I am not a morning person, but there was definitely a good reason to wake up very early on that beautiful Thursday morning. We were at Oslob, Cebu, in Barangay Tan-awan, and were scheduled for whale shark watching that day. After a quick breakfast of cup noodles, we were off to the beach. Kuya Jimmy, a barangay kagawad/konsehal and the caretaker of Friendly’s Resort where we stayed for the night, was already at the beach along with some of his friends. He told us last night that he would assist us throughout the entire process of the tour. He referred us to a boatman, who seemed to be a friend of his. We were later brought to the orientation area which is about 3 minutes away from the resort. The orientation was quick which lasted for about a couple of minutes only.
At 6:30 in the morning, there weren’t a lot of tourists yet. Our boat was the first to go. We reached the spot in 5 minutes. Yes, the feeding area where tourists could watch the whale sharks or tuki to the locals is very near but deep enough at approximately 25 feet for these gentle giants to be able to swim comfortably. Our boatmen immediately threw krill or “uyap” into the water to be fed to whale sharks. Within seconds, he pointed to a dark silhouette slowly approaching our boat. “There is one”, he said. And as quickly as we stood up to look at what the boatman pointed to us, it’s mouth appeared. Our excitement grew. “ You may get into the water, sir” our boatman smiled. As I prepared my camera, I heard a splash and saw my friend Jim dove into the water.
After a few seconds, he emerged and said excitedly,” Ang laki!( It’s really big!)” Then we saw another one, followed by another, until Jim was already surrounded by four whale sharks. They’re bigger than our boat!
I dove excitedly to join him. I started taking pictures underwater. Using only a dicapac case for my SLR, I struggled to take good photos. One of the boatmen offered to take our pictures and I did not hesitate to hand him my camera. After giving him a few instructions on how to use the camera, I snorkeled to see the whale sharks.
The water was crystal clear and the view underwater was spectacular. It felt like watching Nat Geo Channel on a giant screen, maybe even better. It was like I had been plunged into a different world.
The whale sharks are really gigantic. We were told to keep a distance of at least 5 meters away from them but they were swimming around us so near, so close that I feared I might kick one of them accidentally while swimming.
At some point, one of them swam just right beside me that I felt its skin touched my arms. While I was full of excitement, I must admit that I felt a little uncomfortable for a while. I know it’s safe, that they do not eat humans, but their size really made me feel apprehensive.I got back on the boat and rest for a few minutes. I saw that two more whale sharks came in to join the party. Meanwhile, Jim was having a great time.
At that instant, the boatman called my attention and said,” Ayan na yung pinakamalaki (There’s the biggest!) He was pointing to an enormous, Ceres bus-sized whale shark swimming towards our boat.
All the anxiety that I felt turned into excitement at once. In a matter of seconds, I was underwater again, watching, swimming, and totally enjoying my time with the whale sharks of Tan-awan. The experience was simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
Just as more whale sharks started to appear, other tourists began to arrive. Our 30-minute paid encounter with the gentle giants was also almost over. After one more glance of the whale sharks underwater, we hopped on the boat and went back to the shore.
WHALE SHARK WATCHING AT TAN-AWAN, OSLOB TRAVEL GUIDE:
FEES: P500.00 for local tourists, P1,000.00 for foreign tourists, inclusive of snorkeling gears. If you chose not to snorkel and just want to watch the tukis from up the boat, you will only be charged P300.00. Underwater cameras are available for rent at P100.00
CHEAP ACCOMMODATION IN TAN-AWAN, OSLOB: Although there’s a lot of hotels in Oslob town proper, it is best to look for accommodation in Barangay Tan-awan, where the whale sharks are being fed. Fan room would normally cost P800.00 while air-conditioned rooms are priced at P1,500.
