01 Mar2012

We spent the morning swimming with several benign and utterly enchanting butandings (tuki) or whale sharks in Oslob, Southern Cebu. We had just finished our “lamb dinner” for fourteen last night, got two hours of sleep and headed out to our first encounter with the whale sharks. IT WAS SPECTACULAR. SPECTACULAR. SPECTACULAR. A more detailed post with full sized pictures up as soon as we recover from the past 24 hours of heightened activity and get decent internet coverage. The post on lamb up after that. :)



  1. Kron says:

    Awesome. Can’t wait for the lamb post :)

    Mar 1, 2012 | 7:37 pm

  2. Chinky says:

    MM, went to Donsol a few years back and it was an awesome experience. would like to go to Oslob as well. pls provide info on ow to make arrangements. Thanks!

    Mar 1, 2012 | 7:49 pm

  3. PJ says:

    i wanna hear what happened to the roasted lamb :)

    by the way mm, how much did it cost to cook one? on the average? thanks!

    Mar 1, 2012 | 8:02 pm

  4. titabuds says:

    Oh, MM, I’m a little disappointed that this is not about the butandings of Donsol (I’m from Sorsogon).
    But, yes, swimming with whale sharks is a SPECTACULAR experience. They’re awe-inspiring creatures, no? :)

    Mar 1, 2012 | 8:55 pm

  5. tonceq says:

    I guess this is what you can call… “Surf and Turf” or “Turf and Surf” if you want to be chronologically correct about it. :)

    Mar 1, 2012 | 9:21 pm

  6. Renee says:

    While I’m sure it was a great trip, it is unfortunate that the Oslob whale shark experience is not being done with sustainability and environmental factors considered. The whalesharks in Oslob are being hand fed by the fisherman, which is inappropriate and can be detrimental to the sharks long term. Donsol handles their trips with more more consideration given the program has been developed by the WWF. I would hope people do not popularize the Oslob trips until an appropriate program is in place.

    Mar 1, 2012 | 9:39 pm

  7. Marketman says:

    Renee, as I mention in the next post, there is controversy… and I am sure conservationists will have a lot to say about the practice of feeding and whether it is inappropriate or not. I have no knowledgeable opinion on it. However, as a viewer, I do see benefits of appreciating them naturally, and certainly better than local fishermen trying to get rid of them as they were once considered a serious nuisance to their livelihoods… now it’s the opposite. I do hope the “right thing” is eventually done. And while WWF has indeed done some great things, it seems incongruous that they would be such supporters of places like El Nido, where we head to soon, and which we find so special as well… and at El Nido, they have encouraged feeding of reef fish for tourism purposes as well (or at least they did until the last time we were there). While one might argue that the local talakitok don’t migrate, I think any feeding of animals in natural habitats would have to be questioned in the same manner as the whale sharks… or at least that’s how I would look at it rationally as a lay person. Folks feed fish at the reefs in Amanpulo as well, in Bohol, and in the marine “reserve” just off Mactan… Before we summarily condemn the locals of Oslob for their approach, I would like to see more concrete arguments for and against the practice of feeding the sharks… In the meantime, I have to admit, my venturing there and paying to watch them may indeed encourage something that proves to be evil. Viewed in another light, however, I am carnivorous and eat lots of animals, so I am evil that way, period. :) I have also visited many a zoo, and certainly those must be or can be more evil to the animals than feeding animals in the wild. Why doesn’t the WWF or other conservationsts go after say feeding “caged” tigers whole raw chickens in Subic with the same public criticism as say the feeding of the whale sharks? Some of the links to videos of the Oslob experience in my next post lay out the issues on either end of the spectrum… and I do hope the topic is considered carefully in the months ahead. Thanks for your comment.

