Whale sharks are beautiful creatures, so there is nothing hard to understand that a lot of people would like to meet them. They are called gentle giant, on the purpose, it is even possible to swim with them, priceless impressions. But if we are talking about price, how much is worth life of this spices? Aren’t they in some places used too much – whales helth and our trust – abused for easy money? When I planned my trip to Phillippines I reall wanted to meet those huge fishes, Oslob was well known, but I heard a lot of controversial stuff about this place. I started to search for some new information and it appeared that thay made some changes and it works there – supposedly – as it should now, I decided to check it.
Because we went directly to the check point, where you can pay for boat and rent fins, we didn’t see what’s going on on the beach. And the beach was full, seiously full, like in the market queue – next, next, next. Some people are leaving boats other are taking their place. When we were taken there training was at the end so were just told what we can do and what is prohibited and we had to sign papres. So, we are not allowed to touch whale sharks, we are not allowed to feed them… if they were not so many tourist I could guess that whale sharks are treated quuite well. We hop on the boat and what happened?
How Oslob works?
I will try to summarize it in points, according to what was alleged this place.
People are touching whale sharks
Personally I have not seen situation like this. but if a lot of people go to the water, 98% of them cannot swim, waving hands in panic and try to survive in life jacket, it is hard to recognize anything than. In fact, according to what was said during training, we saw independent observers in the water. I haven’t seen them reacting, but maybe there was no reason to do that. Tourists made really strange things trying to take the best pictures with sharks, they “hit” boats and themselves, I think they were sometimes too close to the whale sharks, one wave of the tail of this creatures make them move for few meters, sometimes it is hard to estimate situation, I had to move quickly from sharks way few times. People who operate the boats are trying to help tourists, sometimes they even take a photos of them and are showing where and when they should swim. (as you can see on the video below)
Whale sharks are fatten
And here we have a big isunderstanding. Yes, during training we were told it is prohibited to feed sharks, the same we found in internet, but as we discovered it refers only to tourists, because locals from the boats are throwing food and whale sharks willingly follow it. It is controversial because it is said that interferes with the natural habits of these animals that swim great distances in search of plankton, and in this case, with the comfort they stay in one place. Additionally the food they recive – called krill – do not provide adequate nutrients. Whale sharks grow up normally to four, twelve meters and live near seventy. Apparently through behavioral changes caused by humans and their normal development it is not possible. Unfortunately I could not find detailed information on this subject, but there are ongoing studies (here), reportedly hard at the moment to assess the impact of such changes in the behavior of whale sharks, but most likely it will affect negatively on their natural migration and reproduction.
Motor boats hurt sharks
I did not notice there motorized boats. In fact, you can find some pictures of mutilated whale sharks in internet, they feed near the surface of water, possible that sometimes are affected by the boats of fishermen. In Oslob, however, I did not notice that these kind of boats were used, but perhaps sharks are harmed when they swim almost to the edge of the island. It’s hard to judge. But since we’re talkin about the body of these beautiful fish I just wanted to mention that their skin can be up to ten centimeters thick, whale sharks are amazing!
What is my opinion about Oslob?
I am very disappointed, most probably about my naivety. And also a bit that nobody fully described how looks like swimming with whale sharks in Oslob before I went there. Videos and photos from there somehow did not differ notably from those from other places, and hard to assess the situation to see a couple of people in the water near a shark, and besides, nothing more. In Oslob it is not taking a boat with local fisherman and searching for whale sharks in open sea, trying to get into the water if any will stop next to the boat for longer. It is unreal situation in which boats are floating in two rows near the coast and huge fishes accustomed to feeding arrive every day for a meal swimming among tourists and looking for boats with i ooking for a boat with a bucket filled with remnants of shrimp and I do not know what else. It shouldn’t be like that.
I understand the situation in which fishermen in the area of Papua throw the remains of fish in the water while fishing, accompanied by whale sharks, because they believe they will bring good fortune. I understand the relationship between man and free animal, I do not understand the circus sorting out something that a tourist wants, just like this, it is given on a plate. There is no need to be worried that we will miss the sharks, they can fix it, give it easily. It should not look like this. What happens in Oslob is hardly to entitle responsible tourism.
Of course I can understand one can be surprised that I write abut bad idea to visit Oslob and I attach photos of beautiful whale sharks. Indeed, it’s hard to not admire them and not to them I want to discourage you. There are other places where you can meet with them on a different rules. In the Philippines even in Donsol, about this place I have not heard anything bad, or near Pamilcan in the Bohol Island area. Certainly I would love to meet with these beautiful animals again, but this time I will check selected location in a million ways. And please lets keep informing each other about such places, to make wiser choices. I will regret this visit for a long time. I have a lesson and I will be more careful in the future. It is sad I had to check it by myslef.