Swimming with Whale Sharks in the Philippines

Jeff Gill


Swimming with Whale Sharks

There’s been some mixed press about what should be a truly astonishing experience for anyone with a love of adventure. Just off the coast of Oslob, in the Philippines, visitors have the opportunity to swim with one of the oceans most majestic inhabitants, the whale shark. Whilst we acknowledge that for some the influx of tourists can been seen as negative, for the local people it provides a vital source of income, and managed carefully, there’s no reason why this can’t continue to be an incredible experience for everyone.


The Whale Shark is a slow moving, filter feeding carpet shark, and the largest known extant fish species. It lives in tropical oceans, and is rarely found in water below 21 degrees centigrade (70F). The largest known specimen was recorded as being over 41ft in length and weighing over 21 tonnes (47,000 lbs). They feed almost exclusively on plankton, and are not known to pose any threat to humans.


Oslob is a small town, of some 28,000 inhabitants, which is on the island of Cebu in the Philippines. The easiest way to get to Oslob from Australia, is either through a direct flight from Sydney to Cebu (with Cebu Pacific) or via Manila (which has direct flights from Australia with Philippine Airlines and Qantas). Once in Manila, there are regular connections to Cebu.

From Cebu City Airport, you can either catch a bus, or private taxi to Oslob via Brgy. The trip takes about 3 hours. A bus will only cost you PHP 155 (a taxi somewhere between PHP 1,500 and PHP 2,000).

Once in Oslob there are plenty of cost effective accommodation options.

Whale Shark Watching

The primary reason tourists visit Oslob is to swim with the breathtaking Whale Sharks. It is one of the few destinations in World where this is possible. Upon arriving at the Whale Watching Briefing Station, you’ll be asked to register, pay the fees and attend a short briefing on the do’s and don’ts for whale shark watching.

Excursion Fees

As at the end of 2017, for foreign tourists to snorkel with the Whale Sharks it cost PHP 1,000 (which is about A$26). This covers taking you out to the sharks (in a small canoe) and providing equipment (including a life jacket)

The Shark swimming area is only some 20 or 30 metres out from the shore, and the Sharks are kept close by locals who provide them with food. Your provides you with approximately 30 minutes amongst the sharks.

The Whale Shark watching is available daily from 6am until 12pm only. 

Why the mixed press?

Whilst swimming with the World’s largest fish is an amazing experience, sadly the popularity of Oslob’s sharks has meant that crowding has become a problem. Also, whilst there are warnings about not touching the sharks, tourists often ignore these requests.

Alternate places to see Whale Sharks

Oslob isn’t the only place to see Whale Sharks in the Philippines

For those who believe Oslob has become too commercial (and the experience somewhat manufactured), there is a more authentic experience available. Donsol, in the Province of Sorsogon is also home to Whale Sharks.

Getting to Donsol is best done via Manila. As mentioned earlier in the blog, there are direct flights from Australia to Manila, from where visitors would then catch a connecting flight to Legaspi (50 minutes). From Legasip its a 90 minute bus trip to the town of Donsol. A Public Bus will cost you PHP 60 and a Private Bus PHP 1750.

It is possible to drive from Manila to Donsol, however it’s a 10 to 12 hour trip and probably not the preferred option for visitors.

The difference with Donsol is that you charter a boat and go much further out into the ocean to find the sharks. But once found, they are truly out in the wild and free of other ‘pesky’ tourists. You also get unlimited time to spend with the sharks. For many it’s easy to see why this would be the preferred whale shark experience.

If you’d like to keep regularly updated on all matters South East Asia, please visit our facebook page ‘Retire to Asia Community Group’ and join us, scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe to our news letter.

If you’d like more information or have any questions, please feel free to call 1800-961-377 or email in**@re**********.au and let the team at Retire to Asia help make your dream lifestyle a reality.

Andrew Leeson

Jeff Gill

With 25 years of travel experience to 73+ countries including SE Asia, Jeff now enjoys helping others retire there. He invites you to experience the people, culture, food and amazing landscapes of the SE Asia region for yourselves.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cookie Settings

‘Retire to Asia values your privacy. Our website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Please refer to our privacy policy and terms and conditions for more information’.