I was trying to catch a glimpse of the whale sharks in Barangay Tan-awan in Oslob (Image: Writer)
I have the same reason as with many other tourists for my trip down south—I wanted to immerse myself in the whale shark experience.
Together with a group of friends, I set off for the south at the crack of dawn. Since it was still dark outside, most of us tried to catch some sleep during the trip.
Arriving at around 8:00 AM, our group disembarked from the van and stretched our legs. While waiting for the briefing session to start, a requirement before we start the activity, I took some photos of the beach and the boats carrying tourists who went ahead of us. Then my camera died. In my excitement the night before, I forgot to charge the batteries of my camera. So, remember: charge the batteries of your camera before you go on a trip to Oslob!
Before we got on the boats to have an up-close and personal encounter with the whale sharks, we had to go through an orientation on the whale shark interaction guidelines. The guidelines indicated activities that visitors can and cannot do during the interaction, along with the penalties in case the rules were violated. At the end of the orientation, lifejackets were provided to each member of the group and we were assigned a boat. Since we were a large group, some of us had to join another group on a second boat.
A close interaction with the whale shark (Image: Rita Vamps)
As we moved closer to the whale shark interaction area, everybody was getting more and more excited. When we reached the area, I could see two to three whale sharks swimming close to our boat. Some members of our group took off their life jackets as they prepared to go into the water. While I opted to watch the whale sharks from the boat, the experience was still surreal, especially after one of the gentle giants swam under our boat. I felt like Jonah waiting to be swallowed by a whale.
The gentle giant of the sea
With all the negative publicity about the activity, it was good to know that the rules are now being implemented consistently. The boatman said the implementation of the rules have become more consistent since the activity has become their main source of livelihood. He said they can take home around PhP500 to PhP1,000 every day depending on the number of tourists participating in the activity.