Thursday, 24 January 2019

Philippines - Diving with Whale Sharks in Oslob

Tuesday, 18th December -
At 5,45Am we were ready and the 3 tricycles ordered at the Reception were awaiting to take us into the village centre. 
Even though it was the dry Season, it had rained during the night and we hoped the sun would come out.

Karina walking to the Reception

The 3 Tricycles awaiting us 

At the offices of Valeroso Travel & Tours, the German owner directed people to different vans according to where they were going to. Karina had booked online through Apekoptravel for the tour from Bohol to Oslob on Cebu island.

When our van was full we were driven to Momo beach, on the other side of the island.
Together with a group of others waiting at the beach, we walked a couple of meters knee deep on the water to board a small vessel which took us to a big outrigger canoe further out at sea. Slowly the boat filled up and we departed at 7,00am.

The ferry (left and right) and the small boat behind the ferry

The trip took about 1,30h and it went very well, and I even managed to take a nap.
On arrival at Quartel Beach at 8,30am, we were helped by the crew to disembark from the ferry and climb onto a small boat.

Boat coming to get us from the ferry

Once the boat was full, it would get pulled with ropes by two young men until it got close to the beach. When we got off we waded through the water until the beach. 

At the beach another crew member collected an extra php 20 (aud 0,50) landing fee from each person to pay the beach staff who pulled the boats, we were told.
I hope that money really went to them, as they work very hard.

Isabelle and Max at Quartel Beach

The 7 of us climbed onto 3 tricycles, and were dropped at the Whale Shark Reserve about 20 minutes later.

Karina and Thomas on the tricycle behind ours

At the Reserve under a covered room, dozens of people sat, others waited in line, and others were putting on life-jackets and masks.
Karina joined the queue to buy the tickets and hire the diving masks. She bought 4 for diving and 1 for watching only (me).
I'm no good under water, but wanted to see the whale-sharks (butandings) up close, so I volunteered to film and photograph. 
Isabelle didn't want to go and unfortunately Thomas couldn't dive as per Dr's orders, as he had an emergency operation 3 weeks earlier to remove his appendix.

We all sat down to hear instruction from a lady to those diving on how to behave near the butandings - no getting closer than 5 metres, no sunscreen, no flash photography....
It all looked chaotic but was actually very well organized.

Going out to sea

At the beach groups of 10 people were called to each non-motorized banca (outrigger canoes) paddled by two local fishermen.
They rowed further out to sea and then everybody climbed out. Soon I saw two whale-sharks circling the area going to the canoes where fishermen were feeding them krill.

Feeding the whale-shark. Jose in the blue t-shirt

You are only in the water for 30 min and then return to land and hand in your life-saving vest and diving mask.
After we returned to land I didn't see any other boats going out to sea, so I presume they only feed the sharks for a couple of hours each day.

Even though I didn't see them from below the water and only saw part of them from above, for all of us it was an amazing experience to see these gentle giants.

The whale shark encounters at Oslob are controversial because the animals aren't migrating as they should, as they have became dependent on these feeding sessions.

The whale sharks used to have a migratory path in this area for decades but were previously regarded as pests by local fishermen who would lure them away from their fishing nets, and in certain areas in the Philippines they would even be slaughtered, until the fishermen realized it would be more lucrative to keep the animals around to attract tourists.

Oslob formally a sleepy fishing village is now a famous tourist spot around the globe.

Back to the beach

At the beach we changed from our swimming costumes into dry clothes and got back into our waiting tricycles who drove us to Quartel Beach.
Unfortunately this tour left us no time to go around the island to see the old Spanish ruins or to go to Tumalog Falls or even to eat...
From there the same procedure, walk knee deep in water to a paddle boat being pulled by a rope until the ferry. It departed at 11,30am with expected arrival at Momo Beach at 1pm.

This time the ferry was totally full, and a lot of people made life difficult for others looking for seats as they just kept their backpacks on the seats or put their feet on the seats next to them, which I thought was rude as they could see people going up and down the ferry looking for seats.
Eventually one of the staff members came around and asked some people to move closer to make space.

