Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Philippines

whalesharkA little over a year ago, I went on a little vacation to the Philippines. I was very excited about the trip because I heard of a place called Oslob in the island of Cebu. There, you can rent a boat and literally swim with whale sharks. Being the marine life enthusiast that I am, it’s not surprising that such a place would immediately capture my fancy. Needless to say, Oslob made it to my bucket list.

A couple of month after reading about the town, an opportunity to visit the Philippines presented itself. A friend of mine was getting married in the island of Boracay and he made me one of his groomsmen. I thought it was the perfect time to finally scratch Oslob from my list of places to visit.

After attending my friend’s wedding and spending a couple of days in Boracay, I was finally on my way to Oslob. Upon arriving at Cebu airport, I was greeted by my tour guide, a guy named Raul, who would accompany me throughout my stay. We boarded a chartered van to Oslob to begin our 6-hour journey.

On the way, we stopped by a furniture shop just beside the street. Raul informed me that this stop was very popular among tourists because the small shop showcased impressive pieces of furniture. As I was looking around, I was very impressed with the amount of work and craftsmanship that was put into each piece. However, there was one piece of furniture that held my fancy. It was a high bar that looked like it was carved out of a tree. It was magnificent! I thought it would be perfect for the outdoor aquarium I was planning on building for my back patio at home. I immediately took pictures of it and made a mental note to either have one commissioned or build it myself.

Of course, I wanted to buy the piece right away. The problem was, it was very heavy and I wasn’t sure about the rules on bringing wooden furniture to the US. So I did the next best thing, I talked to the shop owner about the piece and asked for some tips. He told me all about choosing the perfect chunk of wood as well as gave me DIY termite treatment tips to prevent termites from ruining wooden furniture.

We stayed at the shop longer than Raul anticipated so by the time we got to Oslob, I had already missed my chance to swim with the whales. I decided to just sit back and relax for the rest of the day so I would be ready for my adventure the following day. There were some other foreign tourists at the inn I was staying at and when I found out they would also be hiring a boat, I asked if I could tag along so I could save a little. Besides, it’s always more fun to be with good company.

Raul and I were up before the crack of dawn the next day. I was very, very excited! The people I met the night before were also giddy with excitement for our adventure. After a very light breakfast, we were off to meet with the boatman at the shore.

During the ride, we were oriented about the do’s and don’ts once we encounter the whales. We were also told about the other islands we would hopping. After about 15 minutes, the boatman killed the engine and threw down the anchor. We were to wait there and hope that the whales would make an appearance.

After a few minutes of waiting, I finally had my first glimpse of a whale shark up close in its natural environment. It was absolutely beautiful! As more and more whales started coming near us, our guide informed us that we could jump into the water one by one so we wouldn’t startle them. I could barely contain myself! When it was finally time for me to jump in, I was almost in tears as I petted and put my arms around a baby whale shark.

After more than an hour of interacting with these gentle creatures, it was time to move on to our next destination. I was a little sad but I knew that it was definitely worth it. This trip to Oslob is definitely one I will remember for the rest of my life.