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While planning a trip to the Philippines, many people add whale shark diving to their itinerary. This popular tourist attraction is located in Oslob, Cebu, which is on the southeast side of the island. While many people travel there for a day’s worth of activities, few people actually stay there. Dustin and I made the decision to spend a week on Cebu Island and picked Oslob as our center point for many reasons.
For one, accommodations in Oslob were significantly cheaper than in places like Cebu City or Moalboal (a popular backpacker hub). Secondly, we felt Oslob was a perfect central location to carry out our Cebu bucket list items. While travel time in Cebu is quite slow, we managed to reach all our activities in a couple of hours or less.
The small coastal town of Oslob, Cebu, has a population of about 30,000 people. While not as touristed, it’s popularity is booming due to popular activities with whale sharks, nearby waterfalls, monkey sanctuaries (although it was closed while we were there), and small island-hopping day trips.
If you’re looking for the best place to stay on the island of Cebu, I can’t recommend staying in Oslob enough. The people were so friendly, our accommodation was relaxing and tranquil, and due to being in close proximity, we were able to tick off everything on our Cebu bucket list.
Temperatures in Oslob, Cebu, very seldom fluctuate. When factoring in the Philippine tropical humidity, temperatures feel hot year-round with a slight chance of rain throughout the year. Dustin and I visited the island in April, which is considered their summertime and subsequently, the hottest time of year to visit the Philippines.
If you’re looking at weather by month, March through June are considered the hottest months to visit, while December through February is considered cooler. The months with the lowest chances of rainfall are March, April, and May. It’s more likely to rain from July through October.
Dustin and I felt extremely safe while staying in Oslob. The locals are incredibly friendly and willing to bend over backward to lend a helping hand to its tourists. Most of the time, when belongings are snatched or go missing, it’s due to other tourists stealing from other tourists, and not necessarily from the locals. While there are some regional travel advisories to the Philippines, Oslob is quite safe. Just travel smart, keep an eye on your stuff, and exercise common sense while in a foreign country.
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Most people book their accommodations by the whale shark tours. This isn’t a bad option, but if you’re looking for a spot a bit quieter and more tranquil, I recommend staying a little farther north. Dustin and I stayed at the Ging-Ging Hotel, and we couldn’t have hoped for better. The location was about a 15-minute tuk-tuk ride to the whale shark area and Tumalog Falls. It included a delicious breakfast every morning, a gorgeous pool overlooking the water, cheap beverages and snacks, and cute little tiki huts right on the water. It was our little tropical oasis!
Our Favorite Spot: Ging-Ging Hotel (this hotel was mid-range in price)
Budget Option: Stay N Save B&B
Mid-Range Option: Hotel Sebastian
Luxury: Babylon Oslob Coast Guesthouse
The easiest and most cost-effective way to get from Cebu City (or Mactan-Cebu International Airport if you’re just flying in) to Oslob is via public transportation. From the airport, Dustin and I took a cab to the South Bus Terminal in Cebu City. From there, we boarded the Ceres Bus bound for Bato via Liloan. If you’re unsure of where you are or which bus to board, don’t hesitate to ask. The Filipino people are amicable and love helping out its tourists. While English is very broken, communication sufficed enough to get us where we needed to go!
When we boarded the bus, we gave the bus driver the name of our hotel. He dropped us off right in front!
Be prepared for a long journey. The bus ride from Cebu City to Oslob is approximately 3 to 4 hours in duration. You have the option to choose between an air-conditioned bus or a non-air-conditioned bus. Because it was so incredibly hot in April, we didn’t hesitate to pay a little extra for the air-conditioned bus. The bus also had a television that played moves (in English too!) throughout your journey. If I remember correctly, the cost was only 150 PHP per person (roughly 2-3 USD per person).
