Do not open your mouth and swallow a drop of sea water while whale shark watching. Unnecessary advise, sure. But don’t say you’ve not been warned. Plankton is crispy chickenlicious to butandings (or saucisson, sushi, kimchi, kebab, tajine – whichever food you fancy), diarrhea to human beings.
Oslob is incredibly famous for Whale Sharks interaction. I knew it was known but didn’t realize how famous it was until we arrived in Oslob and saw nothing but order. In the Philippines, any sign of order is something. Good or bad would depend on your birth sign’s compatibility with the planetary alignment of the day. Good luck!
Our group of 7 and a cute little French boy rented a van that took us from Dumaguete to the tip of Cebu Island facing Negros Oriental. It takes less than two hours of travel. Van picked us up at the hostel, went to the pier and got inside a lancha or ferry, we arrived in the municipality of Santander, van got off the ferry and we rode for another 15 minutes to get to Oslob. Nothing crazy and difficult and wild. Since it was everyone’s first time to be in Oslob, we only knew of our arrival when the driver told us we’ve arrived at our destination. The group got out of the van and went to a classroom desk-turned-makeshift cashier with three ladies behind the counter. I wanted to argue why foreigners need to pay higher than locals but who am I kidding right? This is an organized local government + national tourism operations. Thus, begin our encounter with the great whale of the east, ze butanding! To sum up:
Step 1: Pay.
Step 2: Ride a bangka.
Step 3: Put on life jacket and be oriented on the damage we pesky humans can cause (if not already causing) the butandings. Example, you cannot put on sunscreen, you will poison the whale sharks!
Step 4: Ride a bangka to reach 5 meters away from the shore.
Step 5: Swim with the butandings.
The butandings are fed by the kuya (bangka driver). He drops the plankton to attract the butandings, you wait for it to come. And the butanding appears bigger and bigger in sight then disappears swiftly, vacuuming plankton dropped from one bangka to another. So, you hurriedly take photos of yourself with it, and before you know it your mouth is open in awe at the sight of this immense creature who could potentially vacuum you inside its humongous mouth and body. Next thing you know, you’re desperately knocking on the rib cage of the butanding, shouting at the top of your lungs for somebody to help you out! Not a sound! You chuckle and choke, and a wave of plankton carries you in a dizzying swirl and you are awaken by the tap of an abs-filled fisherman by the shore. Fantasy aside, butandings are huge! And amazing! And incredible!
Enjoy the marvel of it all with mouths closed. See top photo for proper whale shark ogling underwater. Comprenez-vous?
Before another round of feeding, the kuya will warn you to get your selfie smiles ready. Then another round of feeding that goes on for 15 minutes top. I know what you’re thinking. But the trip is still worth taking. See photos below.