About 15 minutes after departure I started to feel very hot and could feel that I wasn't well.
Jose, Thomas and Benoir were sitting outside at the back (the bow), Karina who had been sitting on the opposite side had disappeared. I told Max and Isabelle to look after my small backpack as I wasn't well and went outside. 
It obviously didn't help that I had been rocking back and forth on the banga while watching the whale sharks....I was already a bit nauseous then.

As soon as I went outside I saw that Karina was already there, also not feeling well.
It didn't take long for me to start feeling sick. The waves were swelling up and hitting us and soon we were both totally wet. Karina held well but I was sick twice more, so I was glad all I had eaten that morning was 1 dry biscuit.
Soon a few more people joined us on the side deck and just sat on the floor getting wet with each high wave that hit the boat.
I looked at my watch every 5 minutes it seems, and just willed time to go fast, but instead of the 1,30h that had taken us to go to Oslob it took us just over 2 hours to get to Panglao!

When we finally arrived we got our backpacks and waited our turn to be helped off the ferry onto the small boat taking us to the beach.
When I caught up with Jose he told me I looked very pale and I told him my ordeal. 
He apparently had a great time talking to the crew who had cooked a fish stew for lunch and they had offered him lunch, which he tasted and said was delicious...

The van from the agency was there to pick us up and take us to the shop.

We hadn't eaten the whole day, it was well past 2pm and the family decided they would stay in the village centre and eat. I couldn't face any food, was still wet (so was Karina but she decided to eat), so I got into a tricycle and went to the Resort.

Once in the room I had a wonderful shower and went to sleep. I woke up at about 5pm when Jose opened the room's glass sliding door. I felt refreshed and myself again.

After everyone had a shower and change of clothes we met up at the Resort Bar for Happy Hour drinks. Afterwards we ordered 3 tricycles at Reception and went back to the village to have dinner at the Bohol Bee Farm Restaurant at Alona Beach.

Above the Bee Farm Ice-Cream shop, the restaurant was modern and well decorated, open front to the beach for a sea breeze, the staff were friendly and efficient.
They took Karina's Gluten free list to the Chef and came back with the 2 options Isabelle could eat. Food was delicious and in the end we were given a few scoops of their ice-cream to try. The ice-creams were vegetarian we were told and the cone was made of cassava (tapioca) flour, which is gluten-free so Isabelle could have some.

After dinner we walked back to the main road to get a tricycle to the resort and get a good night's rest after our exciting day.
Hope you enjoyed this very long post or at least enjoyed seeing the whale sharks 😊

Next week: The wedding!

This is one of my videos of the encounter with whale-sharks:

This Daily Mail article from 2012 has some beautiful photos of the whale-sharks and how the fishermen and the whales became friends.   from 2012

A day return ferry ticket costs from Panglao to Oslob - Php1000 (Aud $26)
Local landing fee at Quartel Beach -Php20 (Aud0,50)
Whale-shark reserve -30 min. Watching : Domestic visitors Php300 (Aud $8), 
foreign visitors  Php500  (Aud $13).
                                   - 30 min. Snorkeling: Domestic visitors Php500 (Aud $13), 
foreign visitors  Php1000 (Aud $26).
Tricycles - to Whale-Shark reserve - php150 (Aud $4.00)
                 - from Bohol centre to Bluewater resort - php100 (Aud $2.60) 

Online booking :


  1. What an experience Sami.. not so much the being sick on the boat, oh that brought back memories of a trip to Rottnest years ago 😀 you must have been blooming starving by dinner time! Talk soon xox

    1. Apart from being sick it was a fabulous experience for sure! I was starving, the whole day without eating.

  2. Seasick or food? A bug? Glad you got feeling better after a nap -- it sounds grim.

    I think I would have liked the diving (I never have) once I convinced myself that the whale shark would not eat me instead of whatever was being offered. Your photos are great and you really tell the story well. I'm afraid if I got in or out of one of those boats it would tip over! What a trip you have experienced. I have just loved being along for the ride with your posts!

