Whale Shark "Butanding" Crazy Experience

Swimming-with- Whale-Shark-Butanding-Cebu-Philippines

Whale Shark "Butanding" Crazy Experience

My Butanding experience was fascinating and bizarre.  I've never been a huge fan of marine animals, especially large fish.  I have the courage to go snorkeling and find Nemo and swim with all those other colorful marine lives as they nibble my skin, but that's about it.  Never in my wildest dreams would I hope for a whale shark to be lurking below me or swim even a few inches away from me.  This was one of those crazy summers I had where I'd be telling the story over and over again for the rest of my life. Let's go!

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Travel Tips
  • For flights, Skyscanner is excellent for comparing the best airline deals.
  • For accommodations, our family trusts Booking.com for reasonable prices.

How to get there: 
Cebu City to Oslob (Updated 2019)

From the Mactan-Cebu International Airport:
You can take a cab to go to the South bus terminal.  The estimated fare is 250 PHP – 350 PHP, depending on traffic.  Or you can take it straight to Barangay ("Brgy" for short) Tan-awan in Oslob, but we try for the cheapest travel method, which is by bus. 

Alternatively, if you're familiar with Uber and/or Lyft, then you can download and use the mobile app, Grab, to book your transportation. 

Travel time from Airport to South Bus Terminal: 1 hour (depending on traffic)

From Cebu City:
Take a cab or jeepney to South Bus Terminal which is a few meters away from Elizabeth Mall.  The terminal is clean and organized.  Buy your ticket at the counter and make sure to read the board signs placed in front of the windshield mirror before hopping inside the bus.

From the South bus terminal: take the Ceres Bus
Buses Operate from 1 AM – 9 PM 

Bus Fare: 150 PHP – 180 PHP 
Bus Route: Bato via Liloan to Oslob 
Drop-Off: Brgy. Tan-awan in Oslob 
Travel Time (bus/private car): 3-4 hours

Prices may have changed.  

Another alternative if you're around these two towns:

From Bato to Oslob:
Bus Fare: 40 PHP – 60 PHP
Travel Time: 20 – 30 minutes  

From Moalboal to Oslob: 
Bus Fare: 100 PHP – 150 PHP
Travel Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes – 2 hours (1 hour+ to the town of Bato plus another 20 minutes) 

Power outlets: are commonly type A, with standard voltage 220 V and frequency 60 Hz.  Be sure to bring a universal plug adapter!
Money matters:  We recommend getting your currency exchanged via Western Union (WU) since you'll get a better rate than at the airport.  You can send your travel budget to yourself and pick up the exchanged amount at the local WU.
Convenient phone apps:  Grab for transportation.

Survival Terms
CR is the term for the toilet
Salamat means "thank you"

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Planning your travel is crucial, and using a Travel Planner can make the process much easier. Whether you are planning a short weekend getaway or a long-term travel adventure, a travel planner can help you stay organized and make the most of your trip.

Crossing Off an Item from the Bucket List!

My friend just came from abroad for a vacation; she'd been asking me for so long for her Butanding Bonanza and I couldn't help but say yes to adventure.  I was extremely fearful of this trip but also excited to add this to my checklist.

The wooden boat was weak and vulnerable to any predators.  The boatman paddled until we were about 24 feet deep and our 30-minute timer started.  We were hesitant to leave the boat; only 3 of us paid to snorkel with the whale sharks while the others stayed safe watching the whale sharks swim around us.  It took great courage to touch the water with my toes especially when I saw the whale shark's famous triangle fin making its way to our boat.  I made sure it was far away from the boat when I plunged into the water — I was that scared. 

Can you tell me where I am?

I was clinging to the side of the boat like it was the last piece of land on Earth (one look at that picture and surely you can guess where I am)!

The whale shark was fed by the fishermen, their mouths like vacuum cleaners taking all that was fed to them.  They passed by our boat and we started screaming.  During orientation, they said we were supposed to maintain a 4-meter distance away.  But then they were so freakin' close to us like you could almost touch them.  We were also advised to avoid moving our feet to keep the water free from bubbles as it would be mistaken as food by the whale shark — perfect!

There was a moment when I felt it was already at my back and that was way more frightening compared to when it was just beneath us.  My friends felt chills in their spine and we immediately jumped — or more like flew — right back onto the boat for safety.  It was crazy and I was surprised to find myself laughing like a lunatic.  The guys knew about our situation and started feeding the whale sharks more.  They were teasing us like kids and even fed them more to stay alongside our boat.  We were surrounded by more than three whale sharks.  I couldn't hide the huge smile — or fear! — from my face even when I tried to see the whale shark go underwater again and again. 

