Oslob's Whale Sharks
To visit or not to visit?
About the whale shark feeding in Oslob
The Whale Sharks of Oslob
Around 2010, the sleepy town of Oslob on the southern tip of Cebu became famous for the daily appearance of whale sharks. Fishermen using krill (small shrimp) as bait, were often approached by the whalesharks. The result was a beautiful relationship between the fishermen and the Tuki (whale shark in Visayan, the local language).
This relationship came to the attention of a few travellers who joined them, and quickly their fame spread. The unintended result was a rapid onset of mass tourism that Oslob was poorly equipped to handle. It changed the local area forever and monetized the bond between the fisherman and the Tuki.
At the beginning of 2011, the situation had reached a critical point, with images of locals touching and riding the whale sharks going viral, which naturally caused a lot of concern for the animal’s welfare. An ordinance was passed by the Philippines Government preventing any further feeding.
All activity in Oslob was immediately suspended and the many daily enquiries for trips there were declined.
Sadly, the ordinance did not have the desired effect. What happened instead was even more detrimental. In place of dive centers and eco-tourism outlets, less scrupulous operators started taking groups there. Even more deliberate contact was being made with the animals every day, visitor numbers were not controlled, and a circus-like environment formed. The ordinance was appealed by the community of Oslob, lost a lot of its support, and eventually faded away.
What we have had to accept is that people will go there regardless of requests otherwise, and for as long as money is being made in Oslob nothing will be done to stop it. Many campaigners make good arguments as to why it should be stopped and put a lot of effort into trying to make that happen, but to no avail.
We believe trying to stop operations in Oslob at this stage is hopeless, so what we seek to do is to change from within. We look to other whaleshark tourism spots like Donsol and seek to push Oslob in the direction of their model. This means no contact, reducing feeding to eventually stop entirely, controlling daily tourist numbers to prevent stress to the animals, and more than anything else to educate locals and tourists alike of the threats to these wonderful animals.
We understand the desire to be close to the whalesharks, it’s close to the top of the list of why we became divers in the first place.
If you would like to visit Oslob I can arrange this with one of the reputable nearby dive centers, and the will strictly enforce protection policies, to ensure an amazing experience for you and protection of these magnificent creatures.
Be warned that this dive is not for everyone. The whale sharks
Whale Shark Code of Conduct
Whenever and wherever you account whale sharks, always strictly adhere to the following guide lines:
Swimmers and divers
Do not attempt to touch, ride, or chase a Whale Shark
Do not restrict normal movement or behaviour of the Shark
Maintain a minimum distance of 3 metres from the Whale Shark
Do not undertake flash photography
Do not use underwater motorised diver propulsions
Behave in a calm controlled manner and prevent stressing the animals
Please be advised there are wardens in Oslob that will enforce these policies and apply penalties to those who intentionally break them, they have our full support; the welfare of the animals will always come first.
If you would like to know more about research being done in Oslob, and other parts of the Philippines, or better still donate to make more research possible, take a look at Large Marine Vertibrates Project Philippines LAMAVE. They have been doing some excellent work in the area for a long time, their friendly volunteers can normally be found around Oslob.