Swimming with Whale Sharks – the world’s largest fish and one of the largest animal on earth is a magnificent adventure and memorable experience! Interacting with these great creatures seems like a dream but actually it is possible in Philippines in few locations. Most popular place for swimming with whale sharks is Oslob or rather Tan-awan – a small town in Cebu Island. After snorkelling and diving adventure with whale sharks, I’ll guide you with everything you know before going swimming with Whale Sharks and share my opinion whether it is ethical.
Everything you need to know before swimming with whale sharks in Oslob.
A lot of internet says if you really want to experience snorkelling with whale sharks the only place to do it is Palawan island in Philippines.
Swimming with whale sharks is also available in Bohol island, but we decided to move to Cebu and try this in Oslob, which is much more popular place for this activity.
We have previously stayed in Moalboal doing Alegria Canyoneering /which was fabulous by the way!!/- Kawasan Falls were closed due to the place maintenance or something like that. I actually don’t see a difference, both places are equally amazing and you absolutely can’t skip this attraction!
Lots of Whale Shark Watching Tours are available from Moalboal including visiting nearby Tumalog waterfall (incredible!). The prices differ but for a decent tour you will need to pay 3800 pesos, including two-way transportation from Moalboal to Oslob (pick up is possible from your hotel location from anywhere in the nearby towns), breakfast, gear, etc. But I would not recommend booking any tour! Ticket in Tanawan for swimming with whale sharks costs only 500 pesos.
How to get to Oslob?
If you are staying in Moalboal or Badian take a bus to Bato /there is no direct bus to Oslob/. It only takes 1.45h, buses run frequently and are very comfortable. Ask anyone around or any bus driver and they will help you with bus information. People were so kind to us all the way along the Philippines, that we had no problem with local transport. It is actually very nicely organized. So driving from Moalboal to Bato takes 1.45h, and once you swap a bus in Bato at the same small station it will take another 20 minutes to reach Tanawan or 30 min to reach Oslob/depending where you booked your accommodation.
Where best to stay for whale shark watching?
Best place to stay for whale shark watching is Tanawan – this is exactly where the activity happens.
The best guesthouse 489 Seaside Inn, with Luigi the owner who will help you out with the whole registration procedure for whale shark watching! Additionally the guesthouse is next door to the registration place, which is handy as hell!!.. as the registration is a bit of a hussle …
However there are many small hostels near the Whale Shark registration centre, within 100m range. Luigi guesthouse faces the beach and if you are lucky you’ll have a chance to join caraoke garden party 😉 View from Luigi place.
Two very smart accommodation options just next to the Whale Shark swimming registration:
Registering for swimming with whale sharks.
On the day of the activity you have to come down to a place to queue for the registration. You need to be there as early as possible at 4am. You will be seated and probably wait untill 6am when the registration starts. No guest No ticket – so you have to be there physically.
You will take all the 4 registration steps and once you obtain your ticket you will be able to go back to your guesthouse to gear up. The single ticket cost 500 pesos and only mask and life jacket is included. If you want snorkelling tube or fins you need to rent it.
Luigi is extremely helpful, once you get your ticket you can leave and he will fulfill the rest – pay and guide you with next steps. You can go back to your place to change and gear up.Once you are ready for snorkelling you will return to the registration place and your number will be called out. The snorkelling adventure is 30 minutes, You need to be aware there are hundreds of tourists every day coming for this attraction. You will probably question whether this attraction is ethical, but actually it is organized in a decent way and the animals are not trapped in anyway.
There is a different waiting section for locals and foreigners (price is different too..that’s not very nice!)
How much does it cost to swim with whale sharks?
The registration ticket cost 500 pesos. This will get you a mask, lifejacket and a place in a boat, from where you jump in the water to swim with whale sharks. If you need fins or snorkel tube you need to pay extra (100 pesos).
Diving with whale sharks starts from 2500 pesos (60 minutes) and includes registration fee and all gear. GO for it!
What to take for swimming with whale sharks?
My highest recommendation would be:
- carry you SNORKELING MASK (I know it takes luggage space but it’s light and gives you freedom to snorkel whenever and wherever you like, and without additional cost). It is also more higienic.
- WATER SHOES! Yes – otherwise you will rent for every adventure in Philippines – it’s for your safety to avoid stepping over sea creaters and urchins.
- GO PRO CAMERA – you can’t travel to Philippines without GoPro or water camera.
- WATERPROOF PHONE SUITCASE! – You can purchase waterproof suitcase onsite, however we ended up with wet iPhone – trust me you don’t want that, so think ahead and buy a dicent one.
- Skip sun lotion for animals comfort.
Is swimming with whale sharks in Oslob ethical?
There’s no doubt the whole snorkelling attraction does disturb whale sharks lifecycle. They are being encouraged to swim closer to the shore by being fed. It is now strictly forbiden to touch the sharks to avoid any harm, however having hundreds of people in the water and few boats around seems impossible keep them completely safe. Some also say feeding the whale sharks is not the way these animals should be gaining their plankton nutrition. So I’m sure there are few actions that should be taken to make this attraction more sustainable tourist site. However you can never compare this to fake tiger or elephant sanctuaries, snakes photos, zoos, where animals are caged, trained and drugged for human entertainment.
Safety tips for swimming with whale sharks.
Swimming with whale sharks is safe as long you follow few simple rules:
- don’t ever touch the whale sharks! It’s more for the animal protection than ours. People don’t realize but these giant animals are highly vulnerable to infections from human touch!
- don’t leave rubbish,
- don’t block whale shark path, try to stay aside behind the pectoral fin,
- don’t chase them,
- try not to use any cosmetics before going into the water,
- don’t panic, the animals are extremely gentle despute their enormous size.
Diving with whale sharks in Cebu.
Interacting with these giant creatures was so tempting that we decided to go diving the next day. Best place to book your dive is Diving Zone – which is just opposite the Whale Shark Registration office (on the other side of the main road). The guys have very good reviews and they were extremely friendly and professional. Additionally you will get all recorded on GoPro if you don’t carry one. Single dive/60min cost 2500 pesos, including registration fee, all equipment and camera.
This is a very different perspective to the snorkelling one. You can watch the giant animals passing above your head in the sun rays. Beautiful and unforgettable scene!
Other places to swim with whale sharks in Phillipines.
There are actually few places to swim with whale sharks in Philippines, top locations are:
- Palawan Island (seasonal activity available from April to October),
- Bohol Island,
- Cebu Island (Tan-awan near Oslob),