Traveller, Photographer, Mountaineer, Human

Swimming with Whale Sharks, the Gentle Giants of Oslob, Cebu

September 11, 2013

Our main purpose for our travel to Cebu really is to swim and see the whale sharks, the biggest fish and is locally known as butanding.

The butandings are regularly sighted in Oslob, Cebu, a coastal town 3.5 hours south of Cebu City.  We arrivedat our hotel in Oslob the previous day and had to wake up early to meet the gentle giants.  The butandings regularly go near the shore of Brgy. Tan-awan every morning as the fishermen (who have become boatmen for tourists) feed them small shrimps.  The cost of meeting the butanding is Php500 per person.  Before our boat went to the feeding area to meet the butanding, we were required by local ordinance to attend a very brief orientation conducted by the local government or DENR.  The lady basically said:  no flash photography, do not touch the whale sharks, stay 4 meters away from the butandings and do not wear sunblock and other skin products (those who did were advised to wash it off at the shower area).  After that, it was less then 5 minutes trip to the feeding area.

Meeting the Butandings

Meeting the whale sharks is really a wonderful experience.  The butandings we met were all juvenile but their size is already massive (according to the boatmen, the adults come a little later in the morning).  They were accustomed to the fishermen feeding them and to the people surrounding them that they seem oblivious to humans and just swimming to and fro the boat where small shrimps are being thrown in the water.

With the boats so close together and with several people snorkeling, diving and swimming, it is impossible to stay 4 meters away from any of whale sharks.  At one point, a whale sharks just passed in front of me (the picture of the eye of the fish below) and one brushed against Elaine as she swimming.

As I said, they are really giant despite their large size that I did not fear being harmed by them but fear from drowning (even though I wear a life vest) or just dropping my camera.

I took this next two pictures while I was holding on to the boat and the whale shark was passing in front of me, so close I can touch it if I just extend my hand (of course, per briefing, it is not allowed to touch them so why break the rules?).

Solo Pictures

Being there, each of us had to take our solo pictures with the butandings…
Elaine, an applicant for an organization of skin divers, is more fearless in swimming and diving away from the boat and thus offered better opportunities to be photographed well with the giants.


Ellidel (left) and Oyet (right)

That’s me, keeping close to the boat. (left), Eman, giving the thumbs up sign for the experience. (right)

Tiny, being dunked by the boatman so she’ll be underwater (left), Macky, very near the butanding’s tail (right)

Grant, who doesn’t know how to swim (just like me) was forever anchored on the boat and hence, no picture with the butanding.

Some More Pics

Here are some more pics of the whale shark.

A whale shark swimming, with a smaller fish below it –>

A butanding waiting for the small shrimp being fed by the boatmen.


The head of the fish, up close (above), A close up of the smaller fish on the belly of the whale shark (below left), the whale shark feeding (below right)

After our 30-40 minutes of swimming with the whale sharks is up, it was time for us to go back to our hotel, tidy up and rush back to Cebu City for our flight back home.  It was such a short time but it is really wonderful and will stay with us, probably for the rest of our lives.

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