Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Oslob

Swimming with the Whale Sharks in Oslob is one of the most popular things to do in the Philippines. Tourists from near and far flock to this once quiet little fishing town in Cebu to get a once-in-a-lifetime experience, swimming and taking pictures with the biggest fish in the ocean. Trust me, they’re definitely a sight to see.

For those of you who don’t know a lot about Whale Sharks, they are actually the largest species of fish, and believe it or not they aren’t part of the shark family, contrary to their name. They vary in size greatly, with some growing up to 12 meters long (40 feet) and weighing as much as 20 tonnes. Regardless of their massive size, they shouldn’t scare you at all, because they are best known as the gentle underwater giants. They feed mostly on plankton and are not known to pose any kind of threat to humans. Swimming with these amazing giants was such a special experience as it was top of my bucket list for the Philippines so I was eager and excited to tick it off the list.

How to get to Oslob, Cebu for Whale Shark watching

  • From Cebu City to Oslob

Multiple airlines service Cebu City including, Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and Airasia along with some international airlines like Emirates. Once you’ve arrived in Cebu City make your way to the South Bus Terminal and ride a Ceres bus going to Bato via Liloan. There should be plenty of signs for Whale Shark watching/Oslob, so it should be easy to find. When paying the conductor ask to be dropped off at Tan-awan in Oslob. This small town is about 10 mins past Oslob and it’s where you’ll see the whalesharks. The bus journey takes roughly 3 hours but can vary depending on traffic, especially around Cebu City. The bus with air-con costs about 155 PhP and the ones we got mostly had tv’s on them playing movies.

  • From Alona Beach to Oslob

An unconventional route but one that we took. We organised a boat to take us one way from Alona Beach to Oslob which cost 650 PhP per person. We booked this through Seashine Travel, but I’d imagine lots of tour operators offer this service. We were due to leave at 6am but like everything in Southeast Asia things rarely operate on time. By the time we set sail for Oslob it was 7am and around two hours later we arrived at our destination. It was an early start to the day but, considering we cut out travelling back to Tagbilaran Port, a ferry to Cebu City and a bus to Oslob it was definitely worth it.

  • From Dumaguete to Oslob

This isn’t a route we personally took but it was one that I had looked into, so I’ve some information on it. At the Dumaguete City Public Market, look for the multi-cabs going to Sibulan Port. From there you’ll need to pay for the ferry to Liloan. At Liloan Port, jump on a Ceres bus with signs for Cebu City and like above ask the bus conductor to drop you off at Tan-awan for the Whale Sharks.

Once you arrive in Tan-awan make sure you walk back up to the briefing centre and don’t go into one of the resorts as many of the bus staff and people on the street will direct you to. These resorts will charge you extra money to store your belongings and to bring you to the briefing centre when you can just go there yourself.

Cebu 2

Fees & Times

The Whale Shark Briefing Centre opens from 6am till 12pm (noon), and my advice if you decide to go there, is to arrive as early as possible as by 9 o’clock the crowds get very large.

**Tip, once 12pm hits you are allowed to swim out to the area where the Whale Sharks usually are yourself and you can swim with them for free as they tend to hang around. This was a tip we only found out afterwards though.**

Once at the centre there are 4 stations you need to go to:

(1) the registration (2) the briefing area (3) payment (4) handing in your payment docket

Once this is done you will be given a number and will be called to see the Whale Sharks.

In this time you can, change into your swimwear if needs be or store your belongings in nearby lockers, which a nearby shop provides for 20 PhP.

There are a few different options when it comes to seeing the Whale Sharks and the prices are quite different depending on whether you’re a local or a foreigner, with the latter being charged more.

  • Watching (duration 30 mins)
    • Local Guest – 300 PhP
    • Foreign Guest – 500 PhP
  • Snorkeling (duration 30 mins – includes snorkeling equipment)
    • Local Guest – 500 PhP
    • Foreign Guest – 1000 PhP
  • Scuba Diving (duration 60 mins – doesn’t include diving equipment)
    • Local Guest – 600 PhP
    • Foreign Guest – 1500 PhP

Cebu 3

Our Whale Shark Experience

We were staying about 20 km from Tan-awan, where the Whale Sharks are, so we caught a local bus and arrived at the briefing centre at around 7am. To our surprise the beach was already packed with tourists and we could see about 15-20 small boats in the water with more.

After having our orientation about the rules and what not to do when swimming with the Whale Sharks; like not touching them, keeping a safe distance, not wearing creams or oils etc., we jumped in our small boat and were rowed out to the area where the Whale Sharks are. To our surprise, we only went about 20 meters away from the beach.

While on the boat, you can already see a couple of Whale Sharks swimming, while others pop up their massive heads to be fed by the fishermen. To our amazement the Whale Sharks were bigger than our boat. When we reached the other boats we jumped in and had our first close up encounter with these gentle giants.  

