Butanding Oslob Philippines

Philippines: Oslob – Swimming with whale sharks

Date: April 29th, 2014 – Leaving for Cebu

Today was a Tuesday. I had a nice one day break after the Sunday trek to Mount Pinatubo. I was to leave Manila and head to Cebu by flight. I thought I’d take the train to Pasay and then take a taxi or jeepney from Pasay/TAFT Avenue to the airport.

But that was a mistake. When I got to the Cubao station, first there was a line for tickets. After I got the ticket, there was another line just to pass through security. Then another line after security just before taking the steps up to the platform. Then another line to get inside the train. This was done because that’s how many people there are during morning rush hour! It took an hour after getting my ticket just to get inside the stuffed train. It was such a struggle to stand inside with my two bags but I somehow survived! I got to Terminal 3 in time… which was not that important as the flight was later delayed by half-an-hour.

Anyway, my Cebu Pacific flight landed in Cebu safely, but getting to my hostel took more than an hour due to the line for taxis, first, then the city traffic. As irritated I was arriving past lunch time, it was nice to be back in Cebu since 2011.

Tr3ats guesthouse Cebu hostel
I was staying here, Tr3ats Guesthouse. (Just read it as ‘treats’). The hostel was a short jeepney ride away from Fuente Osmeña circle which has a Robinsons mall and many other eateries
Dorm beds Tr3ats guesthouse Cebu Philippines
This is the room I was given. They would later shift me to another room a day later but this is how little space there is to walk around once you leave bags on the floor
Bathrooms Treats guesthouse
They have 3 bathrooms, but the shower heads needed some cleaning up. You had streams of water shooting in every other direction besides your head.
Treats hostel washroom Cebu
Beside the bathrooms

I stepped out soon after to first, get some drinking water, hand over my laundry, and then to have lunch. Fortunately, just across the road from Tr3ats Guesthouse were many laundry shops (₱25/kg). I then took a jeepney, paid minimum fare (₱8) to get to Fuente Osmeña circle. It was already well past 3pm and I was late for lunch as it is. I went downstairs where the supermarket and food court is.

Garlic chicken seafood fried rice stuffed crab Cebu
₱170 for some garlic chicken, stuffed crab, and fried rice

After lunch, I went around to find travel agencies offering trips to Oslob for the whale shark sighting tours. A few of the travel agencies I visited said they need a minimum of 3 people for them to organize a tour and even if I managed to group together 3-4 people, they told me it would still cost me ₱3k or more, per person, which was way too much. Back at the hostel, the staff told me how to get to Oslob by bus (which I also read online). I convinced myself to wake up really early — like 3am early — and so I went to bed early.

April 30th, 2014 – Cebu to Oslob by Bus

I woke up at 3:30am and took a taxi to the Cebu bus station, which only took 10 minutes to get to due to the lack of traffic.

Inside bus Cebu to Oslob
Even though there were air-conditioned buses to Oslob, I hopped into the first regular bus leaving the bus station — mostly because I didn’t want to wait, or freeze. The one-way ticket to Oslob cost ₱150.
Oslob early morning Cebu
I slept through much of the journey, but by the time I woke up, the bus had reached Oslob province
Oslob sea morning calm Philippines
Look at how amazingly calm the sea is. It was beautiful.
Oslob dive center main road Cebu
The bus dropped me at Tan-awan, which is where you need to disembark and right where the Oslob Butanding (whale shark) Briefing Center is
Oslob dive center main road
It was just past 7am, which is when the center opens
Oslob briefing centre village Cebu
I walked straight to the briefing center
Oslob butanding briefing centre Cebu
I assumed at 7:30am in the morning, things would be just starting up
Whaleshark centre Oslob beach Cebu
But there was a trail of boats already out in sea!

For locals, it’s ₱300; for foreign tourists it costs ₱1000 (Rs. 1300/$22/€16). The staff told me to get into my swim wear and come out quickly. I changed (they have shower rooms).

Whale shark briefing centre Oslob Cebu Philippines
Then sat down for the briefing
Whale shark instructions Oslob Cebu
First rule of swimming with whale sharks: DO NOT TOUCH THEM!
Whale shark information Oslob
Some trivia about whale sharks

It was time for me to get on the boat and dive in. I locked up my camera bag and left it beside the cashier who said she would look after it. I was going in with just my GoPro camera.

Oslob whale shark tour boat
It was just 20 metres from shore

When I got to the point where I get into the water, I looked down from the boat and wondered where the whale sharks were. I put on my snorkel mask and jumped in.

Whale shark Oslob Cebu Philippines
As soon as I got in!
Feeding whale shark fish Oslob
That’s how close you can get with a whale shark
Butanding whaleshark Oslob Cebu
Of course, you are not allowed to touch the whale shark. Sometimes when it would swing closer to me, I had to swim back or my guide would pull me away.
Oslob fisherman feeding whale shark
The whale sharks come to the surface to get fed by the staff
Swimming with butanding Oslob Cebu
Of course, the controversy here is, how much these whale sharks are being fed just so we can see them from up so close
Oslob butanding Cebu Philippines
It’s when I was under water I realized I should really invest in the LCD screen attachment for my GoPro. I had no idea what I was clicking (GoPros don’t come with a screen). I kept taking shots assuming I was getting the whole shark in one frame.
Whale shark Oslob Cebu Philippines
Whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet in length
Oslob sea whale shark underwater Cebu
You don’t know how many times I tried to to get a shot where I could get the head of the whale shark as well as the boat above water
Whalesharks Oslob Cebu Philippines
I didn’t count how many whale sharks there were as they kept swimming around and it’s not like you could tell them apart

butanding Oslob Cebu Philippines

Butanding underwater Oslob Cebu
I went above water and hung by the boat for a breather
Butanding Oslob Philippines
I went back in. I applied this technique for the next two photos.
Oslob whale sharks Cebu Philippines
I just wanted to pop out some colours

