Butanding Watching, Is it Really More FUN in Oslob?

Read this First: Daily Mail UKJaws my friend! The touching relationship between a fisherman and a very sociable whale SHARK  | Shortlink of Article: http://oap.ph/OslobButandings

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I can’t believe we actually had a super close encounter with whale sharks (locally known as butanding) in Oslob in the South Eastern Coast of Cebu (3 hours away from the city)!

Our experience here’s better than in Donsol. In Oslob, the whale sharks congregate in one area near the beach where the fishermen feed them krill (small saltwater shrimps) every morning.

Also, they seem to act like pets of the fishermen and are now getting used to the presence of humans watching them everyday.

Unlike Donsol, there’s a higher chance you’ll see the giant creatures up close without the need to chase them.

Is Whale Watching in Oslob really more fun for the fishermen, the tourists, the whale sharks and Mother Earth?

Read on about our Whale Shark Encounter, and what we think of the issues surrounding the Butandings in Oslob… 

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It is advised to start early at 6 a.m. to beat the rush of tourist crowds.

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The best place to stay is Bluewater Sumilon, which is located on an island 30 minutes off the coast of Oslob, Cebu. We woke up really early, just had coffee and went straight out for Whale Shark Watching.

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The beaches of Oslob were relatively unheard of in the past years, but this summer 2012, it will be the hottest destination to watch the majestic whale sharks.

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The local municipality of Oslob started to organize the Whale Watching tours with makeshift tents selling breakfast and souvenir items.

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You have to register in the log book and pay P300 per head as per the Oslob Ordinance.

When the whale watching initially started, the fishermen directly benefited from it. But now, the Oslob Municipality wants to profit from it and just pay the fishermen a boat rental fee.

That’s not fair. The fishermen should be given credit and appropriate profit-sharing for developing this latest tourist attraction.

The Cebu Provincial Government wants to enter the picture as well. But why?

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The Oslob Municipality requires all tourists to undergo an orientation on the Whale Shark’s 10 Commandments.

Honestly, it’s one of the lousiest orientations I’ve ever attended. The orienter just basically read aloud the printout of the 10 Commandments. So, where does the P300 per head go?

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Whale Sharks are wild animals and should be treated with respect. Here are the engagement rules:

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It is easy to forget these rules when the sharks are up close and look quite gentle. Remember not to touch them and stay away from the tail fin!

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The fishermen use dugout canoes that they paddle manually to the sighting area. Each boat can handle 1-2 persons.

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You only have a 30-minute window to see the whale sharks to give everyone a chance to view them (with a ratio of 1 whale shark to 6 tourists). In Donsol, they don’t have a time limit but they are very strict about the whale shark-to-tourist ratio.

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It was a surreal experience for us — imagine encountering these whale sharks up close!

The only other place in the world that you can have the same type of encounter is in Papua.

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Only manually paddled boats are allowed since motorized boats could hurt these gentle giants.

Oslob Butandings by Vic-12.jpgThe butandings would often follow the fishermen who give them krill during their feeding time of 6am to 1pm daily.

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Some environmental conservationists argue that humans should not tamper with wildlife by feeding them, creating a co-dependent relationship with the animal.

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The whale sharks tend to bump into the boats as they go up to eat their krill breakfast.  Only the fishermen are allowed to feed them.

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But even if you can’t feed them, you get the chance to view the whale sharks like never before.

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Don’t forget to bring your snorkeling gear, fins, and underwater camera to capture unforgettable moments.

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Majority of the tourists can’t help but jump into the water, driven by their excitement to see the whale sharks up close. I guess keeping the 1 whale shark : 6 tourists ratio can be very challenging for the fishermen.

The total number of boats and tourists should be controlled at any given time.

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Again, remember not to touch them and stay away from the whiplash of the tail fin!

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Butandings look scary and cute at the same time underwater. Please respect these wild creatures.

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Getting back into the banca is an exercise in upper body strength. It makes a good early morning workout. 🙂

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Otherwise, you can just hang on to the tail end of the banca.

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It is best experienced with your loved one, your family or barkada.

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The Oslob Whale Shark Encounter is controversial because of its potential dangers and effects on the animals. Do we allow the fishermen to continually feed the whale sharks and make them dependent on these feeding sessions so that tourists can watch them each day?

We certainly need experts (WWF and marine biologists, among others) to intervene and analyze the sustainability and impact of this Fisherman-Whale Shark friendship.

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I must admit, though, that we had a lot of fun in our close encounter with the whale sharks. We were like kids again, jumping up and down, raving about the wondrous butanding experience.

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The Oslob Butandings urgently need expert help and the implementation of a Comprehensive Eco-Tourism Program. Tourist Whale Watching activities also need to be strictly controlled before the politicians (who just want to profit from it) and the volume of tourists this summer scare these majestic creatures away…

Whale Shark Watcher’s Organization
Mobile: +63 918 965-1673
Email: WhaleSharkWatchers@gmail.com

Related Articles: Jaws my friend! The touching relationship between a fisherman and a very sociable whale SHARK

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Live an Awesome Life,

Founder, www.OurAwesomePlanet.com
Contact me: a
nton@diaz.ph iphone

Full Disclosure: This is a personal trip hosted by Julie and Vic, Managing Partners of Bluewater Resorts, to showcase Cebu to their Manila-based friends.

P.S. What do you think of the Oslob Whale Sharks situation?


33 thoughts on “Butanding Watching, Is it Really More FUN in Oslob?

