Whale Shark Wonders in Cebu
Published February 19th, 2016
The Philippines are made up of 7,000+ islands so it’s a bit overwhelming to figure out the best ones to travel to.
In a previous post I talked about my Tao adventures in the Palawan islands. After that trip, I knew I wanted to hit up another set of islands and I chose Cebu 100% because I wanted to swim with whale sharks in the Southern tip of Cebu Island in a small village called Oslob.
There are only a few places in the world where you can swim with whale sharks and the crystal clear water of the Philippines makes this one of the most ideal places.
I only had 3 days to play with to make this trip happen and it all worked out really well, albeit it is a lot of travel effort for such a short period of time. If you’re interested in this trip, here are some details about my pretty low-medium budget experience that could be helpful.
I flew from Manila for only $54 roundtrip. I arrived late at night (as there are typically delays for domestic flights in the Philippines) and stayed overnight in Cebu city. There are a lot of modern, clean and good low cost business hotels ($30-$50 a night) in Cebu city. After I had already booked, I got advice that Mactan is where the airport is actually located (thus is closer to the airport than Cebu City) and has nicer places to stay on the water so in retrospect maybe I should have booked there. But I was totally comfortable in my Cebu City hotel and it was close to the bus station I would use to get down to Oslob.
Cabs in Cebu are pretty cheap with a 20 minute metered can ride being about 250 pesos ($5).
I wish when I woke up the next morning, I had booked a day tour of Bohol. Most start at 6-8 am and last for 5-8 hours. That is a big regret I didn’t do that. On those tours you can see the Chocolate Hills and other Bohol & Cebu highlights.
But I didn’t do that and instead woke up and went straight to the south bus station to take a bus down to Oslob. There are two bus options – local and aircon. The aircon ones are nicer and some even have wifi or play movies (I watched The Martian). The bus ride to Oslob takes about 3 hours and cost me 160 pesos ($3.25). Its a breeze of a ride, very comfortable and people jump on throughout the ride selling food. I heard you should try buco pies in the philippines so I asked to buy one mini one and then was handed a package of 9 mini pies. Haha so I handed them out to fellow passengers. I would say they are ok in terms of flavor. Not the greatest pie you’ll have in your life. These ones were filled with a light young coconut custard mixture.
The bus driver let me know when we were in the hotel section of Oslob and I jumped off. I had researched hotels before getting there and walked over to the Aaron beach “resort” as it was in the thick of everything. This is your run of the mill dumpy Asian beach hotel. Not the greatest place you will ever stay but in the end I appreciated the price, the people I met there and the proximity to everything I wanted to do in a brief time in Oslob.
Myself and a group of other guests woke up the next morning and went snorkeling with the shark whales!
The scene before going in the water is more of a clusterfuck then I was expecting. If you have a severe aversion to tourist traps this is not the scene for you.
I was a bit overwhelmed by the crowds, but once I got in the water I didn’t feel like it was overcrowded and felt like I had some individual moments with the whales.
I have some tips at the end of this post on how you can maximize your experience with the whales. The fee was 1000 pesos ($20).
After that amazing scuba experience, I hopped on the back of a motorbike and made my way up to Tumalog falls.
It’s a very short drive, only cost me 200 pesos round trip (not sure if that was fair or not) and the waterfall is very pretty- although I know there are much better ones around the island. It was nice to jump in the fresh water after being in the salt water.
I then went back to my hotel to shower up and pack my bags and have a good breakfast/lunch at La Terrasse where I ate every meal in Oslob.
The town of Oslob where the whale watching takes place is so small, just one street that you can walk in length in just 10 minutes. There are nicer hotels outside of this immediate strip that you can book as well.
After everything in my travels to Oslob worked out so well, I decided to take a ferry to Bohol to see the chocolate hills instead of taking the bus back to Cebu. If I was going to stay for a longer period than 1 afternoon in Bohol this would have worked out great. But in retrospect, I should not have done this. The ferry ride was pretty rough. We all got soaking wet and it took longer than expected (they said 2 hours it took 5 including boarding the boat). Once I got to Bohol I had to take tricycle to a jitney bus to another tricycle to catch the high speed Ferry back to Cebu city. I had no time to see the Chocolate Hills!
If you are doing a similar which trip, a friend suggested to go to Aguinid Falls which is also on Cebu island. That may be a better option if you have pretty limited time as it’s on the way back up to Cebu City.
If I had more time I would have loved to explore Bohol more. The limited amount that I saw looked beautiful and the beaches of Panglao Island had soft white sand which is a contrast to a lot of the coral and rock that you see make up the beaches on other Filipino islands.
Overall I had an amazing experience diving with these beautiful whale sharks and that experience made all the travel around Cebu Island worth it!
- If you are in Oslob to do a whaleshark excursion, here are some of my tips…
Are you just going to watch from the boat? Don’t bother! You can’t see anything and you’re better off seeing them at an aquarium and not taking up space in a boat.
- If you are diving in, try and get on a boat with the idiots who aren’t jumping in. There are only 7 people per boat and each boat has its own area to interact with a whale shark. If there are less people on your boat who are jumping in, then you have more space and are to take whale shark selfies.
- In terms of taking pictures with the whalesharks, I had a selfie stick and GoPro but I got the best footage when the guy manning my boat offered to jump in the water and take video of me with it. He was a way better photographer then me. I’m not sure all of them are willing to do this and i think he was going me a favor because I was by myself. I gave him a good tip at the end as a thank you for helping me make lasting memories of that experience!
- There are no banks in this area of Oslob so bring lots of cash!
- Boat rides can be arranged to Bohol from your hotel and you can easily catch the bus back up to Cebu City on the Main Street.
- There are tons of guys with motorbikes and tricycles that are happy to take you anywhere in southern Cebu island.
- I was a female traveling alone and I felt totally safe throughout my travels in Cebu City and Bohol. People were always willing to help me find my way when I didn’t know where to go. I also appreciated that I bought a smart card with unlimited data so I could track where I was on google maps.