A few minutes had passed and we braved swimming away from our boat to get a closer glimpse, but as soon as this happened a HUGE Whale Shark started swimming our way. Our initial reaction was panic and “oh my god it’s going to eat us”, to just pure awe and excitement to be in the presence of these magnificent animals as they swam so slowly and peacefully past us as if we didn’t exist.

We spent about 30 minutes in the water and swam with at least 10 or more separate Whale Sharks of all different sizes. Some of them got really close, but not intentionally. We constantly found ourselves swimming away from them to ensure we didn’t touch them by mistake. At one point however, we found ourselves trapped between two Whale Sharks, in what was such a surreal experience.

Reaction

However amazing the experience was getting close to these magnificent creatures, the sheer amount of tourists and the fact that the migration pattern of these animals are disrupted because of the fishermen feeding them for tourism purposes, is quite disturbing. Although there are plenty of warnings and even mentions of fines for not following the rules, there seems to be no control or regulation over how many tourists are allowed in the water and the actions they take.

Throughout our time in the water, many other tourists swam into both us and the Whale Sharks looking for that perfect selfie. As a result, the Whale Sharks get kicked accidentally by tourists who are unaware of them being around them.

As much as I enjoyed swimming with these beautiful creatures, I still had mixed emotions after. Part of me says I shouldn’t have done it in Oslob, but at the same time, the experience was so unbelievable to get to swim with them. If you get a chance to swim with these beautiful animals in their natural environment, then 100% do. If you can, I’d advise you do whale watching in Donsol where the Whale Sharks are not fed to stay and can go on their natural life cycle.

The Whale Shark tourism in Donsol, is a more responsible practice in comparison to Oslob and a much better alternative. In fact, it’s even supported by the World Wildlife Fund. In Donsol, Whale Sharks are not fed by the locals. Whale Shark watching in Donsol is a natural seasonal activity based on the animals’ natural migration pattern. Tourists are accompanied by spotters and guides to see the Whale Sharks in the wild. The best time to go in Donsol is from February to April.

 

Exploring Paradise at Nacpan Beach

Exploring Paradise at Nacpan Beach

There is one piece of paradise you don’t want to miss in your life and that’s, El Nido, Palawan and its surroundings. The island of Palawan has been named multiple times as the most beautiful island in the world and trust me, they aren’t lying!

El Nido is most known for it’s epic island hopping tours, however, it’s definitely more than this. The surrounding beaches, towns and waterfalls are equally as impressive and shouldn’t be missed. If you make it to El Nido, one thing that should definitely make your list is a trip to the magnificent Nacpan Beach. Said to be the most beautiful beach around El Nido town. With Calitang Beach beside it, they are known as El Nido’s Twin Beaches.

Nacpan Beach3

How to get there

To get to Nacpan Beach you’ll need to either rent a scooter/motorbike, hire a tricycle or take an inland tour, otherwise known as El Nido Tour E. Located about 25 km north of El Nido it will take you from 45 minutes to 1 hour to get there. For the first 20 kms, the road is concrete and easy to travel, but the last 5 kms is a dirt road. This last stretch can be more troublesome especially if it’s been raining, so be careful if you are not an experienced driver.

  • By scooter/motorbike: There’s an abundance of scooters/motorbikes available around El Nido and you can rent them from pretty much any shop in El Nido. Pricing is very similar so you can’t go too wrong with your choice. We picked ours up from a place beside the Art Cafe and it only cost us 350 PhP for the day. Better still it only cost 85 PhP to refill the tank after a full day of driving which was about 50 km.
  • By tricycle: The price for 2 people is around 1,000 PhP. Your driver will wait for you for a few hours to explore, chill and enjoy Nacpan Beach.  Worth noting, this will not be a comfortable journey since the last part of the road is a dirt road and can be quite bumpy.
  • By inland tour (aka El Nido Tour E): If you take Tour E you will get to visit beaches and waterfalls including Nacpan Beach. Prices are around 750 PhP.

Nacpan Beach4

What to do there

Once you arrive at Nacpan beach you are charged 50 PhP each as an environmental fee to help preserve the beach. It’s worth it though, because the beach itself is amazing. It has the purest white sand and the clearest water. The best thing about this beach though is the fact that it’s empty.  

The first thing you’ll probably want to do when you arrive is to chill out, relax and enjoy this slice of paradise. Pick a spot on this 4 km long beach and take it all in.

On the beach you can rent sun beds with umbrellas, cabana like huts or just take some shade under the many palm trees. Also on the beach is two small restaurants serving food and drinks.

If you are in any way adventurous or love a good view there is a hill at the end of the beach that you can climb.  It offers great views of the twin beaches Calitang Beach & Nacpan Beach and into the distance. It’s tough walking/hiking/climbing up in the heat, but trust me it’s worth it.

