I thought that the only way to have a close encounter with the whale sharks or butanding/tuki is to travel all the way to Donsol, Sorsogon which is undeniably, a million light-years away from Davao.
|Swam with the gentle giants: CHECK!|
It was until in December of 2011 when I read Drew's blog post about his whale shark experience in Oslob, Cebu. And since we were scheduled to go back to Cebu last month, swimming with the gentle giants became our number one priority.
Oslob is just an hour away from the Municipality of Dalaguete. The town of Oslob rose to fame after the news about the whale sharks' presence made it to the mainstream media. It has drawn thousands of tourists, both here and abroad. Swimming with the gentle giants is surely a great experience but extra caution must be taken.
Every Move has a Price
We paid Php 50 each for the entrance fee of the resort. From the beachfront, we saw a lot of boats with people swimming in the middle of the sea. And take note, it was still seven in the morning.
|A signage that can be clearly seen along the highway.|
We went to the other side of the resort and paid Php 300 per head before proceeding to the briefing tent. It was just a short lecture about the ecological importance of whale sharks and the dos and donts during the encounter.
What caught us off guard were the exorbitant fees. Yes, you read it right, fees! You can't bring your snorkel gear unless you pay the Php 25 snorkel fee. Same goes with your underwater camera which cost Php 100. Hearing those 'fees' hurt my ears as well as my wallet (that is, if my wallet had feelings too). More so, if you don't have a snorkel gear, you have to rent one for Php 100 AND pay the snorkel fee for Php 25. I was like, "Kuya eh bawat hininga din namin ba, may fee rin?"
Swimming with the Gentle Giants
Motorized boats are strictly prohibited as it pose great danger to the gentle giants. There was a reported incident when one butanding got hurt due to the boat's propellers. Woops. So from the shore, we paddled our way to the whale shark's territory. There were at least seven to eight boats filled with tourists who were so eager to swim with the whale sharks.
|This is a butanding.|
|And this is not a butanding.|
Tourists are not allowed to touch the whale sharks. One should be at least 5 feet away from the whale shark's body and at least 10 feet away from the creature's tail.
Just recently, a photo of a girl riding on top of the whale shark went viral and had caught the attention of the netizens. We all know that it is improper to ride on whale shark's back because (1) it's not a horse and; (2) try nga natin kung ang whale shark ang pumatong sa likuran ni girl?
But seriously, this photo was taken at Boljoon, a town next to Oslob. People there weren't properly oriented about the nature of this animal. Well, at least the girl made a public apology and was truly regretful of what she did with the whale shark. Hence, this photo serve as a lesson for all of us.
All in all we paid more than Php 500. It may be expensive to some but I do hope that the exorbitant fee will benefit the whale sharks.
But if you asked me, I still enjoyed my experience. I traveled all the way to Cebu just to be with them. At present, there are no whale sharks swimming within the Davao Gulf area (although reliable sources have told me that they have spotted a few butandings swimming near Samal Island).
It was an experience worth remembering, after all.