Swimming with whale sharks in Cebu is one of the main tourist attractions in the Philippines. Even though it’s a controversial activity it is also a very unique experience. The Oslob Whale Shark experience is rated as one of the best places to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines.
I have put together this guide of the Oslob Whale Shark experience including where to book and what to expect.
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OSLOB WHALE SHARK TOUR – WHERE TO BOOK
I personally booked my Cebu Whale Shark Tour online in advance with Klook.
This particular tour is the most top-rated Oslob Whale Shark Tour in Cebu with hundreds of great reviews and thousands of bookings.
You can Click Here to see what other travelers are saying about the Oslob Whale Shark experience!
The tour to see the Cebu Whale Shark includes the following:
- Hotel pick-up from Cebu City or Mactan between 4:00am and 5:00am
- 3-hour scenic coastal drive to Oslob
- All entrance fees and snorkeling fees
- 30 minutes snorkeling with the Oslob Whale Sharks
- A visit to Tumalog Falls
- Return transfers back to your hotel in Cebu City
Swimming with whale sharks Cebu
ARRIVING AT THE OSLOB WHALE SHARK EXPERIENCE
I arrived at the Oslob whale shark watching area at around 7 am and was surprised by how many tourists were already here. I visited the Oslob whale sharks in the low season at the beginning of October, so I can only imagine how busy it must get during high season.
There’s a real administrative system at the whale sharks Cebu facility which includes you having to ‘sign in’ and write down your name, being assigned a number, watching the whale shark briefing and after getting your lifejacket and snorkeling gear before jumping into the boat.
The Oslob whale shark watching briefing made it clear that the local government is trying to regulate this Cebu tourist attraction by imposing heavy penalties if you don’t maintain 5 – 7 meters distance between yourself and the whale sharks. You will also be asked to wash off any sunscreen and lotions before entering the water.
However, in reality, no one maintains a 5 – 7 meter distance between the Oslob whale sharks and there are simply too many tourists in the water, so the occasional accidental touching of the whale sharks is inevitable.
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Whale Sharks Cebu interesting facts
A baby whale shark and its mother
CEBU WHALE SHARKS – WHAT TO EXPECT
Every morning between the hours of 6am and 12pm, local Filipino fishermen feed the whale sharks close by to the shore. Small wooden boats then chauffeur tourists out to where it’s possible to jump in the water and swim with the whale sharks.
Depending on how busy it is, the waiting time could be anywhere between 30 minutes and 1 hour before your number gets called to jump in the boat and head out to see the Oslob whale sharks.
The Oslob whale shark watching area is no further than 50 meters from the beach. Before you know it you will arrive at the spot and the boatman will tell you to jump into the water. As soon as you dive off the boat you will encounter these beautiful gentle giants face to face.
Selfie with the Oslob whale shark
The incredible Oslob Cebu whale shark
SWIMMING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN CEBU
Make sure to be mindful of your surroundings when swimming with the Oslob whale sharks so that you don’t accidentally touch them or kick them by accident as they are not shy and will swim right up next to the boat.
It is best to try and go a bit further away from the boats to get an actual chance to swim together next to the whale shark. I saw about a dozen Oslob whale sharks during the 30 minutes that I was snorkeling in the water.
In my opinion, the whole swimming with whale sharks in Cebu experience wasn’t long enough and I would have loved to spend more time in the water admiring these beautiful creatures.
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Face to face with an Oslob whale shark
IS IT SAFE TO SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS?
A common question that gets asked is if it’s safe to go swimming with whale sharks in Cebu and the answer is Yes, 100%.
Even though whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean that can grow up to 32ft and weigh 200 tonnes, they are very humble creatures and there’s nothing to be afraid of.
Whale sharks are filter feeders which means they swim with their mouth wide open when feeding on plankton and other small fish before filtering out excess saltwater. They don’t like the taste of humans!
Book Now ∼ Oslob Whale Shark Tour
The biggest whale shark in Cebu that I saw
VISITING TUMALOG FALLS
When booking the Oslob Whale Shark tour online with Klook, this will also include a short visit to Tumalog Falls which is one of the best waterfalls in Cebu!
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It’s a short 5 to 10 minute drive from Oslob town to reach the jump-off point at Tumalog Falls. From here, the road down to the falls is very steep and cars are not able to drive down so you will have to walk around 10 minutes.
Alternatively, you can jump on the back of a habal habal to take you down the hill to the entrance of Tumalog Falls which is an additional 50 pesos.
Tumalog Falls is quite unique, featuring a mellow curtain of water falling down the face of a monolithic limestone cliff. There is a large swimming area at base of the falls where you can take a dip to cool off.