Once you’ve descended back down you’ll definitely feel like cooling off with a dip in the crystal clear water, so make sure not to forget your swimsuit too.  

To finish off the day, chill at the restaurants, have a cold drink, some food and take in the last of your paradise.

Nacpan Beach

 

Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan

Island Hopping in El Nido, Palawan

El Nido on Palawan deservedly belongs on the list alongside the most stunning places in the world. The Philippines is a country made up of over 7,000 islands, of which over 1,700 of these belong to and surround the province of Palawan. Therefore, a must-do while you’re there is, to take an El Nido Island Hopping Tour. An Island hopping tour in El Nido, will definitely be one of the biggest highlights on your trip, as it was with us.

Island Hopping El Nido

There are 4 tours, very simply called tour A, B, C & D. Every Island hopping tour starts in El Nido and brings you to several little paradises. The tours include an incredible BBQ lunch, drinking water and most companies will provide you with a snorkel and mask. The tours usually leave El Nido at around 9 am and return around 4 pm, times can vary though.

*Tip, Tour A and Tour C are by far the most popular tours. We’ll explain a little about each and give a recommendation too to help.

El Nido2.jpg

El Nido Tour A – Lagoons and Beaches

On tour A you will be taken to Small Lagoon, Big Lagoon, Secret Lagoon, Shimizu Island and 7-Commando Beach. There’s also time to go snorkelling and kayaking too. The price for Tour A is 1200 PhP/Pax.

El Nido Tour B – Caves and Coves

On tour B you will be taken to Snake Island, Pinagbuyutan Island, Entalula Beach, the Cudugnon Cave and to a Snorkeling Site. The price for Tour B is 1300 PhP/Pax.

El Nido Tour C – Hidden Beaches and Shrines

On tour C you will be taken to Helicopter Island, Matinloc Shrine, Secret Beach, Star Beach and Hidden Beach. This tour is predominantly based around snorkelling. The price for Tour C is 1400 PhP/Pax.

El Nido Tour D – Island Beaches

On tour D you will be taken to Ipil Beach, Cadlao Lagoon, Paradise Beach, Pasandigan Beach, Natnat Beach and Bukal Beach. Again there is time for snorkelling and apparently has some of the best spots. The price for Tour D is 1200 PhP/Pax.

*Recommendation Tip, if you only have time to do one island hopping tour I would suggest the following:

 

  • If you want to see amazing picturesque scenery I would suggest Tour A. This tour focuses more on lagoons and beaches. However you also have an opportunity to snorkel, swim and kayak on this tour.
  • If you prefer snorkelling I would highly suggest doing Tour C. This tour focuses more on snorkeling and beaches.
  • If you are short on time or aren’t sure what tour to pick, you can actually combine aspects of all the tours into one trip instead.  

El Nido Map

 

Where to book a tour in El Nido, Palawan

You can book a tour literally anywhere in El Nido town. Every second shop or stall will be selling the tours. Alternatively, ask your hotel/hostel to do it for you or book online. One thing to note, every tour company charges the same prices for the tours so don’t waste time shopping around.

El Nido IHT.jpg

What to bring while Island Hopping in El Nido?

You should bring swim attire, a towel, booties or sandals (at some locations you have to pass a lot of sharp corals, which are not pleasant if you stand on them), suncream, and of course, don’t forget your camera (or cameras if your like us) to capture your unbelievable island hopping tour. 

El Nido IHT2.jpg

El Nido weather

A really important thing to note is, the El Nido tours are really dependent on the weather. If the conditions are too rough the tours can be cancelled, so make sure you check the weather before booking a tour. You can usually book your trip the night before or even on the day depending on the season.

Still unsure which tour you want to do? Check out the videos of Tours A & C below.

We hope you enjoy Island Hopping in El Nido as much as we did.

Zip-line Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan

Zip-line Island hopping in El Nido, Palawan

Ever been zip-lining? Ever gone on a zip-line over water and to another island? Well in El Nido you can do this. At Las Cabanas Beach there’s a 750-meter long zip line that allows you to island hop between El Nido an island called Depeldet.

Prices for the zip-line vary from 500 to 1,100 PhP. It all depends on the amount of trips you want to do and the way you want to be seated. These are the options:

  • Sitting position – One way – 500 PhP
  • Sitting position – Return – 900 PhP
  • Superman position – One way – 700 PhP
  • Superman position – Return – 1100 PhP
  • Combination of both positions – Return – 1000 PhP

The views from the zipline are amazing and it’s definitely a great experience not to miss. We recommend to do a one-way trip and walk back since the water between the islands is shallow and you’re surrounded by beautiful scenery.

