The long APEC holiday found me in the province of Cebu to avoid Manila’s traffic, road closures and no-fly zones.I am not really excited about Cebu City since it reminds me so much of MNL with its malls and rush hour gridlocks. My game plan for this trip was to head to the islands and see the beach. Am so glad I did that…and so much more!
‘More’ in this case meant the part where I went swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob. Most people who have been there say it’s a surreal experience. I wholeheartedly agree!!!
The dictionary defines surreal as seemingly unreal or having the ‘hallucinatory quality of a dream.’ This is exactly what you feel when you’re beside these gentle giants in the ocean. You feel half-amazed and half-scared because of their sheer size.
Here’s another point of reference so you can see the size of us, humans, compared to the butanding. In the photo, our boatman-cum-guide was holding me all the time as I kept bobbing up the water with my life vest on, haha.
Kakainin na ng butanding…photo op pa rin pag may time, lol. Seriously, I can’t believe I was this close to the whale shark which is the largest known fish in the sea. I guess you can only get scared if you think it’s gonna eat you, but they will not. They have such wide mouth but they feed mainly on planktons.
Here’s a video I took of the butanding in action in the open sea….
Tourist tip: it is best to rent the nifty underwater cams in Oslob for P500 pesos (plus P50 if with CD) instead of risking your own equipment. Besides, the boatmen are well-versed with using the thing.We must have taken close to 200 photos during my boat ride and stay in the water.
Oslob is about three hours from Cebu City proper. It is advised that you take off as early as 5am to avoid the traffic. One can take the bus bound for Oslob in the terminal but I took the lazier, more expensive option of hiring a private car.
All guests register upon arriving in the whale shark watching area.Fee is P500 for Filipinos and P1000 for foreigners. This includes the boat and services of the guides already.
Everyone’s given an orientation especially on how to interact with the whale sharks. Also, no sunblock is allowed since this could poison the animals.
Finally, we ride the boat. Am partly anxious but I cannot let fear overrun me since I literally grew up near the ocean 🙂
Here was an OMG moment as the whale shark started to circle our boat. It seems that the butandings already have their ‘suki’ among the fishermen who feed them with krill. They already know who to approach.
My helpful guides demonstrated how to get down the outrigger boat efficiently and dive down to start seeing the whale sharks.
It was so fascinating. I did not only see the butandings but lots of fishes and corals in there. I wish I can study scuba diving now too but that’s such a tall order.
My guide even let me hold these slimy eggs that looked like marbles. They came out of the butanding and smelled really fishy. The whole sea really smelled of fish too, lol.
Before I knew it, my whale shark watching (and swimming!) session was over. Hats off to these two guys who did a nice job of steering the boat, being the photographer and guide …Alfred and Jeffrey!
This experience definitely counts as one of my most memorable for 2015. As I said in my Instagram, it made me appreciate once again the wonder of God’s creation! And how humans and animals can coexist harmoniously on this planet.
As I got off the boat, it was time for lunch. There are a lot of eateries fronting the sea near the whale watching site so no problem with food. I had a wonderful meal and some crepes at Chez Tonton.
Past lunchtime, the seafront…so crowded with boats and people earlier..was now completely serene. Tomorrow is another day for the butandings in Oslob.