Southern Cebu is indeed a gem filled with various wonders like waterfalls, mountains, and beaches. Aside from these natural wonders, there is also a plethora of activities to choose from like the swimming with the sardines (popularly called as sardine run) in Moalboal, canyoneering in Badian/Alegria, trekking in Dalaguete, and swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob.

We’ve already had our first taste of South Cebu in Badian when we experienced one of the top tourist drawers of the area, canyoneering. It was a fun and worthwhile experience although it is really physically exhausting. Nonetheless, my companions and I enjoyed every jump into the cold, emerald waters that flows from the mountains.

After our canyoneering adventures, we immediately suited up for the next leg of our South Cebu adventures. Our next stop is Oslob. The waters of this town has been invaded by creatures from the deep. The presence of these creatures placed Oslob in the tourism map. These creatures, the whale sharks are touted as “gentle giants”. Their presence in Oslob’s waters drew tourists from all over the Philippines, and from other countries.

To read more about our canyoneering adventure, read  South Cebu 2015: Canyoneering

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Sunrise. It is a constant reminder that each day is a wonderful blessing.

To get there, we hopped on a bus going to Bato terminal. It was beginning to get dark and most of the buses passing us by were full to the brim. Everyone is going home for the long holiday. Fortunately, after waiting for some time, we were finally able to ride a bus. There was a catch though – we had to stand because the bus was already full. Moreover, it is an ordinary bus. Because the bus was running fast, we were cooled down by the wind flowing in through the open windows.

After about an hour and a half of travelling, we alighted at Bato terminal where we looked for a bus going to Cebu City. This buses pass by Barangay Tanawan, Oslob where we will spend the night. This is also the site of the whale shark’s morning visits. When we have settled in our lodging, we immediately went to bed as we had an early morning wake up call for the whale shark interaction.

Reminders

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Order.  Visitors must adhere to the ordinances set in order to have an orderly interaction with the gentle giant.

At 5:30 AM the next day, my companions and I were already awake. We were all preparing for our interaction with the whale sharks. The tourism office usually opens the whale shark interaction at 6 AM. There is an orientation prior to going offshore to the interaction site. Although it was still a bit dark, a crowd is already begin to form at the orientation area.

Here are the things to remember before interacting with the whale sharks:

  • Don’t use any sunscreens/sunblocks. These are harmful to the whale sharks. If did use sunscreen/sunblock, you will be required to wash it off first before riding the boat to the interaction area;
  • Don’t use camera flash;
  • Once in the interaction area, don’t jump into the water. Slowly go down from the boat to the water. Jumping or diving into the water will create bubbles. Whale sharks are attracted to bubbles;
  • Stay at least four (4) meters away from the sharks. Never panic when it comes close to you;
  • Do not touch the whale sharks. Aside from not using sunscreens/sunblocks, this is another cardinal rule which everyone is expected to adhere to. Any violators will be fined with PHP 2,000.00 and can even result to imprisonment.

After the orientation, proceed to the cashier to pay for this activity. For Filipino tourists, price is PHP 500.00 while for Oslobanons, it is PHP 50.00. For international tourists, swimming fee is PHP 1,000.00. For diving enthusiasts, diving fee is PHP 1,500.00. These fees already cover payments for the boat and snorkels.

The Experience

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This is where we’ll get the chance to swim with the sea’s gentle giants! I can barely hide my excitement!

We had to wait for our turn as there were many visitors who also intend to swim with the gentle giants. Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long before getting into action. The interaction site is about five (5) minutes off the shore. The boats are not motorized so as not to harm the animals.

A couple of meters before our reaching our place, we already saw the large mouths of the whale sharks which are being fed by the local fishermen. This already thrilled us, making us eager to get up close and personal with them. When we finally reached the interaction site, we immediately went down the water.

As most of us aren’t much of a swimmer, we stayed on the side of the boat, on our life vests. We tried to have our pictures taken but the life vests were getting in the way. When we took it off, we got better photo ops. When you go down, you can see how deep the water is. You can also see the divers below swimming alongside them gentle giants.

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Stupendous! No better word to describe this surreal experience.

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Babies. Who’d have thought that these giant creatures are just youngsters? Apparently a full-grown whale shark is big as a bus.

The experience? It’s simply amazing to be in the same waters as these giants. It’s overwhelming, surreal even. Most of them are 12 feet long! And they’re not even adults, they’ve just “babies”. Seeing them swim freely on these waters is nothing short of breathtaking. It was a truly wonderful experience, not just because of the pictures we took but the experience itself. It just feels awesome whenever I get in touch with nature and there’s no better way than this.

Although the waters are itchy, I had a truly memorable experience. The interaction was only for thirty minutes but my world felt like it stopped there, in those waters, with those baby whale sharks. This is something I rarely experience, and when I do, I am just awestruck. We are truly lucky to witness these wonderful creations.

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Close up. Being in their presence reminded me how much mystery lies in the depths of our oceans. 
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Energize. Time to have a healthy meal before continuing with our South Cebu adventures. On the background are the boats surrounding the whale shark swimming area.

When our time was up, we went back to the shore to wash-off and have our breakfast. There are restaurants near the area so having a place to eat is no issue. And thus ends our encounter with the whale sharks. But this is not yet the end of our adventures for the day. 😉

 

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