Whale Shark of Oslob

We came here with high hopes and expectation, The small town in the southern part of Cebu is after all known famously for these gentle giants. The whale shark or butanding that passed by the water of Oslob has attracted many travelers and tourist to this small, laid back coastal town; but when we got there and witnessed the situation of tourism in Oslob we were deeply saddened.

From Badian we traveled down to Oslob via a chartered van for P2500. We stayed at Lagnason's Resort, and asked if they could arrange a jeep to take us to Tanawan for whale shark watching and see other attractions in Oslob. Early in the morning, we were fetched from the resort we were staying. After our hefty breakfast we load into the jeep and headed to Tanawan.

It was still early when we reached Tanawan, but the travelers and tourist were already lining up to register and see the marine creatures. We hurriedly register, because they only allow whale shark watching up until 12 noon. We attended a short orientation and let us know of some rules we must observe during the whale shark watching. Some of the rules are as follows:

  • Do not touch the shark.
  • Keep minimum distance of 4 meters form the shark.
  • No more than 6 tourist per shark.
  • No feeding fro tourist boats.
  • Do not throw trash in the water.
  • No flash photography

Though they oriented us on the rules, most of these rules were not actually observed; we were also not told what will going to happen during the tour. They  gave us a life vest and snorkel, then asked us to ride the boat. They load tourists more than the boat can accommodate, one of our boats even started to be filled with water and sink.

Coming from different directions, it's easy for the boat, guests, and guide to come in direct contact with these marine animals.

Our expectation before going to Oslob is that we will ride a boat, one of the boatmen will scout for whale shark passing by the ocean. It's either a hit or miss since there are days that whale shark will not pass by and there are days that you are lucky.

The sad part is that it is not what is happening. From the shore of Tanawan you can already see the paddle boats lining up not far from the shore, and just beyond them, we could clearly see buoys lined up securing the area. Early in the morning, these sharks are lured inside the secured area of the sea and were fed from morning till noon. This is done everyday to make sure that visitors can witness these whale sharks; but it is against the rules. Feeding the whale shark alters their natural way of finding food. It also affects the natural migration of these creature for one place to another and opt to stay in Oslob due to abundancy of food given to them by the boatmen.

This is how close our guide got with the whale sharks.

Most of the rules imposed during orientation were not observed in the water. Even our guide was the one going near the butanding to get a video of it. And since these whale sharks are coming  from different directions, the boats are  just a few inches from them and there is a higher chance of the tourists, guides and boats coming in contact with the whale sharks. Our camera even captured one of the whale sharks accidentally hit by the outrigger of the paddle boat. One of my companions even witnessed that the marine creature was severely wounded and bleeding. What is more alarming is that our guides did not even care that the boat hit the whale shark, even after we ask for their attention; they just continued to feed them.

Video of an outrigger of a paddle boat accidentally hitting the whale shark

We were very dismayed at the current situation of tourism in Tanawan, Oslob. We went there expecting a lot more, but much to amazement when we saw these giant marine creatures, we were deeply saddened by their situation. If we knew, we have not joined this activity in Oslob.

As of now, we are not recommending to visit Oslob for whale shark watching until actions are given to these incidences. If you wish to see these marine creatures, there are other places where they are treated properly. Donsol, is not far from Manila, and you can even witness the butanding in their natural habitat. When in Oslob, opt to see other attractions; in fact, there are more things to see here; visit Cuartel, Tumalog Falls, Sumilon Island, and the old churches in the town. I'm telling you if you skip the whale shark watching you wouldn't miss that much, and you are able to help save these creatures from maltreatment.

Cuartel; one of the attraction in Oslob besides the whale shark watching

We have posted the video of the paddle boat hitting the whale shark, and it garnered much attention and concern from people and organizations willing to help. As of this writing, we were assured by the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines that these concerns have already been raised to DENR and other concerning bodies. Hopefully we see action very soon.

This is part of the South Cebu series, see more posts about this here.

1 comment:

  1. We said it before, we say it again. You Shouldn’t Swim With Baited Whale Sharks in the Philippines. Here’s why.-> https://travelfoodguru.wordpress.com/2015/08/04/why-you-shouldnt-visit-oslob/