  1. I’m a scuba diving instructor and I have had close encounters with whale sharks. I find it very disturbing that, once again, humans are trying to alter the natural behavior of wild creatures for monetary benefit. But I’m sure that marine biologists and other experts have more to say about that.
    What I find doubly disturbing is the fact that the local and provincial governments are trying to force their grubby hands into the cookie jar. Just look at the ticket the municipality is issuing: “WHALE Watching”. They don’t even know that these animals are NOT whales! It gives me a deep sense of foreboding.

  2. I miss cebu! and cant wait to experience and have a close encounter with whale sharks, i havent experienced that in sorsogon :-(. Looking forward to a unique healing process with God’s great creation. thanks ANTON (our awesome planet) for your posts. Congratulations and More Power!!:-)

  3. From a layman’s point of view, feeding wild animals is never good in any situation, hence why there are signs all over any place there are wild monkeys stating “Do Not Feed.” In Hawaii, no one (snorkelers, etc) are allowed to feed the fish bread or anything and there is a large fine if one is caught doing so. BAD idea.

  4. It does seem like a one of a kind experience, however I have to agree that conditioning the animals to be dependent on being fed by humans will be detrimental to them in the long run.
    Hope non-partisan international experts can come visit the place and work hand-in-hand with the local government for a sustainable solution to preserve the whale-shark’s natural habits while still creating jobs and income from this tourism effort.

  5. I completely agree with everyone who stated that feeding is a very bad idea. Even if the fishermen strictly adhere to the shrimp/’uyap’ diet of the whale sharks, the visitors will eventually have other ideas. There are reports that one shark was thrown some foodstuff made of pork a few weeks ago; thankfully, it spat it out. But what if someone decides to try feeding them pandesal, or a plastic water bottle?? I’ve seen someone throw an AA battery at a sleeping crocodile in an enclosure just to get it to move. In my experience, some people, in their desire to interact with an animal, will resort to ANY means to get the creatures to react to their presence. And if the fishermen can’t even enforce the 6-to-1 ratio, how can they be expected to stop all these people from offering the whale sharks questionable items to swallow?
    Best thing for all concerned (especially the sharks) is to stop the practice of feeding altogether.

  6. Yeah that’s true. Actually also in Honolulu, they have placed ordinances not only for fishes, but for the birds that are found everywhere around town. People get so fascinated that they feed these birds so they have stopped going about their normal migratory habits and have actualyl began pestering people for food.

  7. This place should be regulated, This is not good for the butandings, they should not be treated like dogs or pets. It maybe good for the tourists but this practice is bad for these poor animals. In Donsol, they regulate the boats and they provide videos to educate the tourists.

  8. Hi Anton, I have a question, I plan to do the whale sharks early in the morning, about 600 AM, and do the day tour in Sumilon after. Is that possible? How far is the port to take to the island from where the whale sharks are? How far is the boat ride? After the day tour I plan to take the bus back to Cebu. I know it is pretty tight, but we only have one Sunday to do all these things as we need to get back to Manila by Monday morning. thanks for your help!

  9. Hi anton,
    I have two Thai friends who want to experience whale watching. They will go there in nov. is it better to get packages from sumilon bluewater resort since they don’t have an idea about the place? They also want to go diving. Do they also have diving packages? Are they expensive? They will also be staying in the resort as well.

  10. Hi Anton, so how does this really compare vs. the Donsol experience? Wasn’t too clear how this compared vs. Donsol. I have a guest coming next week and we’re trying to decide between Donsol and Oslob. Thanks!

  11. Hi Friends
    I would like to invite everybody to come here in Donsol to enjoy our Butanding.
    For questions about our tour offer pls mail me at presbio@yahoo.com
    Or call or text me in 63+929-817-5654

  12. Hello Anton,
    Just want to ask if there’s a particular time that they are doing Butanding Watching/Diving? Is it really around 6 in the morning only? Do they have time schedule? We’re going to Cebu next month and I’m thinking of adjusting the itinerary if that’s the case since we will go to Bohol the next day.
    Thank you so much and More Power! 🙂

  13. I would like to share my thoughts about Oslob. I am from Donsol.
    Oslob and Donsol are lucky that we both have the Butanding. Here in our town, the interaction is different that of Oslob. As i can see Oslob is good in using paddle boats ONLY, with us we are using motorized Bancas that inadvertently perhaps hurt the sharks.
    In Oslob, Whalesharks there are like pets, seen by others as potential harm in the natural world of wildlife.
    Here in our town, true they are chased, but once we are in close proximity, experts trained the operators not to impede the natural path of the fish, both in snorkeling and in the maneuver of the bancas.
    I read some comments and heard a lot, very difficult to say. We have our own value judgments about encroachment in the seas. Inevitably, though how vast the ocean is, we have shared ecology with the wild. I think, we have to adjust as Humans, of the species in the world. we are the highest of all. So it is in our hands how to keep our wildlife. We have to learn how to live side by side, in harmony with one of our precious gifts.
    Here in Donsol, that is what we are doing. We do everything not to interfere Butanding in the wild. Our most precious resource.
    This is a worth topic to talk about. Is there an special website for changing of reasons about Butanding.?
    Anyway, i would like to invite you all to be with us here in Donsol as well as in Oslob.
    mail me at indonsol@yahoo.com
    ring me 63+908-273-5747
    Let’s do responsible tourism.. Life is so fragile..

  14. Hi, would like to ask for suggestions we’re planning to visit Cebu Feb 2015. Is it possible to visit Bantayan Island- Oslob- Malapascua and Sky Adventure for 3D/2N? Thanks! and more power! I love your blogs! Yay 🙂

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