How to interact with the whale shark

How to interact with the whale shark

I have been to many beaches in my local region in Mindanao, they’re all amazing and beautiful. Having a chance to travel in Cebu, I grabbed the opportunity to land my feet in Oslob, province of Cebu, it is located in the Central Visayas region in the Philippines. It was on June 6, 2016 we left my friend's house in Cebu around 6:30 in the morning while the sun was starting to rise, so it was not yet hot. It was a 3 hour trip and we had to take a public bus to get there. Along the way to Oslob before reaching to its point, I’ve seen many breathtaking views that made me awe. It's common for me to see beaches with turquoise waters, but it’s a lot different from what I’ve used to, it’s beautiful in an exotic way. When I and my two friends were just an hour away from the destination, there was an enigmatic excitement inside in me that I couldn’t wait to see the shark locally known as "Butanding”. Swimming, snorkeling and coral diving are just one of the common things to do while at the beach. But seriously! To swim in with the shark is something unique to this province.

Atlas! After the 3 hour trip we finally reached into our destination. The bus stopped for us in front of Aaron’s Beach Resort’s entrance. Actually, there’s a lot of resorts to choose from there and they will accommodate and send you to the whale watching venue just a walking distance from the resort.  It’s the local tourism government who manage it. Before they’ll allow you to interact with the shark, after we present our receipt to the officer, you have to wait a few minutes for the briefing. We were clearly instructed to keep a distance from the shark atleast 4m. Friendly they maybe, but knowing the reputation of a shark and wild-life creatures, they are sensitive to vibrations and they may react violently and that is enough reason to be careful. 

Below are the other guidelines for the whale watchers:

Do not use sunblock or lotion. If you have applied an hour ago or more, that would fine for the chemicals of the sunscreen have already absorbed by the skin.

Feeding of the whale shark is not allowed only authorized personnel.

Do not touch the whale and don’t block their way nor chase them

Turn on the flash if you’re going to take pictures with whale. They are sensitive to lights.

Don’t make a splash upon entering the water. Whales are attractive to bubbles.

Don’t wear jewelries

After the briefing session, we have to patiently wait for another minutes. Our guide assigned to us our priority number. It was Sunday so it wasn’t a big surprise there were a lot of local and foreign tourist like Koreans, Chinese, Americans and other white races I can’t recognize. It was about 11 am, still were waiting, so we doubted if they could still cater us. We Were just anxious because the show will end every 12 noon. As we were one of the last batch, finally it was our turn. Luckily, we didn’t have to merge with the other group, the boat that was assigned to us was just enough for small group other boats can ride 12-15 passengers I guess. So at the picture, it was just me and my two friends and two Korean couples riding in the boat. 

The Encounter

When we reach the area, I couldn’t contain the excitement I felt upon seeing the shark’s flat head. I was a bit scared hoping it won’t eat me alive, hahaha that’s silly and I know my two friends felt the same way too. I guess, I was the bravest among my friends so I was the first one who dived in the water wearing the snorkeling gear. I saw the Butanding’s body, I was stunned not because it scared me, but I was amazed. Its color is black with white spots and stripes and its skin was beautifully glowing in the currents of water and some small fishes were following it like it was his babies. Time to take picture! This adventure I know wouldn’t be complete without souvenirs. We don’t have an underwater camera, but thanks to Aaron’s Beach Resorts, we rented one. The watchers of the area were very accommodating, they’re the one who took us pictures together with the Butanding”. It was so hard to pick the best selfie with the Butanding though, as a matter of fact, we don’t have a decent one. The struggle is real” when you tried to get the best angle or post with it but it was still an “epic failed”.

How silly it is when I couldn’t understand that we have to observe 4 meters away from the shark when it was the shark who tried to go near us. Everytime we saw the the shark coming near us we would always try to hold a grip into the boat and trying not to stretch our feet so that it won’t hit any parts of their body, but it did. I guess I’ve hit the tail twice and it was a bit rough, thankfully they didn’t react violently. Perhaps it is there way of interacting human, so I find it sweet. I do apologize for the picture below, if you can see the two Butandings have their intimate moment and we were just a “ photobomber”. It would be captured perfectly if not just us who tried to hold a grip everytime they passby near us, or we could be underneath them in a distance making a peace sign while they were kissing and that would be so cute. It was a 30 minute interaction with the “Butanding” and that was a very awesome experience and adventure that I can treasure for the rest of my life. Afterall, they’re not harmless, they’re a “gentle giants” trying to be friendly to human. 

A few tips in going to Oslob

If you want to experience the kind of adventure we had, either you’re from the Philippines or not, Whale Watching in Oslob is perfect to be added on your bucket list. I will give you some tips you have to remember. If you’re planning to go to Oslob it is much better to spend an overnight accommodation so that you will have some time to explore the province’s beauty. It wont give you a hassle being anxious if you can still catch the show. The show starts at 5 am and end every 12 noon. The province has a lot of things to offer, from whale-watching you can also have an island hopping in Sumilon Island. You can also do canyoneering in Kawasan Falls, sad to say we missed the chance. 

I can’t contain the happiness I felt even when I got home. The smiles and laughters that we had with my friends are priceless brought to us by whale shark “Butanding”.

Author Bio:

Jenessa, 24 years old from Davao City, Philippines. Travel enthusiast, loving everything about travel like swimming, snorkeling, diving, hiking, discovering new places and etc. As a new aspiring travel blogger who are eager to share her experience and adventures, I wanted everyone else in the world to have a glimpse of the country I live and the places I have been to.




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