Have you ever seen a whaleshark upclose?
Have you ever swam with a whaleshark?
I did – back in November of last year, when my friends and I randomly booked a very cheap flight to Dumaguete. It was a fairly great experience, but I don’t mind doing it again. This time, with me being more prepared with what to expect. First of all, we didn’t really expect to see that many swimming along with us – almost touching us. They’re as big as the boats, but we realized that they were just the baby whalesharks. You might initially get scared upon getting close, but then they’re actually so harmless.
So just in case you are planning on this trip, I’ve got some useful tips for you. Here we go!
- The town of Oslob in Cebu is in the southern part. So that means, if you come from Cebu City proper, the travel time from there by bus would be around 3 hours. However, there’s a quicker option, which was the route we took from Dumaguete. From Dumaguete, taking a ferry to Oslob would only take about an hour. From the port, you can easily take the same bus coming from Cebu and it will drop you off to any of the resorts in Oslob in about 15-20 minutes. Most resorts can then help you book a tour for the whaleshark viewing.
- Wake up early and be there at the beach by 8-9am. The tours are only allowed in the morning, which was when the whalesharks are usually near the shore. I guess they got used to being fed by visitors/tourists around that time. However, the local authorities and environmentalists (and hopefully, even you) would still want them to go back to their natural food-hunting nature, so that by noon, no boats are allowed on the shore. This will eventually lead them to go back to their normal whaleshark lives. Plus, with the crowds of tourists, you want to be the first batch to get on a boat. You’re only allowed about 30-40 minutes in the water, so maximize the sun and go early!
- Wear something comfortable and nothing too revealing. You also won’t be allowed to wear sunblock to protect them pretty things from too much chemicals in the water. So a wetsuit or a rashguard would be ideal.
- Go during the summer season, when the waves aren’t too crazy and the waters are calmer. When we went, it was November, and the waves and current were already strong. Unless you’re a good swimmer, there was no way you can keep up with the waves and see them clearly, or be able to take a good photo. Luckily, they do tend to really swim close to you, without you even knowing it. I had a moment when I didn’t know that I was in-between two whalesharks and only when our boatmen alerted me did I realize that I was about to kick one ( I did feel him under my feet). That was when I was able to take a really good shot! Nice timing!
- Remove your vest and be brave! Well, the boatmen will tell you that and I think they were right. I got a little scared too, but you only need to hang on to the boat’s balance beams, in case you’re afraid of drowning. If we didn’t remove our vests, we won’t be able to see them really well.
- Finally, bring a waterproof camera. Of course, this goes without saying, right? I mean, how can you enjoy and capture all those precious moments without a good, handy and waterproof camera?
I honestly want to go back and do it again. But this time, hopefully, the waters will be calmer. But anyways, good luck on your trip if ever you book one, and send my warm kisses to the lovely whalesharks. By the way, in Filipino, we call them “butanding”.
Have a fun weekend, guys!