Me and 2 of my friends booked this tour trip which was smooth! Firstly we were picked up from our resort at Badian at 4.30am and travelled to Oslob, which took 2h. We enjoyed the beautiful sunrise across the sea while in the minivan. At Oslob, our lovely guide Giselle guided us on the different checkpoints (you will need to register, sign an indemnity form, attend a 3min briefing of the rules), then we got a queue number, which is announced over the speakers. Although we reached at the opening time, the place was very crowded and we got a queue number of 76 when the first 4 numbers were just called out to enter the sea. Luckily Giselle then arranged us breakfast at a nearby restaurant to fill our bellies & pass time, and by the time we returned to the place, it was our time! We then put on our life-vests and snorkelling gear, then entered the boat, which rowed us out a while. The whole area in the sea is cordoned off to prevent tourists from drifting too far away. Those who can swim can take off the life-vests then dive in to swim with the whale sharks; but not to worry, those who can’t swim just need to stick with the life-vests and look down underneath the sea surface for the whale sharks. You can rent Go-Pro service (where the boat guide will take videos of tourists diving with whale sharks) for 400 pesos. Alternatively you can buy waterproof pouch (decent quality with locking mechanism and not just a seal, that prevent any water from entering) for 150-200 pesos. The boat guide are great at taking photos and videos at the right timing! The whole activity lasted for 30mins then we went back to shore, after which we did a quick open shower beside the boats (tourists are not allowed to use soap or shampoo) to get rid of all the salt. For Go Pro service, Giselle led us to a local shop whereby the man transferred the files into our phones (Both iPhone & Android phones are all-right as he has the relevant cables). We then had early lunch at 9am at the same restaurant before setting off via the minivan.
Controversy: There is a great deal of controversy regarding them being as tourist attractions. Detractors are upset that whale sharks are baited by locals with feeds, instead of letting them free to hunt for their own food & migrate through Pacific Ocean. Proponents state that such tourism increase the awareness & plight of endangered species in the world. Personally, I’m on the fence here, while it’s true that these whale sharks won’t be truly independent since they rely on feeds, however the locals can be seen as protecting them from the horrors of other humans. What I mean by that is there’s the argument that whale sharks are more likely to die out in the wild from being accidentally caught in fishermen’s nets or from oil spill. At least the locals are taking care of them & they even track each whale they see, especially given their low birth rate & slow maturation. Sure, tourists can be a nuisance to them, but the locals need some cashflow for sustenance. And they have very strict rules of do’s and don’t’s, eg no swimming 1.5m near whale sharks, no touching, no feeding by tourists, and no sunscreen/lotion on skin before entering the sea because the oil can affect their health! Take note please because the locals will observe and ask you to wash off so don’t try to sneakily put.
Recommendations: Best is to book via your group because the guide will help you with the processes smoothly. There are reviews earlier stating that people jumped queue or gave tips to exchange for earlier numbers/ for their numbers to be called out earlier, having a local guide prevented all these from happening to us. Feel free to wear your swimsuits! There’s public toilets there to change in and out.
Difficulty level: 1/5. You just need to lie in the sea and you can see the whale sharks close up. Almost no effort as you don’t really need to swim anyway.
Transportation: Highly recommended to get private transport to come here, otherwise stay at the resorts nearby for the night before walking here. Oslob is a municipality very far away from Cebu City. Pre-book in advance and come before opening hours to get queue number because it’s a hugely popular tourist spot and gets crowded later in morning. The whale sharks may not be around in afternoon; and it’s stated there there’s a risk of not seeing any of them, and there’s no refunds!