Swimming with whale sharks!
Swimming with whale sharks was on our Southeast Asia bucket list. And we did it! We booked our tour with our hostel, Tr3ats Guesthouse, and we could not have expected a better day. We got everything we paid for and more! The tour cost the two of us 9,600 Pisos, or about $210 USD. With this tour, we got our own private car with AC, there and back, with a legend of tour Guide, Paul, an hour with the whale sharks, true Filipino snacks from Carcar, an hour of snorkeling on Sumalin Island, an authentic Filipino lunch with coconut water and a mango shake, and a heritage tour of Cebu City. What an amazing day!
We started our day at 5:30 am with Paul on a three hour drive to Oslob to see the whale sharks. On our way, Paul is telling us all about the history of Cebu, showing us some churches and interesting buildings, and spitting out every fact possible about Cebu. He was so knowledgable!
He gave us a list of things to do in the Philippines, bars to go to in Cebu, and even tips on getting around. Seriously, the biggest legend. He stopped midway to Oslob to get us some ABC snacks, anipo (rice popped and recooked with almonds), bucarillo (coconut candy) and Chicharon (fried pig skin). These were sweet and tasty treats that kept us going all day!
We finally arrived to Oslob where we had our own private boat tour and guide to see the whale sharks. These guys were pro and could swim to the bottom, sit on the coral, and stay down for over a minute!
They took pictures of us, let us get real close to the whale sharks, and just let us have the best time. Whale sharks are said to be the size of school busses. Unfortunately, we did not see any of this size, but we did see a few that ranged from 6-8 meters, which was pretty massive!
Jack’s take: The thought of jumping into the ocean with a few whale sharks that are three times my size or more is quite daunting. I don’t mind the ocean because I surf quite often in Australia so it was pretty easy to just jump in. But when I saw how large these whale sharks were as they swam beneath me, I started to second guess my decision to dive in.
It was only a moment of fear, but I am already here so I might as well make the most of it and I just jumped right in. Swimming next to these whale sharks was a surreal experience and I kept trying to swim closer to them. They were massive in size and an incredible to swim next to. I would definitely recommend swimming with the whale sharks if you are traveling the Philippines.
Jenn’s take: I am terrified of the ocean, the thought of open waters is awful to me. But, when in the Philippines, you go swimming with whale sharks! The water was so clear, that once we boarded the boat, we would see the silhouettes of these sharks.
My jaw dropped and I just started saying “OH MY GOD” on repeat. The boat instructors kept laughing at me because I was just in a panic the entire time. They say “ok, jump” and Jack goes right in and I am just frozen. How do I jump into the water when I see this 6 meter shadow below me? So I got pushed in. The instructors laughed and I doggy paddled gracefully away from the shadows. However, once I was in, I was in.
It was incredible. I got so terrifyingly up close to the gentle giants. I was confident I was no longer in fear! … Wrong. The instructors would touch my leg and I would just start screaming. At least I was good entertainment. Even though I was scared, I still did it and it was so worth it!
After the whale sharks, we went to Sumilon Island, an Island part of Cebu, to snorkel and enjoy the beach. We snorkeled for about an hour, saw a few fish and coral, but what was most impressive was how clear and beautiful this water was.
You can’t tell how deep it was due to the clarity; it was so crazily wonderful! After our little snorkel trip, we took the boat back for our lunch. Paul got us an authentic Filipino lunch, including chop suey, pancit canton, grilled Lapu-Lapu, chicken soup, a young coconut (drink and meat), and the most amazing mango shake! It was so delicious (Masarap in Taglog ;) ). We were so full, we could barely move!
Next on the itinerary was the heritage tour. We saw the oldest standing church made out of coral blocks, a Filipino dispensary, the largest leather shoe retailers, Beverly Hills (the richest part of Cebu), and the Taoist temple. Fun fact: all churches in Cebu are facing the sea to make sure they can watch out for pirates and incomers from the ocean!
We learned so much and Paul knew anything and everything about Cebu and the Philippines. We couldn’t thank him enough so we thought to treat him to Cebu’s finest delicacy: Lechon. Lechon is roasted pig with the most amazing crackling. He took us to his favorite Lechon place, and we ended an epic day with a delicious, finger licking meal while watching the sunset. We could not have asked for a better day!
Paul, if you ever read this, we can’t thank you enough for your kindness, generosity, knowledge, and fun. You are a legend and we hope to run into you again. Thank you for one of the best days of our lives! Keep on being you, Paul, and you will bring so much happiness to many travelers lives.
Overall, the whale shark experience and Cebu is a place that you must do when visiting the Philippines as you will remember it for the rest of your life!
First off Chop Suey is not Filipino, it’s Chinese. And shame on you guys for not doing more research as to the whale shark practices in Oslob. As travelers you need to set a good example and the Oslob whale tours are the WORST. They feed the sharks, bait them, stray them from their migratory paths and basically ruin the life of the shark with these unethical practices. If you had done some research you would know these things, it’s not just me saying it. We’ve been in Cebu for a few days now and we’re definitely not doing it here. Leyte is the only place where they don’t feed or bait them. Also, you’re not supposed to get close to them. They are wild animals. Absolutely terrible and the fact you’ve written about it and encouraged people to go to Oslob and do this…..very very bad. If travelers don’t make it a point to look further than “oh look I got this great photo who cares about anything else’ then no one will ever care! Set a good example and please do some research before you visit with animals in the wild…..Next I’ll be reading on your blog that you rode elephants! UGH! Sorry but this makes me so angry. Travel smarter! Set an example! Inform yourselves!
First off, it was the Philippine version of Chop Suey. Its like curry- there are multiple ways of making curry (thai, Cambodian, Laotian…) Secondly, we understand your frustration, however we did this 2 years ago. Saying that, we did our research and were referred to this place by several other travel bloggers as well. No one was allowed to touch them, we had to maintain a certain distance, the whales are not in captivity, and there was only 7 people in the water. Maybe things have changed and it sounds like its changed for the worst. We do inform ourselves, we do try to be ethical, and we are smart travels.
Oh, We also bathed elephants and played with them in the water at a sanctuary. The elephants seemed to be very happy.
Hope you have a great day!