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Things You Should Know When Going Whale Shark Watching in Oslob

Know what to expect, how much to bring, and more.

By: Peter Parcon | July 08, 2020
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Note: Due to current government restrictions in place, the featured destination below might not be open yet. Please contact their management before visiting.

The following features narratives and information based on the personal experience of the writer.

whale shark watching Oslob Cebu

These gentle giants can grow up to 40 feet in length.

Waking up early in the morning can be a drag, but when the reason for the early wake-up call is going to Oslob, it’s a different story altogether.

Oslob is a small town in the southern tip of the island of Cebu. It was a sleepy little town before 2011. But when reports of whale sharks flocking to one of its barangay or villages started to spread, the place became part of the itinerary of local and international tourists visiting Cebu.

A little background


Beach in Oslob, Cebu

Barangay Tan-awan is around 10 kilometers away from the town center. The area where the town is located is a migratory route for the whale sharks, which are called tuki by the locals. A whale shark is a filter-feeding shark typically found in tropical oceans. They can grow up to 40 feet long and feed on plankton, krill, fish eggs, and small squid.

Today, it is not surprising that these gentle giants are seen swimming close to the island. But before they became tourist attractions, the whale sharks were actually drawn to the fishermen of Tan-awan as they were collecting uyap or krill at night. After some time, the fishermen started to feed the whale sharks to draw them close to the coastline and interact with tourists.

After the news about the whale sharks reached international media, the town of Oslob became a major tourist destination in the south. Local and foreign tourists wanting to get the chance to swim close to the biggest fish in the world began to come in droves. However, the practice of local fishermen of feeding the whale sharks to entice them to swim close to the coast also sparked discussions. Some experts have indicated that the way whale sharks congregate in Barangay Tan-awan is not natural for their species and has not been observed in other parts of the country.

The whale shark experience

whale sharks

I was trying to catch a glimpse of the whale sharks in Barangay Tan-awan in Oslob

Image: Writer

I have the same reason as with many other tourists for my trip down south—I wanted to immerse myself in the whale shark experience. Together with a group of friends, I set off for the south at the crack of dawn. Since it was still dark outside, most of us tried to catch some sleep during the trip.

whale shark watching Oslob Cebu

Arriving at around 8:00 AM, our group disembarked from the van and stretched our legs. While waiting for the briefing session to start, a requirement before we start the activity, I took some photos of the beach and the boats carrying tourists who went ahead of us. Then my camera died. In my excitement the night before, I forgot to charge the batteries of my camera. So, remember: charge the batteries of your camera before you go on a trip to Oslob!


Before we got on the boats to have an up-close and personal encounter with the whale sharks, we had to go through an orientation on the whale shark interaction guidelines. The guidelines indicated activities that visitors can and cannot do during the interaction, along with the penalties in case the rules were violated. At the end of the orientation, lifejackets were provided to each member of the group and we were assigned a boat. Since we were a large group, some of us had to join another group on a second boat.

whale sharks

A close interaction with the whale shark

As we moved closer to the whale shark interaction area, everybody was getting more and more excited. When we reached the area, I could see two to three whale sharks swimming close to our boat. Some members of our group took off their life jackets as they prepared to go into the water. While I opted to watch the whale sharks from the boat, the experience was still surreal, especially after one of the gentle giants swam under our boat. I felt like Jonah waiting to be swallowed by a whale.

whale shark watching Oslob Cebu

The gentle giant of the sea

With all the negative publicity about the activity, it was good to know that the rules are now being implemented consistently. The boatman said the implementation of the rules have become more consistent since the activity has become their main source of livelihood. He said they can take home around PhP500 to PhP1,000 every day depending on the number of tourists participating in the activity.


Before planning your trip to the south, know the schedule of the whale shark interaction activity. You can only go whale shark watching during the first half of the day—the activity starts at 6:00 AM and ends at 12:30 PM every day. Itis advisable to get up really early in the morning and take the trip to Barangay Tan-awan at the crack of dawn.



One of the boats we used to bring us to the whale shark interaction area

Image: Writer

The fees for the activity depend on what you want to do: just watch from the boat, snorkel, or go scuba diving. The fees for local tourists are also different from the fees foreign visitors have to pay. Locals will have to pay PhP300 if they want to simply watch the whale sharks from a boat, while foreign tourists have to pay PhP500.

The activity is limited to 30 minutes. An additional PhP200 fee is required for local tourists who want to go snorkeling with the gentle giants of the sea, while foreign tourists will have to shell out an additional PhP500. This will cover the use of the snorkeling gear and you can stay in the water for 30 minutes. Local tourists who want to go scuba diving will have to pay PhP600, which does not include the scuba diving gear. Meanwhile, foreign tourists will have to pay PhP1,500 for the same activity. The scuba diving activity is limited to one hour.

Whale shark interaction guidelines

whale sharks

Only authorized personnel are allowed to feed the whale sharks.

Before the activity, all visitors are required to attend the orientation on the whale shark interaction guidelines. The guidelines include the following:

• Visitors are not allowed to touch, chase, or ride the whale sharks.
• Visitors should not limit the movement of the whale sharks.
• Visitors should avoid changing the behavior of the whale sharks.
• Sunscreen and lotions should not be used if visitors will enter the water.
• Flash photography is prohibited.
• Visitors should not create a splash when they enter the water.
• Swimmers should maintain a distance of at least five meters from the head and six meters from the tail of the whale sharks.

Getting to Oslob

It will be necessary to hop on a bus bound for Bato-Liloan at the Cebu South Bus Terminal to get to Barangay Tan-awan in Oslob. Make sure to tell the driver or bus conductor to drop you off at the whale shark briefing area, which is located close to the highway. The trip from Cebu City to Barangay Tan-awan takes around three hours.

Things to remember

• When going to the Barangay Tan-awan, make sure to specify that you want to get off at the briefing area since the bus driver may drop you off in one of the resorts along the area.
• The best time to go to the place is early in the morning since more visitors may arrive by mid-morning. It is also advisable to visit the place on a weekday because weekends may see a sizeable crowd wanting to swim with the whale sharks.
• Make sure to follow the rules indicated on the whale shark interaction guidelines. Note that some of the penalties include jail time.
• Make sure to charge the batteries of your camera the night before your trip to Oslob.
• After the activity, you can make a side trip to Tumalog Falls in Oslob. The entrance fee to the falls is PhP30.

Looking for more exceptional places to visit? Go to Yoorekka to find more recommendations!

The whale shark watching activity in Barangay Tan-awan has become a major tourist activity in the town of Oslob. While it attracted some negative publicity when it initially started around five years ago, it also made local residents aware of the importance of protecting these gentle giants to ensure the sustainability of the eco-tourism activity.

* Prices may change without prior notice.

Stay safe as you travel! Make sure to follow social distancing protocols and observe health precautions wherever you go. Have a great trip!

This article was originally published in Yoorekka on March 18, 2017.
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About Peter Parcon
After leaving spending 16 years of his professional life in the academe, Peter decided to try his luck in the world of online freelancing. For the past eight years, he has been creating content for clients all around the world. He can work on just about any topic - from tattoos to technology and food to finance. He dreams of visiting every island in the archipelago some day.
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Disclaimer: All articles in the Consumers Magazine of Yoorekka are for general information and entertainment purposes only. Although careful research has been made in writing them, Yoorekka does not make any warranty about the completeness and accuracy of all information presented in our articles. Our content is not intended to be used in place of legal, medical, or any professional advice.
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