Tumalog Falls is surrounded by tall bamboo and mossy walls adding to the jungle vibes that you will find here. A large cave can also be found on the left-hand side of the falls if you wish to explore deeper and get another cool perspective of the falls from inside.
Once you’ve had your waterfall fix, it’s time to head back to the car and make the 3 – 4 hour return journey back to Cebu City which will conclude the whale sharks Oslob tour.
Swimming at Tumalog Falls Cebu
SHOULD I DO THE OSLOB WHALE SHARK WATCHING?
The whale sharks Cebu activity has been controversial since it started. I would much rather see the whale sharks in their natural habitat without the feeding of them and without crowds of tourists.
However, the community in Oslob seems to be working hard to control and educate the crowds, and limit impacts on the Cebu whale sharks themselves.
I’ve listed some bullet points below that might help you decide whether to go or not go and swim with the whale sharks in Cebu.
- Whale sharks are a protected species in the Philippines and it is illegal to harass them. However, many tourists don’t follow the whale shark interaction code of conduct and there are many active touches happening with the whale sharks.
- The everyday feeding in Oslob is teaching whale sharks that boats and humans mean food which is causing them to approach every boat they see instead of avoiding them.
- Contact with boats and humans will lead to infection in whale sharks as they are not used to being exposed to human bacteria.
- Whale sharks are a highly migratory species and not meant to be domesticated living close by shores as they are in Oslob. The change in their migratory patterns could affect the future breeding prospect from fulfilling their biological purpose.
- The whale sharks in Cebu are being fed poorly by the boatmen as opposed to what they would naturally eat in a natural high-plankton environment.
- Whale sharks are migratory and you can see them in other parts in the Philippines. In fact, 3 weeks later I saw a whale shark in its natural habitat by the blue hole in Tablas island and it was the most magical experience ever.
Must Read → 3 Weeks Philippines Itinerary
Cebu swim with whale sharks
WHERE TO STAY IN OSLOB
If you don’t want to return to Cebu City and wish to stay in Oslob this can be done as there are dozens of accommodation options to choose from. I have narrowed it down to a few of the best places to stay in Oslob to fit the needs of budget backpackers and luxury travelers. See the list of accommodations below that I personally recommend:
Luxury: Oslob Whale Shark Resort
The Oslob Whale Shark Resort is one of the best accommodations in Oslob. Featuring a restaurant, sun terrace, outdoor swimming pool, shared lounge and a private beach. There are deluxe rooms and family rooms available each fitted with a flat-screen tv, large bed, spacious living, free wifi and private bathroom. Continental breakfast is also included for all guests. Perfect for families, couples, and friends.
Mid Range: Ocean View Lodging House
Ocean View Lodging House is a value pick accommodation in Oslob. Located close to the Oslob Whale Sharks, this property offers unbeatable seaside rooms and free wifi. There are double rooms, family rooms and quadruple rooms available to choose from. Each room has air-conditioning, spacious living, private bathroom and ocean views. Perfect place to stay for families, couples and friends.
Budget: La Lune Oslob Hostel
The best budget hostel in Oslob with great reviews anf located in the center of town close to the Oslob Whale Sharks. This property offers a shared lounge and free wifi. There are mixed dorms, female dorms and a quadruple room available to choose from with a shared bathroom. It’s basic but perfect for solo travelers and couples.
For all other places to stay in Oslob, Search on Agoda or Search on Booking.com
BEST TOURS IN CEBU
Another option for accommodation on Cebu is to stay at an Airbnb, which generally has some great deals.
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LONELY PLANET – PHILIPPINES
One of the best books to take on your trip is the Lonely Planet Philippines Travel Guide!
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MORE PHILIPPINES TRAVEL GUIDES
- Philippines Guide: 3 Weeks Philippines Itinerary
- Cebu: 15 Things To Do In Cebu
- Bohol: 31 Epic Things To Do In Bohol
- Siargao: 15 Things To Do In Siargao
- El Nido: El Nido Island Hopping
- Coron: Coron Island Hopping
- Boracay: 15 Things To Do In Boracay
- Siquijor: 3 Day Siquijor Itinerary
- Bantayan: 15 Things To Do In Bantayan
- Malapascua: 11 Things To Do In Malapascua
- Camiguin: 13 Best Camiguin Tourist Spots
- Romblon: 12 Epic Things To Do In Romblon
- Tablas: 10 Things To Do In Tablas
- Carabao: 7 Best Things To Do In Carabao
- Dumaguete: Best Dumaguete Tourist Spots
- Sumilon Island: Sumilon Island Itinerary
WHAT TO PACK FOR CEBU
Everyday Backpack: One of the best backpacks on the market! The Nomatic 20L Backpack is perfect for on the go adventures. Featuring multiple storage spaces for valuables, drink bottles, chargers, notebooks and more. This sleek backpack was designed for you.
