Bigger than Life
Everything seeming a little too much right now?
I have caught myself needing a break every now and then, too!
Work and family can have you waking up at the wee hours of the morning wondering...
“Is this all that life could offer?”
I adore my kids to the moon and back but they can leave me strung up sometimes.. Perhaps, I’m just suffocated by the responsibilities attached to adulthood. During these dire times, I know I need to take a break — travel to get back my sanity.
I know it may seem selfish but what love do you have to give if you don’t have any for yourself?
So I took a breather and headed south to visit the famed whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu.
It’s roughly a four-hour car ride from the city center and the scenery along the way gets you hyped up for the creatures you’re about to share the deep blue sea with. I remember being able to feel a lot freer while soaking in the green — not to mention all that BLUE — surrounding me!
Let’s talk a bit about how to make this trip happen.
When in Oslob, there are several resorts that you can stay in. Most, if not all, have scenic views, are hygienic and open to walk-ins. There are also a few grounds open for those who prefer to camp out.
If you’re looking for the best experience, I suggest getting to the shore early in the morning. This could mean staying a night or heading out early to Oslob. They start the orientations at 7AM.
The short 20-minute orientation gives you pointers on what you can and can’t do with the beautiful beasts. Pay attention as they also give a few warnings on penalties if rules are broken. After this, you’re routed to pay for the diving fees — hopefully used to maintain the area. Then you’re asked to line up with the boats by the shore to get started on the main event.
If you don’t come prepared with underwater cameras and diving gear — they have an abundance of that by the orientation center so don’t fret! They would usually cost you about Php500 for the camera rental and Php250 for the flippers. Full diving gear would be negotiable from Php800 — Php1,300 depending on how fancy you want the gear to be. An important note to foreigners is that prices are usually double the amount — this is the local’s way of making an income as this is their main source. Once you have all you need — camera and whatnots — you’re now set on getting your cute self on the small boats and heading over to the Whalesharks!
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu
Here’s a brief background about whale sharks. These creatures can grow as long as 15 meters but the ones that are found in Oslob, Cebu are usually smaller. These big babies pass this side of the Pacific due to their migration routes. The adult ones don’t get attracted by the food offered by the locals but the younger ones are easily swayed and tend to stay for a while.
There is a common hope that they eventually catch up with the migration process and don’t linger here.
Some scientists argue that domesticating the beasts can heighten their chances of being endangered as their instincts are clouded by need. Seeing as this is the main source of income — like I’ve said earlier — it’s not that easy to shut down their operations. The pros and cons of balancing nature as you can see.
Back to swimming with the majestic beasts. The boatmen usually set themselves in a circular figure at a certain depth and they start attracting them with small fish or shrimp. Once they start coming, they signal for you to swim underwater for an up close and personal encounter with the sea giants.
I can only say that it is overwhelming as it is exciting to swim beside them.The fear of being swallowed whole is real and yet being able to be so close can inflate your heart.
There are a few boatmen who are well experienced at taking your pictures with the beasts — even suggesting a few poses that you can make with them. This visit rendered us very lucky as the boatmen we had were very supportive with us wanting to take as much time as we can with the whale sharks.
After this, you’re taken back to the shore where you can head to the showers to wash off the salt water. We skipped that this time and headed back to our resort to take a proper shower and ate lunch.
The whole event often takes about 2 hours tops (orientation — swimming — picture transfer) and then you can find yourself back on the road.
Simple math says it’s doable all in a day but realistically, the driver would want to chill and lounge a bit before heading back on the road for another 4-hour drive. As we all know, it can be taxing to drive that far a distance (8 hours!) all in one day.
Now, to me, swimming with the whale sharks can’t really be placed into words. The huge beasts have the capability of snapping its jaws at you and, even if you weren’t chewed on the way down, swallowed to death would be your end. Not really the ideal way to go! Yet they have a certain gentleness to them that you can’t help but be attracted to their friendliness. It’s such an invigorating experience that it will surely help renew your spirits.
I understand the need to feel bigger than what keeps your mind up all night.
Day to day struggles can weigh more than what they seem every now and then. I hope that this helps you take a step back and see what else is there for us to experience in this life. Maybe bring a trusted friend or a special someone on your next breather. I’m sure the whale sharks would be more than happy to push those troubles away.
So what are you waiting for?
Written by: Tchaika Runas
Tchaika is currently entering a quarter into her life. She has two beautiful kids that keep her on her toes and a loving partner who makes sure she’s grounded. She’s been through more than what society could consider the norm but in a way it has sculpted the art that is her. She hopes to share what she can: thoughts, travel, experience to whomever may need it out there.