Whale shark feeding underwater Oslob-philippines

Whaleshark mouth open Cebu Philippines
This is how they feed. They suck in the plankton/small fish along with water.
Blue water Oslob whale shark tour
I’m so glad I woke up really early. The weather conditions and lighting was perfect!
Swimming with whale sharks Oslob Cebu
I went back to take the last few shots. My guide was signalling to me that my time was up.
Feeding butanding Oslob Cebu
Yeah, these butandings do eat a lot
Whale shark gills Oslob Cebu
Bye bye butanding, stay safe and live long. It was a pleasure seeing you.
Oslob sea blue water
I swam back to my boat
Oslob whale shark from above water
Even though you get 30 minutes under water, time went by soooo fast!
Mithun Oslob Cebu Philippines
It was now time to go back
Mithun Divakaran Oslob beach Philippines
Back on shore, the beach had clear water but the rocks below were quite rough and sharp
Sumilon island Oslob Cebu Philippines
That in the distance is Sumilon island. You can go there by hiring a boat but one side is privately owned by the only resort operating there and the other side is open to public.
Oslob butanding centre Cebu
Many tourists were only just coming in now and the briefing centre had a lot more visitors. I’m really glad I arrived before too many people got into the water.

After a shower and a snack, I sat down to preview the photos I had taken on the GoPro. I use my iPad Mini for this and although I got some good shots, I felt if I had an LCD screen, I could have framed my photos better. Anyway, here’s a brief video I took under water.

After the disappointment in Donsol last year, I was thrilled I could finally scratch the “I saw butanding!” off my list of things-to-do in Philippines.

Done with the whale sharks, next I took a motorbike taxi to Tumalog Falls — Oslob’s other big attraction. I’m making that another post as I took some photos from Oslob town as well. Trust me, Tumalog Falls is just as beautiful as the whale sharks!

Next post(s) in this series:

Philippines 2014: Tumalog Falls; Oslob church, Cuartel

Philippines 2014: Leaving Cebu for Davao; Davao City sights

Philippines 2014: Sky Cycle at Eden Nature Park, Davao

Philippines 2014: Attractions at Eden Nature Park… and getting lost

Philippines 2014: Scuba diving for the first time, at Samal Island (Davao)

Philippines 2014: Japanese tunnel; leaving Davao for Manila

Philippines 2014: Bargain shopping in Manila; Paseo de Santa Rosa & Solenad

Philippines 2014: Corregidor Island tour

Philippines 2014: Manila Chinese Cemetery

Philippines 2014: Pahiyas Festival in Lucban; Kamay Ni Hesus

Previous posts in this series:

Philippines 2014: Trek to Mount Pinatubo crater lake

Philippines 2014: The itinerary this time around; UP Diliman and Maginhawa

My Philippines journeys: 2011 series | 2013 series

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  • arduinoProject


    In Cebu, when you arrive at the airport from your flight, head towards the departure area. You can hail a cab there that was just used by the people heading to the airport. There is no queue so it should be faster than waiting in line.

  • Revati


    You have no idea how thrilled I am that I found your blog today! We’re going to Cebu next month, and this sounds like a brilliant idea. (Also because I’m dying to use my new GoPro underwater, thanks for the LCD screen tip, will definitely buy it along with the floatie before going) Now to get over my fear of sharks and jump in. (Burning question: How scary was it?)

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Whalesharks are harmless. They don’t even have jaws.

  • Jack


    We also swam with the whale sharks in Oslob, Philippines. It was one of the best things we did in South East Asia.

    This is an incredible post, you have gone into so much detail and your images are amazing! Like you, we also wrote a blog post on our experience. We actually did it through a personal tour that was the best value for money ever. So if you are interested in getting a second perspective on swimming with the whale sharks, check out the post below!


  • phuong


    Hi there,
    may I ask where could I get to see the whaleshark for just 1000 peso? As I’m looking for some package but it all costs over 3000 peso 🙁
    Thanks heaps!!

  • Johnell Whiteoak


    Dear Mithun,
    Thanks so much for sharing!! My husband and I haven’t had a holiday for YEARS and have been talking about going somewhere ‘a bit special’ for an overseas trip in the near future, just for a rare but well deserved treat. I enjoyed your picture-story tour and advice to get there early so much that I’ve already booked and paid for our airfares to fly to Cebu from Australia – in just 8 weeks!! I hope we enjoy it as much as you have : ) Thank you!!
    Kindest regards,
    Jamie & Johnell Whiteoak,
    Qld., Australia.

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Well, Cebu is sure to be special! Enjoy your holiday 🙂

  • alex


    cool photos from your oslob trip! i’d like to ask you, what “technique” did you apply when you dove back in? I noticed that photos looked better 🙂 thanks! going there soon!

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    No much technique really. I jut use standard settings on the GoPro and tweak the images a little in Photoshops. Just play around with colour adjustments, the curve tool and the sharpen tool.

  • imadreamer2015


    awesome article and great pics. I hope to do this sometime. Did you go from India?

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Yes, I flew out from Bangalore 🙂

  • imadreamer2015


    what is the model of the gopro you used?

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    I use a GoPro Hero 3+

  • Ray


    Thank you so much for sharing.God bless you🙏

    Mithun Divakaran Reply:

    Thanks for reading Ray! 🙂

Comments are closed.