Want to know more about El Nido? Read our El Nido guide

El Nido ZipLine

How to get to the El Nido Zip line?

There are a few ways to get there. If you’ve rented a scooter simply drive out of the town and look for the signs for Las Cabanas beach. It’s about 15 mins/5km from the town proper. Alternatively, you can take a jeepney or a tricycle there too, it won’t be that expensive or take too long. From the beach, there’s a small hike up to the top of the hill.

In our opinion, we think it’s best to go just before sunset or when the tide is in. It offers the best views. Afterwards grab a seat and a drink and enjoy the sunset on Las Cabanas beach. There’s also a great viewpoint on the way back to El Nido town that’s worth a stop.

 

Everything you need to know about El Nido, The Philippines

Everything you need to know about El Nido, The Philippines

El Nido, Palawan is just one of the many islands in the Philippines, there’s actually over 7,000 to be more precise. It’s quite literally one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever seen. El Nido town itself isn’t very impressive, but the thing that’s breathtaking, is its surroundings and the stunning views around it. Palawan has been voted the No.1 most beautiful island in the world, several times and it’s easy to see why. Below are some of our favourite things to do in El Nido.

Things to know before going to El Nido.

  • The town is known for having several power outages during the day. If you’re out and about during the day it won’t really impact you. That being said take precautions and charge your electronics at night to avoid disappointment.
  • Contrary to some posts you see online, there are actually two ATM’s in the town. However, they can run out, so bring enough money just incase. One is located beside the church and post office and the other is beside the accommodation, Ipsil suites, Abads and the hostel Austria.
  • Quick or even great working WiFi isn’t a typical thing in El Nido. So if you rely on the internet for work or other purposes then prepare yourself for the worst. The Art Cafe was probably the best spot we came across.

Things to do in El Nido

Although it’s a small town there’s still a lot to do. These are our El Nido must do’s based on what we did and also some other things which were recommended but never got time to do.

  • If you only have time to do one thing, then make sure you take one of the famous A, B, C or D, El Nido Island Hopping tours and explore the many beautiful islands that surround El Nido. These tours were definitely one of the biggest highlights on our trip to the Philippines, so make sure you don’t miss out.
  • Read more about: El Nido Island Hopping Tours
  • Visit the white sand and clear water of Nacpan Beach. Rent a scooter or get a tricycle for the day and drive the 25 km north to reach this untapped gem.
  • Ever been zip-lining? Ever gone on a zip-line over water and to another island? Well in El Nido you can do this. At Las Cabanas Beach there’s a 750-meter long zip line that connects two islands. Read more: Zipline in El Nido
  • Watch the sunset from Las Cabanas Beach.
  • Rent a Kayak and explore some of the nearby islands yourself.

El Nido Kayak

  • Climb up Taraw Cliff for spectacular views of El Nido and the surrounding islands. *As far as I know you can no longer climb to the very top. This was due to safety issues. Instead they’ve created a lookout point about halfway up and provide you with safety harness and helmets.

Best time to visit El Nido

According to many online sources, the best time to visit El Nido is around December to March. This is the dry season, so the weather tends to be drier and warmer and it avoids the peak of the tourist high season, which is usually in April and May. Although you’ll have better weather you’ll also have an increase in accommodation prices. That being said, we were there in July and the weather was still great, of course you just need some luck on your side.

Where to eat/drink in El Nido

We were only in El Nido for three proper nights so didn’t get to try too many places to eat, but below were the places we went to. There are lots of options in the town and I can only assume that more places have opened since we were there in 2016. Check out TripAdvisor to see what’s best or just have a wander around.

  • Art Cafe. Great mix of everything and great fruit shakes too. Also had lots of gluten free dishes.
  • Check out the fresh BBQ’s on the beach. There’s so many different types of fish, prawns, crab, oysters and different meats on offer.
  • For the night time make sure you check out the beach Bars, Pukka bar, Coco bar, Rasta Bar and SAVA beach bar. Most run cheap happy hours so check them out after a long day island hopping. 

How to get to El Nido? 

There are several ways of getting to El Nido. The cheapest and most popular way is a flight from Manila or Cebu to Puerto Princesa, the capital city of Palawan. Once you land you can take either a bus or minivan up north. The journey can take anywhere from 5-7 hours to get there and prices start from 350 PhP to 500 PhP depending on what option you take. Alternatively, you can fly directly to El Nido from Manila or Cebu with Air Swift. The flight is more costly, but if money isn’t a problem or time and comfort are important concerns then I’d strongly recommend forking out the extra money for it.

Where to stay in El Nido?

El Nido is a small town, you can bike through the whole village within 10 minutes. You can either stay inside or outside the town. There are three areas as such, the town proper, Corong-Corong and Caalan. All of which are close to the beach and island activities.  

There are many different types of accommodation ranging from High-end to low budget.