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:03 pm

  8. Betchay says:

    Oh, a whole post re: my question 4 posts ago! So does it mean you are for this” feeding the butandings practice”? because I heard that environmentalists are against this as the butandings become dependent on humans especially since the butandings in Oslob are young ones compared to the matured ones in Donsol and second point raised, the very close encounters with these giants increase the risks of it being harm by the tourists who might not be able to resist touching these charming creatures! But anyway, before any prohibitions are posted, I hope to try the experience myself on our next visit to Cebu! :)

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:13 pm

  9. mabuhay says:

    lamb, lamb, lamb!!! hahaha

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:26 pm

  10. Marketman says:

    Betchay, no, I don’t have a firm position on for or against the feeding. But I must say, more precautions than I WOULD HAVE EXPECTED in these nascent stages do seem to be in place. The bangkeros seem more organized and less outright competitive to get your peso at any cost… folks all do have to sit through a brief seminar on proper etiquette which includes the suggested distances from the sharks, no touching, no flash photography, no boats with engines nearby, no loud splashing, no suntan lotion while swimming, etc. The hours of viewing have been recently limited to 6am-1pm only. Fees are uniform and regulated… so it isn’t the “free-for-all” you might think it is…

    As a numbers guy, I thought this as well. Fishermen have mostly stopped fishing, perhaps saving the fish stocks in the immediate area. With say an average of 500 tourists a day for the past six months, that may mean some 80-100,000 tourists so far, all spending some PHP500 on average in the little town, buoying the economy with the PHP50+ million in funds without multiplier effect. I would probably rather see more of this than muro ami style fishing that wipes out fish stocks, ruins reefs, and abuses young workers… and that, incidentally, was started by someone (or at least led by someone) not too far away from this Southern town on the Eastern side of Cebu…

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:28 pm

  11. Betchay says:

    Well said MM. I also think that the practice should be studied well and a good program be establish ASAP. I think in South Africa and Mexico they have that White shark feeding while you are in steel cages. I think that is more scary and dangerous!

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:47 pm

  12. titabuds says:

    There are indeed concerns now about how Oslob fishermen have been feeding the whale sharks. As I understand it, the practice supposedly interferes with the natural migration patterns of the butandings because instead of just passing through the area, they are enticed to stay (longer) and thus they get to the waters where planktons are naturally in abundance (as in Donsol) much later.

    I am, however, glad that MM experienced this with a clearer eye (than most tourists) on the issues surrounding it and he has (maybe inadvertently) provided us with a forum where our concerns can be vented and maybe somewhat alleviated. :)

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:48 pm

  13. Marketman says:

    titabuds, some sites say the whale sharks migrate, and extremely LONG distances for some. But other data suggests whale sharks might not stray as far as previously thought and may stay in areas with sufficient food for long periods of time… so even the migration argument isn’t necessarily clear at this point, or at least it isn’t clear to me or even the experts it seems… many sites simply state we don’t KNOW ENOUGH about the habits of whale sharks, period.

    Mar 1, 2012 | 10:54 pm

  14. kristin-on-kidney-diet says:

    someday…. included in bucketlist :) thanks for another view of the country…

    Mar 2, 2012 | 12:48 am

  15. PITS, MANILA says:

    can’t wait to hear about the lamb … :)

    Mar 2, 2012 | 8:35 am

  16. corrine says:

    I had excitedly planned to travel to oslob and experience the whale sharks swimming around me. However, when I read articles about the negative effect of the Oslob practice, I changed my mind having read about the better way Donsol manages their whale sharks tourism. I am now confused about the pros and cons. Oslob was also soooo far from Cebu City, one other reason why I changed my mind. I just hope we take great care of these awesome creatures.

    Mar 2, 2012 | 9:57 pm

  17. Connie C says:

    I do not know enough of animal behavior but having the “better safe than sorry” attitude for most things I would stay on the safe side by not feeding any wildlife for some of the reasons mentioned by some of the commenters.

    In a recent visit to South Africa, there are signs warning tourists not to feed or go near baboons who have become so aggressive (as they are already). Apparently, after having a taste of what is not normally their diet in the wild, they have acquired the taste of what they have been given and expect to get it from the “distant” relatives who come near them and attacking them in the process. In vineyards, baboons have been known to literally “go ape” over the grapes and have menaced wine crops in South Africa.


    Could or would the butandings then behave in a similar manner?

    Mar 5, 2012 | 3:06 pm

  18. Girl golfing says:

    The Butandings are such gentle creatures. The last time i swam with them was in Leyte where they are sighted between November and late January. That was why i was so sad to see this picture this morning… of a whale shark at a Chinese restaurant.


    Thanks for sharing your lovely photos….

    Mar 13, 2012 | 6:14 am


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