A short guide for swimming with Whale sharks in Oslob

A whale shark is a large silly fish. Plankton eater. It is harmless to people. It is not an endangered species, although people have dealt them a great deal of harm. The Philippines are the first country in the world to protect these creatures. There aren’t many places where you can come into contact with whale sharks. You can have the privilege to swim along these magnificent creatures in Oslob, which is located in the eastern part of Cebu island. There are just a couple locations in the world where you can see them, since we’re talking about giants that can grow to a length of 15 meters and are not particularly fond of shallow waters.

Whale sharks are the main reason for our embarking on a 10, 256 kilometer-long journey. We want to dive into the water and get to know them. If they feel up to it, of course. They say that they’re friendly and willing. We shall see.

Oslob

Just like more or less everything on the island of Cebu, Oslob is a village. It became world-famous when the fishermen realized that they could lure these creatures to shallow waters with krill. Soon, whale sharks began to linger along these shores for a couple of months on their migratory route. They were attracted by a mixture of shrimps, small fish and algae. And then the tourists arrived. The village began to prosper. The fishermen started making money. The state tried to handle the relationship between whale sharks and people in order to protect these creatures as much as possible. Whether they’ve succeeded or not, is a moot point.

You can reach Oslob by bus which leaves from Cebu City. The South Terminal. You can get to Cebu City by plane from Hong Kong or Manila. You can also reach it from some other city, but these two are best connected. And you can get to these two cities with any international flight.

Security

When you read the word „security“, you must have thought of protection of people from whale sharks. You were wrong. Everything revolves around protecting the whale shark from us. Although they’re colossal, whale sharks are helpless and sensitive creatures. Before you dive, it is essential that you read all the rules and sign the papers by which you corroborate that you have understood and that you comply with everything you have read. Among other things, you also accept to pay €20 for thirty minutes of swimming.

The rules that you have to abide by:

  • It is important that you keep a safe distance of 3 meters, which, in reality, is very hard to achieve, since people swim very slow in comparison with whale sharks.
  • It is strictly forbidden to touch whale sharks. You mustn’t touch them with any part of the body, not your head, not your hand, not your foot, not even a stick!
  • You should by no means swim in front of the whale shark. Although its mouth are large enough to swallow you, that’s not the reason you shouldn’t do this. The whale shark must at all times be allowed free movement. Get out of its way.
  • It is prohibited to use flash. Whale sharks are sensitive and the last thing you want them to do is become frightened and twitchy. It is certainly not good when something that weighs a couple of tons twitches in the water.
  • You must remove all make-up and creams from your face and body when you go into the water.

If you break any of these rules, you may expect to pay a fine. We think that nobody got one. Perhaps some idiot who thought that riding a whale shark would be a clever idea. Unfortunately, there were people like these. We weren’t among them.

Only when you have understood and accepted everything, you get into the boat and set out. You won’t travel too far. A hundred meters or so off shore is just enough.

Swimming with whale sharks

The good news as far as whale sharks are concerned is that most people do not leave the boat. They observe them from a place that is not favorable but they find it most comfortable. Fear and frenzied excitement engulfs everyone who happens to find themselves in this place. It simply can’t be otherwise when you see something black and twice as big as the boat heading towards you right from the very bottom.

And then, the giant surfaces and you hear the famous PURFFFFF sound typical of whales. Colossal mouth rise to the surface. They open and suck in the krill that the fishermen have tossed in the water beforehand. OK. Here it is. Waiting for us.

Should we jump in?

How the fuck are we supposed to do that? Should we jump on the head or the feet? What if we jump on it?

Or even worse, what if we jump in its mouth?

And end up like Geppetto? Do we need a snorkel if we’re not in the water but in it?

Stop thinking! Just take the plunge!

Everything related to diving with whale sharks can fit in three letters. WTF! How else could we describe this experience? The thunderous silence under water. The feeling that you are trivial and extremely tiny. Not to mention the moment when you realize that you’re not swimming with just one, but three whale sharks and you keep turning around maniacally as soon as you lose sight of one of them. WTF!

Massive whale sharks swim at a leisurely and lethargic pace with a myriad of small sardines that are waiting like parasites for the remnants of krill to come out of their gills.

Sustainable tourism

Do not be of the brutish and uncivilized sort who have no sense for time and space. There are debates in many institutes of marine biology whether these kind of activities are harmful to animals. Everything that is related to whale sharks also applies to associating with the dolphins, sea turtles etc. and even griffon vultures at Uvac.

These activities have certainly had impact on the biorhythm and the natural movement pattern of whale sharks. According to some people, this is not enough for them to become endangered. After all, they voluntarily choose to stay in waters next to Oslob. On the other hand, whales are animals that are constantly on the move and, according to marine biologists, staying in one place for too long is not good for them. We do not know what the truth is and who is right, but we do know that these kind of places best corroborate the axiom that the universe and human stupidity are limitless. Stupidity is, of course, ascribed to tourists.

We truly believe that it is a great privilege to swim next to some other species. This trust should by no means be abused or betrayed and some people do this in great measure. It is therefore essential that you stick to the rules and by doing so be a part of the solution and not part of the problem. Be a responsible tourist!

A few details and observations:

  • Whale sharks are harmless.
  • Early dawn is the best time for meeting these wonderful creatures.
  • Their average length ranges from 6 to 9 meters. That means — the young ones. Adult whale sharks do not go into shallow waters.
  • If you decide to stay in the boat, you’ll need all the protection from the sun you can get.
  • The fishermen intentionally throw krill next to people. Their aim is to lure whale sharks on you.
  • You can come to Oslob on your own and go into the water. Just swim to them and you don’t have to pay anything. But don’t do this. Part of the money from this activity goes directly to the fund for the protection of marine world.

You can find more pics from the Philippines on Instagram.


Originally published at tripblogpost.com on June 20, 2017.

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