Cebu Island – Swimming with whale sharks in Oslob (Philippines)

Categories: Travel reports, Asia, Philippines

We had read in advance of our research on our PADI Open Water diving course in the Philippines that there is the possibility to swim with whale sharks not far from our hotel Atmosphere Resort & Spa in Oslob on the island of Cebu. And we definitely didn’t want to miss this experience 🙂


Thing to know about Whale sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world and also the largest living shark species. They can be up to 13 meters long and weigh 12 tons. But despite their imposing size, they are completely harmless. Their behaviour is characterized by slow swimming in search of food relatively close to the sea surface. They feed mainly on plankton and other microorganisms, which they filter by sucking in the water. But also smaller and larger fish such as sardines, mackerel or jellyfish, squid and even small tuna can serve as food. Since the whale sharks prefer mainly plankton flowers, they increasingly swim in water temperatures between 21°C and 25°C. They can be found almost worldwide in tropical and subtropical seas, both near the coast and in the high seas. Whale sharks are often accompanied by suckerfish, which either swim actively or suck in the whale shark and are responsible for the removal of parasites. Whale sharks are considered loners and are estimated to be 100 years old.

Whale sharks, distribution area, worldwide, map, travel report

The worldwide distribution area of whale sharks

The trip from negros island to Cebu

In the morning we were picked up from our hotel and we headed north past the town of Dumaguete to the Sibulan Ferry Terminal. From here we took a small ferry to Cebu Island. Arriving in Liolan in Cebu we went again about 20 minutes by car up the east coast from Cebu to Oslob. Oslob is a small inconspicuous hamlet and you can quickly see that everything in the region is focused on the whale sharks. There are an incredible number of vendors and stalls with signs offering all excursions to Tan-Awan, the “Walhai Spot”.

Snorkeling with whale sharks in Oslob

If you want to go swimming with the whale sharks, there are very clear rules what you can and can’t do. There are certain times (only in the morning), you must not touch them and there are also a maximum of 8 people per whale shark allowed. This and a few more information can be communicated in a short briefing before going out on the water with snorkeling equipment and small boats.

As soon as one has driven a few meters, they suddenly appear between the boats and wait patiently for their food. In Oslob, the giant fish are fed with krill or similar. This gives a 99 guaranteeto see the whale sharks. You really get extremely close to the whale sharks. And even if they are completely harmless to humans – if they swim right in front of you and suck in all the water with their huge mouth, you definitely have respect and it’s an indescribable feeling.

The feeling of jumping into the water and then suddenly seeing one of these giant giants next to you is simply indescribable! In total we snorkeled for about 45 minutes in the turquoise blue water and around us there were maybe 10 different whale sharks. Some specimens can be up to 13 meters long. Again and again they have dived up and down and swam between the individual boats.

If you really want to swim with whale sharks in calm waters, we can only recommend Oslob in the Philippines. The cost is about 20 € per person.

And even if the type of feeding has to be questioned, it was an absolutely great and above all very impressive experience. In April 2016 we swam again with whale sharks, this time in Exmouth on Ningaloo Reef on the west coast of Australia. The big difference in Australia is that the whale sharks are not fed there!

Our video of snorkeling with whale sharks

Here’s a little film of how close you can get to these amazing animals in Oslob.

YouTube video