While many travelers opt to explore only most of the conventional attractions in the city of Cebu and Bohol, the concealed delight waiting to be found in the not-so-famous region of Tan-awan, Oslob, Cebu remains to be pretty foreign and unheard of to many tourist travellers. Undeniably, I can assure you that the feeling you get upon meeting the friendly whale sharks is by far one of the most nerve-wrecking yet miraculously beautiful journeys you will ever experience in your entire existence.
Oslob’s tourism isn’t too much advertised yet to avoid too much crowd which might scare away the whales, so here is a quick guide which can help you in making your experience more worthwhile, convenient and exciting.
Upon arriving in the heart of Cebu City you can go directly to the Cebu South Bus Terminal situated in Natalio Bacalso Avenue just next to Elizabeth Mall. Our group spent around 135 pesos for our metered taxi fare from the airport to the terminal. Once you get to the terminal, you can easily pinpoint which bus to ride on since there are huge, visible sign boards placed in front of the bus to help assist passengers easily in their chosen destinations. I suggest that you choose the air-conditioned Ceres bus which costs about 155 pesos from CSBT to Tan-awan, Oslob proper. Travel time takes usually about 3-4 hours.
Arriving Tan-awan, Oslob
You need not to worry about getting lost in Oslob since the bus drivers and conductors are very accommodating and friendly. All you have to do is ask them politely to drop you off in Tan-awan proper. Our group was dropped off in front of the Tan-awan Elementary School in Oslob. From there, we decided to cross the street and ask the fronting house across the school on where we could possibly stay for a night given that we weren’t able to book a hotel or an inn.
Luckily, we just headed to the right place since the owner, Ms. Veny Hescock, actually offers her cosy home for visitors at a very minimal cost when inns become fully-booked. She charges a rate of P450/person/day for a single room while P350/person/day for two or more people in one room. Beddings, comfy beds, towels, a clean bathroom and eating utensils are already provided and included in the accommodation package. Ma’am Veny can also cook hearty fresh meals at 125/meal as long as you inform her ahead of time. In addition to that, she sells beverages, cup noodles, junk foods and home-baked cupcakes and banana cakes at budget-friendly prices too; even more affordable than those being sold in minimarts within Tan-awan. Mind you, she bakes one of the tastiest banana cakes that I ever tasted in my whole life. Moreover, she can also give you tips on where to go about in Oslob and who to contact for tours if you have a tight budget.
Butanding/ Whale Shark Experience
If you want to have a more up close and intimate moment with the adorable and majestic Butandings in Oslob, then you have to wake up as early as 5:30 am to enjoy the sunrise and avoid too much crowd. Don’t forget to register first for the orientation since it is strictly implemented by the local government of Oslob that all tourists need to be informed beforehand with the rules and regulations which governs and safeguards its rich marine life. Butanding watching is only scheduled from 6:00 am-12:00 noon. You have to pay a whale watching fee of 300 pesos even if you don’t wish to swim with the whales while an amount of 500 pesos should be paid for locals who opt to snorkel while foreigners are required to pay the amount of 1000 pesos.
During the orientation one thing that really caught my attention is that putting on sun-block lotion is not allowed owing to the fact that it may actually poison the whales. Apart from that, the whales’ skin is noted to be very delicate thus everyone is warned not to make laborious movements when already submerged in water. Also, you need to bear in mind that boats can only accommodate around 4-8 people and are only allowed to stay as long as 30 minutes to 1 hour in open sea. Life vests are provided for all passengers and underwater cameras are also available for rent at 300 pesos. Upon feeding of the Butandings, you may be allowed to swim near the whales as long as you maintain around 1-2 meters distance away from them. There are also sea-divers assigned per boat who can serve as guides and lifeguards, therefore you are assured of your security underwater. Lastly, the whale sharks are not harmful and violent. They may appear to be terrifying because of their huge size but they are in reality friendly so there is no need for you to panic and freak out. All you have to do is enjoy completely your quality time with them and do your most favourite pose in front of the camera.
Touring Around Oslob and Boljoon
After socializing with the whales, we had our brunch back at Ma’am Veny’s house, took short nap then asked her afterwards to contact someone who can tour us around the place. We paid around 1500 for our city tour which is already inclusive of the driver and fuel of the small multicab which can make room for a maximum of 12 people. We got to visit old, quaint churches with unique architecture and a whole lot more of historical infrastructure, took lots of souvenir photos and savoured the splendor that Oslob truly exudes of.
As a whole, I can truly say that our Oslob getaway was beyond compare. You need not to spend much to fully take pleasure on the amazing beauty of nature. All you need is just an adventurous company, a fun, positive spirit, tons of interest to enjoy life to the fullest and some enough cash to spare.
Written by: Hanna Alzate