In Search of the Gentle Giants

Beside swimming with looking at for dolphins, the other thing that we really wanted to do in the Philippines was to go whale shark watching. The original plan was to make a three day detour to Donsol (where we could go on a whale shark watching tour) when we got nearer to Manila. Three days because the waters off Donsol are supposedly rather murky and the sighting of whale sharks is not guaranteed. I think we would have been rather pissed if we made the Great Journey to Donsol and didn’t get to see any. Given our luck with things like these, it was a very likely scenerio.

While we were in Panglao, we heard of a small town called Oslob. It’s a three hour bus ride from Cebu City and whale shark sightings are GUARANTEED!

There were two small problems with that.

One: The reason why the whale shark sightings are guaranteed is because the fishermen in Oslob feed the whale sharks. The whale sharks would go up to the fishermen (on little boats near the shoreline), expecting to be fed. This practice is generally frowned upon by people who are concerned about marine conservation. The good people at Sea Explorer (specifically Raphael) gave us “tut tut”s of disapproval when we asked if they organize dive trips to Oslob.

Two: The fishermen feed the whale sharks from 6 am to 1 pm everyday. The conventional wisdom is that it is better to go out with the first boat because the whale sharks would be at their most active. This means that people would take the bus from Cebu City at 3 am in the morning, so that they can arrive at Oslob before 7 am. There was no way in hell we would’ve been able to wake up so early.

We figured we would solve both these problems the Singaporean way – by searching on the Internet.

Actually that didn’t make sense…

We did do research online for Problem Two because we wanted to find accommodation in Oslob. It was a desperate attempt so that we could wake up at 630 am instead of 3 am (a tremendous effort for us, as it is). We were supposed to solve Problem One by sneakily denying to Raphael and gang that we were even going to Oslob (another Herculean effort for us because of Jo’s awesome ability to put on whatever is the opposite of a Poker Face)

For a rather “touristy” spot. there was not a lot of information on Oslob on the internet. We definitely could not find listings for places to stay on either tripadvisor.com or hostelworld.com, two of our favourite websites. Couch Surfing was of course, totally out of the question.

Despite not being able to find a place to stay online, Jo and i decided that the chances of us waking up at three in the morning were so minute that we would rather take the risk and just head on down to Oslob anyway. We figured the worst that could happen was that we would beg a villager to take us in for the night… or we could just sleep at the sea side in our sleeping bags.

True Story.

Even though we tried to be nonchalant about it, I was actually seriously worried as the bus passed through the townships before Oslob. I could see no signs of hotels or hostels along the bus route. Our entire game plan was built on the fact that “It is a tourist place, so there must be tourist accommodation there”.

This fear was compounded by the sun setting on us just as we passed a sign saying “Oslob” and all we could see was a rather run down village with no signs of THE BEACH. In my mind, I was already contemplating taking a three hour bus back to Cebu City and leaving again in the wee hours of the morning for another three hour ride down. I know. Fear makes us conjure up some truly irrational thoughts.

Half an hour after we passed the “Oslob” sign, we were sure the driver had forgotten to tell us to get off. Just when I thought we could take the bus all the way to the end station of Lilo-An where we knew there is a (VERY) pricey hotel that could put us up for the night, the driver stopped the bus and asked “the two passengers going to see the Butanding” to alight.

Till now, I’m not sure how we could’ve missed the numerous signs along the road, like this one…

The bus driver had dropped us right in front of a guest house.

I was so grateful to see the guest house that we just scrambled in and said we would take a room without asking about the price. At that time, unless they asked us for a literal arm and leg, we would have taken their room.

Good thing that the room was relatively cheap (800PHP each). At the very least, the beds were clean and we did not need to wake up (so) early the next day.

Pictures of the Guest House taken the morning after. I swear to you, at night, it did not look this rundown. It looked like a beacon of light and hope… probably because it was the only house with lights within a 200m radius…

*Travel Directions* 
To get to Oslob, we went to the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City. From there, numerous buses make the three hour trip towards “Bato-Oslob”. The two main bus companies (from what we can see) are Ceres and Sunrays, and buses depart every half hourly. Alternatively, get on a southbound bus towards Lilo-An, and just tell the driver you want to see the Butanding (whale shark) and he should be able to drop you off.

It’s also possible to get to Oslob from Dumaguete in Negros Occidental. Just take a ferry to Lilo-An and take the Cebu bound bus, dropping at Oslob along the way.

Insider tip: Try to get a seat on the left side of the bus if heading to Oslob from Cebu. You’ll be rewarded with a sea side view for most of the trip. Truly AWESOME… if you are not nodding off the whole way down.

Insider tip #2: The Guest House we stayed in was M8 Sunrise View. We were lucky to get a room, but if you want to call ahead to make a booking, you can give a call to Marilyn at: 09065869895 or 09335895736.

Next: A morning with the whaaaaale sharks

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