With over 7000 islands, it’s no surprise some of the biggest draw cards to the Philippines are the amazing beaches and diving opportunities!
Just 3 hours bus ride south from the second largest city of Cebu, lies the quaint little town of Oslob. Here you will find a range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and easy access to the nearby barangay (village) of Tan-awan where you can snorkel and/or dive with a number of monster whale sharks! Just be aware – these friendly giants can be a little clumsy and may accidentally knock you if you get too close!
There are a number of hotels and tourist agencies in Oslob and Cebu that will arrange (for a premium) a whale shark package, although it is extremely easy to do independently which works out a lot cheaper!
- Option 1 – Speak to the tricycle drivers along the main road in Oslob – many will happily drive you the 10kms south to Tan-awan, wait around for an hour or so, and return you back to Oslob for around 80-100 pesos (US$2). TIP: make sure they drop you directly at the beach / boat area and not at a neighbouring resort where you will be charged 100+ pesos each to use their facilities (which aren’t even necessary as there are toilets and showers at the beach).
- Option 2 – Jump aboard a passing long distance Ceres bus heading south to Bato and tell the driver to drop you at Tan-awan. The fare should only be about 20 pesos each. To get a bus back to Oslob, flag down a bus travelling in the opposite direction back to Cebu! These buses come pretty regularly so you shouldn’t have any problems.
Ever since news of the whale sharks broke in late 2011, tourists have been flocking to the area to see and experience these amazing creatures. It now operates like a well-oiled machine and after paying a fixed entrance fee of 500 pesos for locals or 1000 pesos (US$20) for foreigners, you will be taken out 50 meters off the beach in a little banca boat and given 30 minutes to snorkel with these gentle giants and to get that perfect selfie! Don’t even think about bypassing the entrance and swimming out there yourself as it’s closely monitored.
Yes, it’s a little touristy. Yes, it’s a little exploitative. But a portion of the entrance fee does go towards conservation and employing a number of locals. They also seem to make an effort to manage things carefully – no sunscreen is allowed, there’s always a marine biologist on site to monitor everything, and there’s a 4 meter exclusion zone around the whale sharks so if you’re planning on holding onto their fins and going for a little ride you might have to reconsider!
Tips? Thoughts? Experiences? Share them in the comments section below!