Universal Power Adapter: Don’t leave home without one! I highly recommend getting this Universal Power Adapter so that you are able to charge all of your electronics when you’re on the road. Compatible in Asia, UK, Europe, Africa, USA, SA and Australia.
Hidden Money Belt: I never go on a trip without one! The best thing is they are always out of sight, hidden beneath your clothing. With RFID blocking, they are perfectly designed to keep your credit cards, cash and other valuables safe when you’re out adventuring!
Waterproof Phone Case: A waterproof phone case is a must-have item! This universal case will keep your phone safe from water damage, sand and scratches during your adventures. Suitable for all smartphone models.
Portable Charger: One of the best portable chargers on the market! The Anker Power Bank keeps your phone and accessories charged on those longer adventures. Featuring 2 USB charging ports, rechargeable battery, works with iPhone, iPad, Samsung, Oppo and Android.
Microfibre Travel Towel: To pack a towel or not to pack a towel? A standard bathroom towel can take up a lot of space in your travel bag. Get your hands on a quick-dry Microfibre Travel Towel which is perfect for the beach, backpacking, camping and general traveling.
Rain Jacket: A light-weight rain jacket is an absolute must when traveling! North Face waterproof rain jackets come in both men and women sizes, featuring a breathable mesh lining and adjustable hood that can be tucked away inside the collar.
Kindle: The best alternative for books! Kindle e-readers are perfect for long haul flights, reading on the beach or a quiet evening away from the bars. Kindle’s are waterproof with rechargeable batteries and adjustable light settings to suit indoor/outdoor conditions.
Packing Cubes: My favorite item in my backpack! Perfect for organizing your shirts, pants, jackets, socks, underwear and more. This 5 Set Packing Cubes makes packing easier and more efficient, adding extra space in your bag for your next trip.
Activated Charcoal Tablets: Want to avoid food poisoning? Most of us have been a victim of travelers diarrhea from eating street food. Organic Activated Charcoal Tablets are fast-acting and will rid your system of the bad bacteria that causes stomach upset.
MY CAMERA GEAR
Everyday Camera: The most affordable mirrorless camera on the market! I personally use the Sony A7ii Mirrorless Camera on all of my adventures. It’s compact, lightweight and super easy to use for all levels of photography. A 28-70mm Sony lens is also included.
Drone Camera: Take your photography to new heights! The DJI Mavic Pro 2 Drone is at the top of the game when it comes to high-quality images and video, easy to control functions and traveler-friendly capabilities. I guarantee you won’t regret purchasing one.
GoPro Hero 8: One of the most popular cameras on the planet! I love using the GoPro Hero 8 for all of my underwater shots and fast-paced adventures. The GoPro Hero 8 captures the best moments with its wide range of functions that are very simple to use!
Camera Bag: My favorite camera bag I have ever owned! The Lowepro Protactic 450 AW II Camera Bag features a waterproof rain cover, drink bottle holder, padded compartments for cameras, drones, lenses, accessories and it also has a laptop pocket.
Selfie Stick: Everyone loves a good selfie, right!? The Sandmarc Metal Edition Selfie Stick is sleek, stylish and can extend to 1.2m. I find it much easier to take photos and videos with the GoPro when it is mounted to the Sandmarc Selfie Stick!
Camera Tripod: The Joby GorillaPod is suitable for all cameras. This tripod is easy to use and perfect for setting up a time-lapse video or even using it as a selfie stick. The legs are flexible so you can wrap it around a tree or a pole to get creative with your shot.
GoPro Dome: Have you ever wanted to capture those under/over water shots with the GoPro? This epic underwater GoPro dome housing is the best camera accessory to have to create the perfect 50/50 shot. I use mine every time I am in the ocean!
Memory Card: The best thing about SanDisk Extreme Pro is that it delivers maximum speed for images and videos. Having 64GB of storage means that you can store hundreds of files on this SD card for 2-3 days and not have to worry about running out of space.
External Hard Drive: As a photographer, my images and video files take up a lot of space on my MacBook so I use the WD Elements External Hard Drive to store everything. With 4TB worth of storage space, this is more than enough for 1 year worth of content.
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FINAL THOUGHTS OF OSLOB WHALE SHARK
I hope you enjoyed reading this article and if you have any questions at all about Cebu Whale Sharks, please leave me a comment below and I will get back to you as soon as I can.