    1. Seasick Jeanie. Luckily Whale sharks don't eat people, you would have been safe. It was difficult to get in an out of those boats, there was always help. Thanks Jeanie.

  3. Oh how fun. I would have loved to have gone along.

    Have a fabulous day. ♥

  4. Even in the water it looks a little chaotic. A pity you became unwell, but at least it was afterwards and not before. I do think feeding the Whale sharks continually is a problem. While there would huge demand for the experience, perhaps it should be limited to when the whale sharks are naturally in the area and stop when it is time for them to move on. It is a hard call and at least they are not killing them.

    1. I agree with you Andrew, but I suppose they could probably only count on the tourist trade during 4 or 5 months a year, but would certainly let the whales carry on their natural migration. At least they aren't killing them as you say...

  5. Um país com riquezas naturais incríveis e onde uma grande parte da população ainda vive na miséria :(

  6. Um pais muito interessante minha amiga e aqueles mergulhos devem de ser fantásticos, aproveito para desejar um bom fim-de-semana.

    Dedais de Francisco e Idalisa
    O prazer dos livros

  7. A nap on a boat? Wee, I could (and would) never.

    If they're gentle sharks I wonder why you have a 5-meter distance...
    Backpacks and feet on the seats?! Some people are morons!

    Oh, so you join my brother when it comes to rocking waves, not good!
    But great the day ended well.

    1. The distance to the whale sharks I presume so as not to stress the animals with so many people around them and probably not to transmit any diseases. They only eat placton even though they have a huge mouth, they are not dangerous to people at all.
      Yes, I found out that too much rocking is not good for me :)

  8. Dearest Sami,
    Seeing those Whale Shark is of course quite interesting but it makes me almost dizzy when reading the effort and boat changes you went through for getting there!
    And then, the actual snorkeling time of only 30 minutes, seems quite out of balance compared to the many cons for getting there.
    It is obvious that the money making aspect is their priority, as you already mentioned, the Whale Sharks are also quite disturbed in their natural migratory behavior.
    So sorry for you and Karina feeling so nauseating sick... Oh, the moving water and than following the Whale Sharks did not do any good either...
    An adventure for sure and a rather rough journey for getting there, amongst some rude passengers.

    1. I agree, such a long way to go there and then only 30 min allowed in the water... I suppose they have to protect the whale sharks so time in the water must be limited...and we came from another island altogether which adds to time travelled.

  9. Yes, too much rocking does not suit everyone, but what an amazing experience, I enjoyed your photographs and video.

    I can see why the whale shark encounters at Oslob are controversial because the animals aren't migrating as they should, and they have become dependent on the feeding sessions... it's good for tourism though!

    All the best Jan

    1. Thanks Jan, yes good for one thing and bad for the other.

  10. What an incredible experience. I would have loved it, since I was a water safety instructor in high school and red cross certified. But I can understand that some people do not take well to rolling boats. Glad you felt better in the end. I think it must have been an experience of a lifetime.

    1. Quite an amazing experience for sure Elizabeth, something I'll always remember. Just rocking boats aren't too good for me it seems :) That's great that you were a water safety instructor, I'm not too comfortable around water.

  11. Too bad you got sick.. It looks like a fabulous experience and getting sick must have taken an edge off the experience. I would love to see those sharks though!

    1. Luckily I only got sick on the way back, but the visit to the whale sharks was an amazing experience Erika. I'm just sorry I didn't chose to go into the water to see them closer, but I'm not too comfortable in deep waters and can't go under water as I find it difficult to control my breathing with a mask :)

  12. Oh Sami!!! You really did the best of the bests! The Whale shark experience is an amazing experience but I have to be honest I was quite afraid at first, by their humungous size that makes me feel like they are not real and just giant mascots with machines inside. But another fear I had was when I looked down while I was on the water, it was mega deep under me! But there were divers straight below me like 30 feet so I thought they'll save me when I drown directly in them and it gave me strength HAHAHA

    1. It is an amazing experience Stevenson, I feel sorry I didn't get into the water because I don't dive, so I just stayed in the boat taking photos and filming.


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