One of the highlights of our time in Cebu was taking a day trip to the magical island of Siquijor. We were under the impression we had to travel by ferry south to Dumaguete and then take another car ferry from Dumaguete to Siquijor. Our lovely tuk-tuk driver for the week had a better, more efficient way of getting there that ended up cutting our travel time in half! He took us to a car ship that also took passengers straight to Siquijor! The vessel still took approximately 3 hours each way, but it saved us the additional trip from Dumaguete to Siquijor.
Looking back on it, while the cargo ship straight from Oslob did save us loads of time, we would have loved to book a couple of nights on Siquijor Island! This place was magical and definitely one of the main highlights of our trip! On the ferry ride back, we were able to watch a beautiful sunset AND even spotted a family of dolphins swimming along with the ship!
Another option is to take a day trip to Bohol. While the long, cheap way to get to Bohol is by ferry from Cebu to Dumaguete and then Dumaguete to Bohol, you can book a private boat for a couple of extra pesos and get to Bohol that way.
Tumalog Falls is such an impressive waterfall right in the heart of Oslob! If you’re coming from the whale-shark swimming area, it’s only about a 10-minute tuk-tuk ride to get to the ticketing office of Tumalog Falls. The admittance fee to the falls is 50 pesos (just under one U.S. dollar).
An extra thing to note, it is quite the journey from the ticketing booth to the actual falls themselves. Be prepared to walk just under a half-mile, up and down hills, in the direct sunlight. There are some Filipino men on motorbikes there waiting to take you up the road for a small fee, but because Dustin and I felt we could use the walk, we declined the motorbike rides.
Another fun thing to do while in Oslob, Cebu is to visit Sumilon Island. This island is quite literally its own private oasis. It is home to some of the most exciting sea animals and coral reefs.
The island is only a 15-20 minute boat ride from Oslob. Once arriving on the island, it is a small entrance fee of 50 pesos per person. You’ll encounter some of the whitest sand in all of the Philippines and some of the bluest water.
Keep in mind, there is not much shade while you’re out there. Dustin and I did not wear any sunscreen and were unfortunately out there in the middle of the day. We both got sunburnt severely—by the next day, we were blistering all over our arms and backs.
Make sure to pack some REEF-SAFE sunscreen! Please note, the Filipino people don’t wear sunscreen. If you plan on purchasing it there, it will be marked up in price because it’s marketed solely to tourists!
The island is also home to its own private resort, so if you’re looking to stay a couple of nights, check out the Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort!
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This activity, though controversial, is one of the main attractions in Oslob, Cebu. It’s controversial because the whale sharks are fed plankton, which disrupts their natural migration patterns and furthers their dependence on humans.
While this activity has a long way to go before being considered eco-friendly, environmentalists are actively working on the matter to make it a better experience for both the whales and the tourists. For example, only a certain amount of people is allowed out in the water per day, not to overwhelm the whale sharks. Also, SUNSCREEN is not allowed to be worn as the chemicals in sunscreen are harmful to their skin. Touching the sharks is a criminal offense, and it will result in a huge fine or even jail time.
When we were in Oslob, we did swim with whale sharks in the early morning. Although we felt uneasy about swimming with whale sharks that are being fed, these animals are inarguably some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet.
I’m happy to see the Filipino people putting measures in place to keep these gentle giants safe and unharmed. Still, I would feel even better about it if they stopped feeding them. In the long run, feeding wildlife is not a sustainable practice.
While any tourist activities involving wild animals will never be perfect, the rise of eco-tourism has kept whale sharks from being slaughtered by local fishermen. Today, whale shark tours provide more money, economic opportunities, and growth for Philippine locals.
When all is said and done, if we could go back and do this trip all over again, we probably would have chosen not to participate. Instead, we would have opted to swim with whale sharks in another area that didn’t feed or disrupt the animal’s natural order.
With all animal tourism, it’s best to do your homework and decide for yourself whether or not it aligns with your moral code.
Don’t forget about the fact you’re in a tropical paradise! Oslob has several beautiful, quiet beaches for you to set up camp and have a relaxing beach day! Lounge out on the sand, take a dip in the ocean, and at the end of the day, watch a beautiful sunset.
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