Traveling from El Nido to Tan-awan (Oslob) in Cebu was quite the journey. After breakfast at Spin and a warm goodbye from Don and all the other staff, Jun (the tricycle driver that picked us up on our first day in El Nido) was at our hostel right on time. His tricycle was a bit bigger than the others we have been riding with, which was perfect for the big suitcases we brought and our big butts :p all the other tricycles were a bit tight in that area, haha.
Flying again with Air Swift was pleasant. I think there were about 10 people in total flying to Cebu and since everyone was checked in, our flight left 30 minutes before schedule. That certainly is different from all the stories you read about a delay. We arrived in Cebu about 1,5 hours later, took a yellow cab to the South Terminal and from there we took a bus to Tan-awan. Once you get out from the airport, you will see 2 different kinds of taxi-stands: a white one and a yellow one. The white one is a bit cheaper than the yellow one, but the yellow one has no lines so we took that one. It takes about 30 minutes to get to the South Bus Terminal.
Taking the bus at the busstation is a little chaotic. There are plenty of buses going to Oslob, but there are no lines when it comes to getting in the bus. Also, the bus leaves once it’s full. Payment is done in the bus, and the conductor will remember where you get off. If you pay with large bills, you will have to wait for your change (the conductor will collect money from the other passengers first in hopes that they have smaller change). There is no such thing as a bus stop in Cebu; if you want to get off the bus you shout at the driver or at the conductor and they will stop at any random point on the road. Of course the conductor knows your destination, but he won’t know exactley where you’re going. You’ll have to pay attention to it yourself. We had read online that it would take 3,5 hours to get to our destination. When we saw a sign for our hotel we shouted and we were let out.
We arrived at our hotel (Seafari resort) at around 7 pm. We had to climb 250 steps down to reach the reception and luckily the guard carried Marks bag. My bag was ziplined down. The reviews of this hotel weren’t very good, but we chose it because it was very close to the whalesharks.
The next morning, we got into a small peddling boat which took us to the whalesharks. There is a little controversy around swimming with the whalesharks of Oslob, because they are handfed by the community which automatically means that the whalesharks will come back and stay in Oslob. Whalesharks are migratory animals and this means that their natural way of living is altered when they stay in one place. Others say that the whalesharks are not harmed, since they are not confined and the fact that they are fed will also help them survive. I chose to swim with them and now that I have done it, I am still not sure who’s right or wrong. All I know is that I feel that the whaleshark center has changed its attitude and that they are handling the situation a lot better than they did before.
Once you arrive at the whaleshark center, you have to register, pay the fee, attend a short briefing and pick up your snorkelgear and lifejacket. Foreigners pay 1000 pesos and Filipinos pay 500 pesos. I was able to convince them that I am a Filipina (even though my Pilipino is limited haha and I am sure I have a weird accent). The fee covers everything except the tip you can give to your boatsmen. The briefing is actually quite good, urging visitors not to touch the animals, to keep a distance of at least 3-4 meters and to wash off any sunscreen since this will damage the skin of the whalesharks.
We quickly got into a boat with 2 other visitors and 2 boatsmen and about 100 meters off the coast you can already see the whalesharks. I remember getting off the boat a little scared (they are huge!) but there is nothing to worry about. When I started snorkeling, I felt the animal swim by me and all I could think of was ‘mister whaleshark, no touching please!’. After a few minutes I got comfortable and just swam with the gentle giant. They are so graceful and really focused on food haha! Trust me when I say that they don’t care for us humans at all. We saw two big whalesharks during our swim.
One of our boatsmen jumped in the water with us en asked for our GoPro. He took a lot of pictures and made sure our experience was perfect.
We left our hotel at 6 am and swam with the whalesharks at 6:25am untill a little later than 7. I had read online that there would be a lot of other tourists and that you only have 15-20 minutes with the whalesharks. I guess we were lucky: we got to swim longer with them and it wasn’t that busy. Also, it wasn’t the chaos I expected it to be. All in all, if you would love to experience a swim with the animals, I would recommend swimming with them in Oslob.
We were back at the hotel at 07:20 and had some time to enjoy the resort before traveling further to Moalboal. It’s set in a lovely place with a perfect view, good food and a pretty infinity pool. It wasn’t the best hotel we stayed at, but it is better than the reviews say.