Swimming with Whale Sharks: Tips for Your Oslob Trip
The waters along the coast of Oslob, a humble province in the south of Cebu, is home to an interesting and gentle fish species: the whale shark or the butanding.
No need to travel elsewhere for a fun experience with whale sharks. At Oslob, you can swim and pose with these wonderful creatures.
Here’s everything you need to know about this popular tourist hub:
From Mactan-Cebu International Airport, take a taxi to the South Bus Terminal (P400 / $8).
Take the regular taxi (white), as the airport taxi (yellow) charges double the amount. All taxis are metered and start at a fixed flag down rate (P40 / $1). The trip will take around 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the traffic.
Tips: The taxi line can be very long during peak hours (noon and late afternoon). Download the Grab app (for Android and Apple users) if you want a more convenient option to get to the South Bus Terminal—and anywhere within the city, too!
You can also buy a data-ready sim card in the airport (P300 / $6, depending on the data plan).
From the South Bus Terminal, the trip takes about 3 hours depending on the traffic. The exact location is situated conveniently along the highway. You can get to Oslob by:
BUS: All buses bound for Oslob operate 24/7 (P150 / $3 per ticket). Inform the bus driver or fare collector (you can address them as Kuya, Manong, or Bai) to drop you off at Barangay Tan-awan if you plan to watch the whale sharks on the same day.
TOURIST VEHICLE / VAN: For a faster, hassle-free journey, you can book with most travel agencies for a tourist vehicle. You may arrange for a one-way trip to Oslob for a certain fee (P4,000-P7,000 / $76-$155) depending on the type of vehicle, length of use, and side trips.
PRIVATE CAR: You’re lucky if you have a local friend to accompany you! You can use Google Maps or Waze to help you navigate. Just enter ‘Oslob Whale Shark’ or ‘Tan-awan, Oslob’ as your destination.
Tip: The activity is only available in the morning, so the best time to leave is from 3:00 to 4:00 AM if you want to do it on the same day. You also want to avoid the heavy morning traffic in Cebu City.
Whale shark watching is available from Monday to Sunday, from 6:00 to 12:00 PM only. For some reason, the whale sharks swim farther off the coast by noon.
Tips: Come early to avoid the long lines especially during peak season (May to July, December). More tourists come during the weekends and holidays.
The activity is done on a first-come, first-served basis. A reservation may be arranged if you avail of a private tour package from accredited travel agencies.
For foreign tourists, expect to pay a fixed fee (P1000 / $20 per person) which includes a life jacket and snorkeling equipment, but feel free to bring your own.
Note that the rates may change without prior notice as decided by the local government.
Tips: Cash is the only mode of payment. The nearby ATMs in Tan-awan may not dispense cash or accept foreign cards.
While you’re in Cebu City, go to a money changer such as in the airport or malls (SM, SaveMore, ParkMall, Ayala, Robinson’s).
All whale shark watchers are required to sit in a brief orientation. You are expected to adhere to the following rules:
- Viewing is strictly limited for 30 minutes only
- Activity is done by batch
- Stay at least 5 meters away from the whale shark’s head and 6 meters from the tail
- No splashing or jumping when entering the water
- No feeding of whale sharks
- No touching, chasing, or riding of whale sharks
- No flash photography
- No wearing or applying of sunscreen (may be toxic for the whale sharks)
- No motorboats (only paddle boats are permitted)
Tip: You’re not required to wear swimwear. Just bring a towel, some extra clothes, an underwater camera—and you’re all set!
Staying in Oslob
You can stay for a few more days to experience nearby attractions, like swimming in Tumalog Falls, scuba-diving in Moalboal, or canyoneering in Badian.
There are plenty of nearby restaurants, cafes, and eateries (or carenderias) that offer tasty and affordable meals.
Popular accommodations in Oslob include Ging-Ging Hotel and Resort, Oslob Malonzo Pension House, and Granada Beach Resort (P1,500-P3,500 / $29-$68 per night).
Tips: Make a reservation, especially during peak season.
Many hotels and inns don’t accept credit cards or manager’s check, so always bring enough cash!