They were breathtakingly gigantic.  It was my first time to see such enormous marine creatures and I couldn't believe what I was missing all this time as I clung to the boat.  We didn't get a chance to get good shots with the Butanding as I refused to bring my camera with me.  The underwater camera rental was not available during that time.  A great thing our new friends were kind enough to share their pictures of our backs  Better than nothing.  I guess their camera was set up at the wrong time.  Anyway, I was deeply thankful for the pictures; shout-out to the German gentleman and his Filipina wife.  They've been living in Germany for so long and took a one-month vacation in the Philippines, along with two of their outgoing relatives.  These people were really kind and they showed sweet concern for us.  We were like their kids who had gone wild and they had to keep an eye on us all the time.

(All pictures with the Wrong Time Frame are from our friendly companions, thank you for sharing the pictures with us.)

Snorkeling with whale sharks was an experience of a lifetime; it's a must-try!  I can't guarantee it's safe because we never know what these gentle giants might be thinking at any time.  As long as we follow the guidelines and continue respecting the ocean, that should send a good signal to the Butanding to not take a bite on you.  I hope nothing will pose a threat to these whale sharks as that will provoke them to change.

Back to the City or Sidetrip

Two options:
1. If you're in a hurry or need to catch your flight or a boat ride then better get back to the city early as the traffic is unpredictable.  Just wait for the Ceres Bus to pass by the road and make sure before hopping in it that it has the sign going back to Cebu City. 

2. Check out Tumalog Waterfalls.  There are parked motorcycles near the briefing area.  These guys will take you to the Tumalog Falls. Entrance Fee: 20 PHP 

If you still have ample time then you can drop by Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion Church, one of the oldest churches in Cebu.

Explore more:
Have fun and be safe  ^__^

Do you want more adventure?
If you still have one more day to spare why not go to Sumilon Island and have a relaxing weekend by the beach.

Where am I going next?
My next adventure is to check out a UNESCO World Heritage, The Chocolate Hills of Bohol.


  1. Hi! May ask if when did you go to oslob? a friend of mine said whale watching in cebu is banned now a days? is it true? I am planning to go there this April.. thanks -mia

    1. Hello there, I've been there last month February 2013. As what I've seen there the management is open for whale watching. Be reminded of their schedule, from 8am-1pm only for the said activity. If you want the best experience be there before 8am when only a few tourist have arrived. Have fun! and don't forget to bring your own googles for hygienic purposes. ^__^

    2. it's still open, my cousin just got back from their family vacation at Dumaguete and he drove his family there. We saw the videos just last night. will be going there next weekend for sure!

    3. It's true the activity is still available. However, they are issues going on about shutting down the operation. Some organizations believe this kind of activity is not good for the whales.

      On the other hand, it was such an amazing experience and I hope you can visit the place before its closed down.

  2. Replies
    1. Try mo din yan pgmy time ka.. Cheers ulit!

  3. HI,
    We are gong to be there this month (June 2014) to experience the gigantic water creature, may we know if you have any contacts (local people in Oslob) you can share to us, to whom we can rent an underwater camera. Thank you so much in advance. God bless.

    1. Hello Dean,

      Last time I check I think they have available cameras there for rent. Prices are as follows: Waterproof Camera Rent: 500 php (without memory card) 550 php (with memory card).

      Make sure to be there as early 6am ,less crowded. Enjoy your trip!

    2. Thank you so much. God bless.

    3. It's my pleasure Dean. Godbless too. Safe trip for you guys!

  4. Hi,
    Question po... how about lunch? are there nearby restaurant/canteen po? and how far is it going to Tumalog Falls?
    Thank you.


    1. Hello Mai,

      The last time I was there no restaurants nearby, only local eateries or our so-called "carinderias" , and they're just situated inside the area.

      The travel time going to the falls is aprroximately 15-20 minutes by van/motorbike.

      Have a safe trip. Enjoy!

  5. Hi great blog! How about for the transportation from oslob going back to cebu city proper? Thanks!

    1. Hello Lily,

      There are a lot of buses heading to the city in the area. You can take the Ceres airconditioned buses for comfort and safety.

      Thanks for dropping by.

      Enjoy your trip! 😆