Whale Sharks in Oslob

Growing to lengths of 45 feet, and weighing as much as 15 tons, whale sharks are without question the biggest fish in the sea. These gentle giants are found in tropical and temperate oceans around the world, and are content to cruise the oceans at a no-worries pace while slurping up clouds of plankton and tiny fish.

About the Activity

The activity site is situated in Brgy. Tan-awan in the town of Oslob, a remote part of Cebu that is 3-4 hours away from the city or 4-5 hours drive from Mactan Airport.

Diving and snorkeling are limited in time and people, and done by batch. Each batch has 30 minutes to watch or swim with the whale sharks. Prior to that, there is an informative talk and presentation about the Whale Sharks and STRICT RULES to be observed during the activity.

All the Whale Sharks at the Oslob Whale Shark Snorkel tour are wild animals and come and go as they please. The floats you see on the surface are merely marking the area for motorized boats to stay away.

Whenever and wherever you account whale sharks, always strictly adhere to the following guidelines:
  • Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a Whale Shark
  • Do not restrict normal movement or behaviour of the Shark
  • Maintain a minimum distance of 3 metres from the Whale Shark
  • Do not undertake flash photography
  • Do not use underwater motorised diver propulsions
  • Behave in a calm controlled manner and prevent stressing the animals
The sleepy town of Oslob on the southern tip of Cebu became famous for the daily appearance of whale sharks. Fishermen using Krill (small shrimp) as bait were often approached by the whale sharks. The result was a beautiful relationship between the fishermen and the Tuki (whale shark in Visayan, the local language).
This relationship came to the attention of a few travelers who naturally wanted to share this magical experience, and did so by blog and social media. The unintended result was a rapid onset of mass tourism which Oslob was poorly equipped to handle, and changed the local area forever, and monetized the bond between the fisherman and the Tuki.
At the beginning of 2011, the situation had reached a critical point, several negative acts committed by tourists and locals caused a lot of concern for the animal’s welfare. An ordinance was passed by the Philippines Government preventing any further feeding.
Savedra was among the first to put their weight behind the ordinance, all activity in Oslob was immediately suspended. The many daily inquiries for trips there were declined, we shared the ordinance and a recommendation not to go to Oslob.
Sadly, the ordinance did not have the desired effect, what happened instead was even more detrimental. In place of dive centers and eco-tourism outlets, less scrupulous operators started taking groups there. Even more deliberate contact being made with the animals every day, visitor numbers not being controlled, a circus-like environment formed. The ordinance was appealed by the community of Oslob, lost a lot of its support, and eventually faded away.
What we learned over time is people will go there regardless of requests otherwise, and for as long as money is being made in Oslob nothing will be done to stop it. Many campaigners make good arguments as to why it should be stopped and put a lot of effort into trying to make that happen, it has not.
We believe trying to stop operations in Oslob at this stage is hopeless, what we seek to do is to change from within. We look to other whale shark tourism spots like Donsol and seek to push Oslob in the direction of their model. No contact, reducing feeding, hopefully, one day stopping it entirely, controlling daily tourist numbers to prevent stress to the animals, and more than anything else to educate locals and tourists alike of the threats to these wonderful animals.
If we could wave a magic wand and stop it tomorrow we would, in the real world the best, we feel, that can be done is to be present, have a voice and make positive changes where and when the opportunity presents itself. We understand the desire to be close to the whale sharks, it’s close to the top of the list of why we became divers in the first place. If you would like to visit Oslob we will take you, but we will strictly enforce local policies, and our own policies, that are in place to protect the sharks from us.