A Morning with the Butandings

IMG_7827A spur of the moment seat sale booking led me and my friends to Cebu the week after my Singapore trip. As we only had a 3-day trip, we made sure to include Oslob on the list. This is something I never thought I’d do, as I cannot swim to save my life. I’m glad I did though as it was one for the books.

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We headed to Oslob via bus at half past three in the afternoon of the day before. As expected, we had experienced traffic on the way and the trip took about four hours. At Php 155/person/way though, I’d take the bus anytime. We had booked a room at Seafari Resort, which was right along the highway. We had the bus driver drop us at the hotel, and a lot of staircases later (maybe about 200 steps down) we were finally headed for a late dinner by the beach. The resort was lovely. It had a couple of swimming pools which were open for night swimming, and also a jacuzzi. It was a bit pricey though, our non-airconditioned room cost us about Php 3,800 for three people but it did have free breakfast, and amenities that could make your stay quite relaxing. It was too bad that we could only stay a night there. The following day we were scheduled for the whale shark watching activity at 6:30 am. We headed there via paddleboat provided by our hotel. We chose the Swim with the Whale Sharks package which costs Php 500/person for 30 minutes. There are also other options such as only staying on the boat to watch, for Php 300. Another package also included documentation of your experience with their underwater cameras.

The Butandings are usually in the area in the morning. The fisherfolk lure them near the shore by feeding them krill (small fish). I know this is a means of diverting the natural biodiversity, in such that they are already dependent on the fisherfolk for food, and no longer hunting on their own. But it is also a means of livelihood for the people of Oslob, so it’s a little difficult to weigh in on the situation. They don’t bring any harm to the animals, but on a much larger picture, this tourist-generating activity is also not restoring the natural balance needed in the oceans.

The experience was a combination of a lot of sensations – fear, excitement, being in awe. The Butandings or Whale Sharks are really gentle giants. When you see how massive they are up close, you really get a sense of how small you are in the world, and yet still have the power to effect change and save these beautiful creatures. I don’t even think there are words enough to describe the feeling you have when you watch them swim by, the serenity of it all.

Let me just say, all hats off to people who are able to take nice photos while submerged! Mine were super funny, so I won’t be including them here if you don’t mind. I really hope I can do this again, so if ever another trip like this presents itself, I really wouldn’t hesitate.

*Special shoutouts go to my girl friends Sopfia (in white) and Johanna (in black) for this trip, and Johanna for the photos as well! Your GoPro is the bestest!*

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