For some reason I felt the need to justify why I ended up swimming with whale sharks in Oslob, and my thoughts on it…
It’s been my dream to swim with whale sharks ever since I started diving 8 years ago. And then ever since someone told me how amazing the Philippines are and how you can swim with them there, it’s been the top thing on my bucket list for 3 years.
However, when I finally booked my flights to the Philippines and I dug a little deeper into whale shark tourism I was very disappointed and disheartened. I read so many articles and blog posts on how Oslob fishermen are baiting in the whale sharks by feeding them, ensuring that there are always plenty of whale sharks for tourists to swim with. There’s plenty of research on how the imported krill used to feed the creatures does not contain the proper nutrients and can lead to long-term undernourishment. And then there’s the issue of messing with the whale sharks natural feeding patterns and behaviour which may have long-term negative impacts.
Just have a google if you want to read up on any of it.
So after reading all of this I had decided I didn’t want to support an industry that is potentially exploiting the whale sharks to fulfil a profit motive. I do however believe that it is nowhere near as bad as other exploitative practices such as riding elephants or the Tiger Temple in Thailand or lion cub volunteering (aka canned hunting).
I then read about Donsol’s Eco Tour which sounds like a more ethical way of swimming with the whale sharks. So my dream of seeing them in the Philippines was still a possibility. However, realistically it is difficult and expensive to get to Donsol and the Mayon active volcano meant that there weren’t many recent sightings. Also the feeding in Oslob has attracted many of the whale sharks away from Donsol. So I gave up on that idea as I didn’t want to drag my friend all the way to Donsol if there wasn’t a high chance of seeing them.
But then, after I decided against it completely, a tropical storm left us stuck in Oslob with nothing to do. After a long battle with my conscience, I figured that I might as well partake in the only activity in Oslob and decided to scuba dive instead of snorkel with them. If you need any persuasion as to why snorkelling with them is unadvised, watch any of the countless videos on YouTube of tourists overcrowding the creatures. It looks so hectic and stressful for both tourists and whale sharks.
While I didn’t see how bad and overcrowded it got on the surface I heard about many different people’s bad experiences. They recounted that the poor visibility means people jump into the water basically on top of the creatures and get too close to them in order to get a good selfie.
However from below the surface it was a completely different experience and was absolutely incredible and peaceful to dive with so many of them. I dived with Deep Zone Divers and the owner is incredible and was super helpful and made the dive experience even better. Also there are lots of rules about distances you need to maintain, no flash cameras and not wearing sun cream that pollutes the water so this was better than I expected.
So… basically it was an incredible experience but I would not recommend doing it in Oslob. Donsol is probably a better experience, but seeing them completely in the wild would be incredible. I hear if you’re lucky you can see whale sharks in Indonesia or Ningaloo in Western Australia!
- I may not have experienced how bad Oslob can get because there had recently been a typhoon and many tours had been cancelled, so it may be far worse than I saw.