for those who wants to experience swimming with this gentle giants. We were presented with the whale shark code of conduct and the do’s and don’ts when interacting with the creatures before they finally let us board a small bangka and paddle our way close to where the butandings were.
We got off our boat and try to swim with whale sharks twice of our size. It was fun at first but after 30 minutes or so, I felt something wrong. The fishermen were feeding the sharks and it seemed to be off to me. I witnessed how whale sharks became dependent on boat men for food. I have also seen with my own eyes people who were not following the rules and sadly, there were no penalties or strict implementation of this.
This experience led me to become one of those silent ambassadors of wildlife protection and conservation. I have come to realize that it will be much better to see them in the wild. Imagine yourself island-hopping then out of nowhere a pod of dolphins appear, isn’t that more fun? I urge you to visit Donsol instead. For other reasons why you should not visit Oslob and swim with the whale sharks, you can visit Sierra Madre Divers or Huffingtonpost‘s website. I, myself have had regrets doing this. And maybe in this way, I can educate people and urge them to travel responsibly.
You can head to the following locations after:
Sumilon Island: Detour Sumilon Island
El Cuartel: Revisiting the past at El Cuartel
Boljoon: Boljo-on, a first of firsts!