During our trip, we stayed at Friendly’s Resort, a homestay type of accommodation. We were charged P800.00 for a fan room with two single beds. The price was basically the same as that of the other resorts nearby but what made us choose them was that they allow their guests to cook. I highly recommend Friendly’s resort specially to families and groups. If you’re traveling alone, they could also provide you space for P400.00. And if you brought your tent with you, they would allow you to set up your camp near the beach. Kuya Jimmy, the houses’ caretaker who is also a barangay kagawad is very nice and accommodating. With his help, the entire process of the tour would be much easier. During our stay, we had the chance to meet the owner of Friendly’s, Ms. Grace Dunnet and her husband Doug, who were on vacation that time. We were very much impressed by their hospitality. Very nice couple. We were treated like old friends. We felt as though we were spending time with treasured friends. For your inquiries and reservation, please contact Kuya Jimmy at 09334886886 or you can add Friendly’s on Facebook.
HOW TO GET TO TAN-AWAN, OSLOB (TRAVEL TIME AND FARES):
FROM CEBU TO TAN-AWAN, OSLOB:
1. Hire a cab from Mactan – Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) to South Bus Terminal. Travel time is approximately 30 minutes. Fare: More or less P200.00
2. Ride a bus to Tan-awan Oslob. You will pass by Oslob town proper so make sure to tell the bus conductor to drop you off at Barangay Tan-awan and not at Oslob town. Tan-awan is about 15 minutes away from the town proper. Travel time: Approximately 2.5 to 3 hours. Fare: Aircon bus (P155.00) Ordinary/Non-aircon bus (P155.00)
FROM DUMAGUETE CITY TO TAN-AWAN, OSLOB: While we were at Tan-awan, we realized that getting there is easier and faster via Dumaguete City.
1. From Dumaguete City, you can either hire a tricycle or ride a bus or multi-cab/jeepney to bring you to Sibulan Port. Travel time and fares: Depending on your mode of transportation, travel time is approximately 15-30 minutes. Chartered tricycle costs P150.00, good for 4 persons. Ceres Bus: P20.00; Multi-cab/jeepney: P11.00. Make sure you look for Ceres buses and multi-cabs with Sibulan signboard. From the Sibulan bus stop, you walk for 3-5 minutes to get to the port.
2. Ride a ferry or a pump boat going to Liloan, Cebu. Ferries depart every hour while pump boats are available every 30 minutes. Ferry ride cost P62 while pump boat ride only cost P45. Travel time: 20-30 minutes:
3. From Liloan Port, ride a bus or a jeep going to barangay, Tan-awan. Travel time: 15-20 minutes. Fare: P15.00. You may opt to hire a tricycle for P200.00
OTHER PLACES TO VISIT OR THINGS TO DO BEFORE OR AFTER WHALE WATCHING AT TAN-AWAN,OSLOB
Depending on the season and the number of tourists during your trip, your whale watching activity would probably last for about 30-45 minutes including orientation and waiting time. If you’re wondering how to spend the rest of the day in Oslob, you may consider including the following in your itinerary:
1. Day trip to Sumilon Bluewater Island Resort. Probably the best island resort on this part of Cebu, they offer day trips for Php1,500 on weekdays and Php2,000 on weekends per head. This includes lunch, boat transfers, use of swimming facilities and island activities such as snorkeling kayaking and trekking.
HOW TO GET TO SUMILON ISLAND FROM TAN-AWAN,OSLOB:
Ride a public jeepney or habal-habal from Tan-awan to get to Bancogon port, where Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort’s private boats are located. Travel time is approximately 5 minutes. At the port, register for a day trip. You will then be transferred to the island resort for 15 minutes. Boat transfer to and from the resort is included in the package.
Boat Schedule from mainland Oslob (Bancogon port) to Sumilon Island: (Monday to Sunday) 1st trip – 7:30AM, 2nd trip – 9:30AM, 3rd trip – 11:00AM, 4th trip – 12:30PM, Last trip – 4:30PM
Boat Schedule from Sumilon Island to mainland Oslob (Bancogon port): (Monday to Sunday)1st trip – 9:00AM, 2nd trip – 10:30AM,3rd trip – 12 NOON, 4th trip – 1:30PM, 5th trip – 3:30 pm, Last trip – 5:30 pm (5PM on Saturdays)
A cheaper way to get to Sumilon island is by renting a pumpboat. The pumpboat costs Php2500.00. You can only stay at the sandbar though.
We opted not to go to Sumilon, but for pictures and additional information, you may refer to the following blogs:
3. Do what we did. Travel straight to Badian and enjoy the heavenly invigorating waterfall massage at Kawasan falls!