Early October, my cousin and I went to Cebu for some personal matters and we decided since we’re already there, we may as well visit some touristy spots. 3-4 hours from Cebu City is Oslob, famous for whaleshark watching. A friend of mind warned me about it, specifically she sent me this link and I was reading it on the bus ride. I wanted to see myself, still.
We arrived very early so we waited for the first “batch” of tours at around six in the morning, they said it was perfect cause it’s the feeding time for the whale sharks (seems like humans fixed a “breakfast” schedule for these beautiful creatures). Before you get on a boat, you’re asked to attend to the discussion of guidelines. Which seems like it’s only done for compliance but no one truly pays attention to it. Tourists are also asked to wash off first if they’ve already applied sunscreen as it will be harmful for the whale sharks. We were also reminded to have at least 4M distance from the creature, we’ll be guided by the sea wardens along the tour.
We were also asked to wear life vests which we were reminded not to remove them during the trip. One boat has 2 (?) wardens and 8 tourists. As soon as we got to deep waters, another banca would roam around to feed the whale sharks. Then the sea wardens would ask if you’re a good swimmer, cause if you are, you can ditch the life vest and swim and snorkel with the whale sharks.
As soon as we were interacting with the whale sharks, I wasn’t feeling too good about it. Yes, I loved seeing them, yes, I loved getting to swim with them, yes, I was truly excited seeing how majestic they were — but at the back of my head, I felt bad for these beautiful creatures. I felt like they were exploited. YES, EXPLOITED. A sh*tton of violations can be observed, not just by tourists but by the “SEA WARDENS” themselves.
I’d freak out every so often I realize how close they were to us.
I left the GoPro so the bankeros can take photos of us, and here are some of the shots taken BY THE SEA WARDENS.
At the end of what felt like one of the longest 30minutes of my life, yes I was happy I got to see the whale sharks, but the experience itself broke my heart. The whale sharks seemed like domesticated animals with feeding schedules, nudging the boats to be fed some more, and when I was on the boat, I tried checking out the whale sharks, I saw the scratches around their mouth the article was talking about.
Everything felt unnatural. It wasn’t as exhilarating like when I saw the dolphins in Mati, minding their own business, free in the wild, and even swimming away from boats — like how it should be, like how it normally should be. These beautiful creatures were begging for food. Some articles talked about how the whale shark got lazy, I don’t think so, they got exploited.
Would I recommend going to Oslob for whale shark watching? I don’t think so. I don’t think I can encourage this kind of tourism. Seems like humans are trying to outsmart these creatures for their own benefit. Oslob has a lot to offer, but this I feel like is too much.