Oslob Whale Sharks –  All You Need to Know



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Situated in the southern part of Cebu, Philippines, Oslob has gained global acclaim for its distinctive whale-shark interaction experience. The gentle giants, locally known as Butanding, attract visitors from all corners of the world eager for an unforgettable encounter with these majestic creatures. Since its establishment in 2011, Oslob’s whale shark tourism has rapidly flourished, turning it into one of the world’s most visited whale shark tourism sites. Weekends consistently see bustling crowds, and even on weekdays, the area remains vibrant with enthusiasts seeking this extraordinary marine adventure.

Understanding the Whale Sharks

Whale sharks live fascinating lives as nomadic ocean wanderers. These gentle giants roam the world’s tropical and warm-temperate seas, following migratory patterns influenced by factors such as food availability and water temperature. As filter feeders, they sustain themselves by peacefully cruising through the water, consuming plankton, small fish, and other microscopic organisms with their mouths wide open.

Oslob has gained fame for its interactions with whale sharks, locally known as Butanding, attracted by the feeding activities of local fishermen. While some find this practice controversial, a study by Ziegler et al. (2018) raises ethical concerns.

The controversy surrounding provisioning whale sharks for tourism in Oslob has been the subject of recent studies. Critiques highlight the lack of baseline data, limited methodologies, and result interpretation issues in these studies, making it challenging to support effective management or advocacy against provisioning. Dr. Meekan, a fish ecologist with 25 years of experience, argues that there is no concrete evidence supporting the idea that provisioning negatively affects the ecology of whale sharks in Oslob. He dismisses the central claim of Ziegler et al.’s (2018) work, which suggests that tourists should feel guilty about enjoying their experience, considering it disconnected from reality. Whale sharks in Oslob have the freedom to come and go as they please, with new sharks replacing those that migrate around the Philippines.

  1. Tours and Guides

Guided Tours from Moalboal or Cebu City cost approximately 3,000 pesos per person (varies by group size), enjoy a hassle-free experience with transportation and a private guide for the two-hour journey from Moalboal. Alternatively, a self-guided trip is a budget-friendly option. The whale shark activity is available daily from 6 AM to 11:30 AM. Arriving early is recommended to avoid crowds and ensure optimal conditions for observing these magnificent creatures.

  1. Arrival and Registration

Arrive at the Whale Watching Center by 5:00 AM to secure a spot. Expect queues, but the process is streamlined. Ticket prices are 500 pesos for foreigners. Obtain a ticket number, make the payment at the designated window, validate your receipt, and wait for your number to be called. With a mandatory briefing covering the dos and don’ts of snorkeling with the sharks, emphasizing guidelines like refraining from touching the animals.

Based on my experience, I typically aim to arrive around 10:00 AM and anticipate waiting for about an hour until they call my number. It’s advisable to come in the morning; arriving later, especially on weekends, increases the likelihood of missing out on the snorkeling activity due to larger crowds. Divers usually don’t face waiting times. Additionally, it’s essential to be aware that Whale Shark activities may be canceled at any time due to adverse weather conditions or high winds causing large waves.

  1. Equipment, Belongings, and Lockers

Lockers are available for securing belongings, eliminating concerns about them getting wet on the boat. Keep your ticket for each step. Fins and GoPros can be rented at reasonable prices. Ensure you have a life jacket, snorkel, and goggles. Renting a GoPro onsite is available at a cost of 550 pesos, and they provide a device for seamless photo transfer to your phone.

  1. Boat Experience

Boat rides will only take a few minutes to reach the whale sharks. Once there, you’ll have 30 minutes to swim with these incredible creatures. Adhere to guidelines; touching the whale sharks is not allowed, but the experience of being in close proximity to these majestic beings is awe-inspiring.


Bring extra dry clothes and towels.

Apply sunscreen responsibly to protect the marine environment.

Respect guidelines and regulations for a sustainable and eco-friendly experience.

Reservations are not necessary for walk-in guests; it operate on a first-come, first-served basis. Reservations are only needed if you choose to avail private tour package from tour vendors.