Swimming with whale sharks was such a surreal experience. It was scary as hell but so exciting to be next to these sweet animals. It was scary because their mouths are huge and when they got close, you think you would get sucked in with the amount of water and food they suck in.
When I was trying to find information about swimming with whale sharks in the Philippines, it was difficult to do. I found websites that were charging ridiculous amounts to swim with the whale sharks (mostly to charge more to foreigners who do not know the actual costs), which from past experience of traveling to the Philippines I knew it was expensive. One place wanted to charge 6000 pesos which is approximately $128 and in most cases you may find this reasonable until you know compare that to the cost breakdown I have below and you will be shocked at this highly inflated price.
If you want to swim with whale sharks in Oslob, Cebu, Philippines it is best to do this in the morning. The whale sharks and swimming with whale sharks are only available from 6:00am – 12:30pm. If you are staying in Cebu City, you need to either take a bus or hire a taxi to drive you 3 hours south to reach Oslob. We left at 5am to arrive around 8am to swim with the sharks. It is best to leave early, because any later than that you may end up in traffic, which will take longer (3-5 hours) to get to your destination or it may be too crowded to swim with the whale sharks.
Once you get to Oslob and pay the fee to swim with the sharks (fees listed below) there is an orientation that gives you rules on what is allowed while swimming with the sharks. Things you need to know before swimming with Whale Sharks.
- You should not wear sunblock, lotion or suntan oils. If you happen to be wearing it when you get there, you must rinse off before swimming with the whale sharks. There are showers there where you can rinse off.
- You must keep at least 4 meters away from the sharks at all times.
- You must not touch the whale sharks.
Once they have explained the rules to you, you are given a life vest, goggles and a snorkel. They will help you out onto the banca boats and you will be on your way to swim with the sharks. It was hard taking the pictures because of the wind and waves but I was able to get some of the tour guides to help us out and got a few good shots.
Although you have to stay 4 meters away, sometimes the whale sharks came closer to you than you expected. The people will feed the whale sharks and bring them by back and forth for you to see them multiple times. You pay to swim with them for approximately 30 minutes. You could possibly pay to swim with them longer than that, but 30 minutes is a good amount of time before you get tired of swallowing salt water. For locals the cost was 500 pesos ~ $10.50, for foreigners the cost was 1000 pesos ~ $21 which is a very reasonable price to swim with these gentle giants.
UPDATE 7/11/2017: I have been informed that swimming with the Whale Sharks in Oslob is no longer considered environmentally friendly since they are being fed by the locals in Oslob to attract attention to the Whale Sharks. The Whale Sharks are no longer taking their normal migration patterns and staying in one spot which could alter their breeding habits. Also, while the rules are very important to these gentle creatures, they are not being enforced like they should be.