|A juvenile whale shark comes up to the surface to feed|
While whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), locally known as tukî in Cebuano, are occasionally seen in Visayan waters, it’s only in recent months that a group has been sighted frequently off the southeast coast of Cebu. Almost a dozen animals have checked in off the coast of Oslob since October 2011. While most of them are 12 to 15 feet long juveniles, a large adult measuring over 27 feet in length reportedly shows up occasionally. Their appearance has began drawing tourists who hire small fishing canoes to get up close to these fascinating leviathans.
|Whale shark watching in Oslob, Cebu|
Whale sharks are the largest extant fish species, living in tropical seas throughout the world. They can grow up to over 40 feet in length! The rich waters of the Philippine archipelago are feeding and birthing grounds for this vulnerable species.
While conservationists frown upon the current practice by local fishermen of hand-feeding whale sharks with uyap (small shrimp) as it might adversely affect their behavior, what’s admirable is how local fishermen have learned to appreciate and value this endangered marine animal, which used to be hunted down. “Before, we regarded them as a nuisance since they eat the uyap we use to lure fish,” explains one of the fishermen-turned-tourist guide. Hopefully, a more sustainable eco-tourism framework will soon be put in place to steward these gentle giants for visitors. According to a news report, Oslob is planning to make and implement an ordinance to protect the whale sharks.
|Watch whale sharks responsibly: KEEP YOUR DISTANCE & NEVER TOUCH THE ANIMAL|
HOW TO GET THERE: Take a bus at the Cebu City south bus terminal to Brgy. Tan-awan, Oslob (PHP 147, 2.5 hours). Watch out for resorts with whale shark watching signboards along the highway. As of the time of writing, there are no standard rates for the whaleshark boat tour. The best deal we found was through Marilyn Resort - +639065869895. It’s best to make reservations at least two days in advance. Boat rental: 200 per head, 40 minutes, 1-2 persons/boat. Snorkel for rent at PHP 100. No life vests are provided.
SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS RESPONSIBLY. Even if not enforced, strictly follow these international whale shark watching guidelines:
• Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a whale shark
• Do not restrict normal movement or behavior of the shark
• Maintain a minimum distance of three meters from the whale shark
• Do not use flash photography
• Do not use underwater motorized diver propulsions