Swimming with whale sharks in Cebu is one of the main tourist attractions in the Philippines.
Even though it’s a controversial activity, it’s also a very unique experience. The Oslob Whale Shark experience is rated as one of the best places to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines.
I have put together this guide on the Cebu Whale Shark activity including where to book and what to expect.
OSLOB WHALE SHARK TOUR
You can book your Cebu Whale Shark Tour online in advance with Klook.
This particular tour is the most top-rated Whale Shark Tour in Cebu with hundreds of great reviews and thousands of bookings.
The tour to see the Cebu Whale Shark includes the following:
- Hotel pick-up from Cebu City or Mactan between 4:00 am and 5:00 am
- 3-hour scenic coastal drive to Oslob
- All entrance fees and snorkeling fees
- 30 minutes snorkeling with the Oslob Whale Sharks
- A visit to Tumalog Falls
- Return transfers back to your hotel in Cebu City
ARRIVING AT THE OSLOB WHALE SHARK EXPERIENCE
I arrived at the at around 7 am and was surprised by how many tourists were already there.
I visited the Oslob whale sharks in the low season at the beginning of October, so I can only imagine how busy it must get during the high season.
There’s a real administrative system at the whale sharks Cebu facility which includes you having to ‘sign in’ and write down your name, being assigned a number, watching the whale shark briefing, and after getting your lifejacket and snorkeling gear before jumping into the boat.
The Cebu whale shark watching briefing made it clear that the local government is trying to regulate this tourist attraction by imposing heavy penalties if you don’t maintain a 5 – 7 meters distance between yourself and the whale sharks.
You will also be asked to wash off any sunscreen and lotions before entering the water.
However, in reality, no one maintains a 5 – 7 meter distance between the whale sharks and there are simply too many tourists in the water, so the occasional accidental touching of the whale sharks is inevitable.
CEBU WHALE SHARKS – WHAT TO EXPECT
Every morning between the hours of 6 am and 12 pm, local Filipino fishermen feed the whale sharks close to the shore.
Small wooden boats then chauffeur tourists out to where it’s possible to jump in the water and swim with the whale sharks.
Depending on how busy it is, the waiting time could be anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour before your number gets called to jump in the boat and head out to see the whale sharks.
The whale shark watching area is no further than 50 meters from the beach. Before you know it you will arrive at the spot and the boatman will tell you to jump into the water.
As soon as you dive off the boat you will encounter these beautiful gentle giants face to face.
SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN CEBU
Make sure to be mindful of your surroundings when swimming with the Cebu whale sharks so that you don’t accidentally touch them or kick them by accident as they are not shy and will swim right up next to the boat.
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It’s best to try and go a bit further away from the boats to get an actual chance to swim together next to the whale shark.
I saw about a dozen Oslob whale sharks during the 30 minutes I was snorkeling in the water.
In my opinion, the whole swimming with whale sharks in the Cebu experience wasn’t long enough and I would have loved to spend more time in the water admiring these beautiful creatures.
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IS IT SAFE TO SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS?
A common question that gets asked is if it’s safe to go swimming with whale sharks in Cebu and the answer is Yes.
Even though whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean that can grow up to 32ft and weigh 200 tonnes, they are very humble creatures and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Whale sharks are filter feeders which means they swim with their mouths wide open when feeding on plankton and other small fish before filtering out excess salt water. They don’t like the taste of humans!
Book Now: Oslob Whale Shark Tour
SHOULD I DO THE OSLOB WHALE SHARK WATCHING?
The whale sharks Cebu activity has been controversial since it started. I would much rather see the whale sharks in their natural habitat without the feeding of them and without crowds of tourists.
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However, the community in Oslob seems to be working hard to control and educate the crowds, and limit impacts on the Cebu whale sharks themselves.
I’ve listed some bullet points below that might help you decide whether to go or not to go and swim with the whale sharks in Cebu.
- Whale sharks are a protected species in the Philippines and it is illegal to harass them. However, many tourists don’t follow the whale shark interaction code of conduct and there are many active touches happening with the whale sharks.
- The everyday feeding in Oslob is teaching whale sharks that boats and humans mean food, causing them to approach every boat they see instead of avoiding them.
- Contact with boats and humans will lead to infection in whale sharks as they are not used to being exposed to human bacteria.
- Whale sharks are a highly migratory species and not meant to be domesticated living close by shores as they are in Oslob. The change in their migratory patterns could affect the future breeding prospect from fulfilling their biological purpose.
- The whale sharks in Cebu are being fed poorly by the boatmen as opposed to what they would naturally eat in a natural high-plankton environment.
- Whale sharks are migratory and you can see them in other parts of the Philippines. In fact, 3 weeks later I saw a whale shark in its natural habitat by the blue hole on Tablas Island and it was the most magical experience ever.
When booking the Oslob Whale Shark tour online with Klook, this will also include a short visit to Tumalog Falls which is one of the best waterfalls in Cebu!
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It’s a short 5 to 10 minute drive from Oslob town to reach the jump-off point at Tumalog Falls.
From here, the road down to the falls is very steep and cars are not able to drive down so you will have to walk for around 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can jump on the back of a habal-habal to take you down the hill to the entrance of Tumalog Falls which is an additional 50 pesos.
These Falls are pretty unique, featuring a mellow curtain of water falling down the face of a monolithic limestone cliff.
There is a large swimming area at the base of the falls where you can take a dip to cool off.
Tumalog Falls is surrounded by tall bamboo and mossy walls adding to the jungle vibes that you will find here.
A large cave can also be found on the left-hand side of the falls if you wish to explore deeper and get another cool perspective of the falls from inside.
Once you’ve had your waterfall fix, it’s time to head back to the car and make the 3 – 4 hour return journey back to Cebu City which will conclude the whale sharks Oslob tour.
WHERE TO STAY IN OSLOB
Oslob has dozens of accommodation options to choose from so I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay to fit the needs of budget backpackers, luxury travelers, and everyone in between.
See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Down South 118 Beach Resort
Down South 118 Beach Resort is one of the best accommodations in Oslob, featuring a restaurant, sun terrace, shared lounge, and a private beach.
There are double and triple rooms available each fitted with a flat-screen tv, large bed, spacious living, free wifi, and a private bathroom.
Perfect for families, couples, and friends.
Mid Range: Ocean View Lodging House
Ocean View Lodging House is a value-pick accommodation in Oslob, located close to the Oslob Whale Sharks, offering unbeatable seaside rooms and free wifi.
There are double rooms, family rooms, and quadruple rooms available to choose from. Each room has air-conditioning, a spacious living, a private bathroom, and ocean views.
Perfect place to stay for families, couples, and friends.
Budget: Luna Oslob Travellers Inn
The best budget accommodation in Oslob with great reviews and is located in the center of town.
This property offers an on-site restaurant and free wifi. Guests can choose from various different rooms, from double rooms, to triple rooms and even family rooms.
It’s basic but perfect for solo travelers, couples, and families.
FOR MORE OPTIONS IN OSLOB, SEARCH ON BOOKING.COM
BEST TOURS IN CEBU
WHAT TO PACK FOR THE PHILIPPINES
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