Philippines (Republic of the Philippines)

Languages: English, Filipino

Currencies: PHP · Philippine peso (₱)

Capitol: Manila

Continents: Asia

More useful information

Area: 342,353km2

Population: 109,581,085

Traffic/driving side: right

Landlocked country: No

Independent country: Yes

United Nations member: Yes

IDD Prefix: +63

Timezones: UTC+08:00

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Last updated on March 20, 2024

There is no doubt that swimming with Whale Sharks – the world’s largest fish and one of the largest animal on earth is a magnificent adventure and memorable experience! The swim is one of the main reasons people are coming to Cebu Island.

Interacting with these great creatures truly seems like a dream and it’s possible in few locations in Philippines. The most popular place for swimming with whale sharks is Oslob (or rather Tan-awan) in Cebu Island. After snorkelling and diving adventure with these extremely gentle cold-blooded fishes, I’ll guide you with everything you should know before going swimming with Whale Sharks and share my opinion how ethical this adventure is.

Everything you need to know before swimming with whale sharks in Oslob.

Snorkeling with Whale Sharks is indeed an inspiring experience. Swimming alongside with them in their natural environment offers a profound sense of wonder and appreciation for the marine world. 

Just remember to approach these creatures with care to ensure both your safety and their well-being.

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 Oslob in Cebu Island, which is a much more popular place for this activity and it is equally beautiful as Palawan.

We have previously stayed in Moalboal doing Alegria Canyoneering /which was fabulous by the way!!/- we picked Kawasan Canyoneering Operator. Kawasan Falls were closed due to the annual maintenance of the place. I actually don’t see a difference, both places are equally amazing and you absolutely can’t miss 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.

Ticket in Tanawan for swimming with whale sharks costs only 500 pesos, however registration process is a bit of a hassle. 

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 a bus driver or anyone around for a direction and they will help you with bus information. People in Philippines are so kind, it makes traveling much easier.

So driving from Moalboal to Bato takes 1.45h, swap a bus in Bato small bus station to Oslob or Tanawan. It takes another 20 minutes to reach Tanawan and 30 min to reach Oslob/depending where you booked your accommodation.

You can now book top rated Klook Oslob Whale Shark Watching Experience in Cebu with drive pick ups and drop offs and you are even accompanied by expert local fishermen to make your experience a safe one – for you and the whale sharks 😉

Or if you want to merge it with Canyoneering (must do!) you can go for Oslob Whale Shark Snorkeling and Badian Canyoneering Adventure.

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 – photo below.

Two very smart accommodation options just next to the Whale Shark swimming registration:

Few other stays very close to the Whale Shark Registration spot:

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 waiting untill 6am when the registration starts. No guest No ticket – 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 any way.

If you are going with the tour Oslob Whale Shark Watching Experience in Cebu they will make sure you have an early spot and everything is organized at high standard.

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!

Highly rated top adventurous tours in Cebu:

What to take for swimming with whale sharks?

My highest recommendation would be:

  • carry your 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. 
  • FOR THIS TOUR – 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 and 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.

I’m sure there are always 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.

The truth is it is us at first place to make sure this attraction is ethical on a maximum level by making sure we use all the below safety tips. 

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 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),
  • Sorsogon,
  • Donsol.
Sassari Sardinia

Hey - I'm Eva!

Hiker, adventurous traveler and the author of this blog. My biggest joy is mountaineering and writing reportage travel stories here on this blog, to help you create a unique travel experience. Traveling is freedom, allows you seeing the world truly, meet communities, grow. Taste it!