One thing I learned from my short Oslob stint is the dire need for me to learn how to swim. How lame can I get? I was born and raised in an archipelago, miraculously passed a Swimming PE in college and enjoyed a couple of Philippine waterfalls and pristine beaches. Still, I don’t know how to swim. When I say I don’t know, it means I will panic and drown when placed without a life vest in any body of water with depth more than 5 feet 4 inches. It’s not that I can’t swim PROPERLY with strokes etcetera. It’s that I CAN’T swim AT ALL, not even what is called langoy aso which people claim is so easy it’s basically a reflex. Heck, I can’t even float even though everyone says it should be easier for me because I’m horizontally challenged. I’m thinking of enrolling in a proper class but I don’t have the money and time yet. #excuses
Back to Oslob, whaleshark watching and swimming is only allowed from 6 AM to 12 noon and I suggest if you’re going on a day trip, leave the city really early, like 3AM early because the trip is around three hours (stay awake for the view, it’s pretty) and if you arrive after 7 AM, the sun will be harsher and there’ll be a lot more people. Early bird gets the worm.
The rates are pretty much the same no matter where resort you are dropped off. It’s 500 pesos for the swim for locals (foreigners pay twice as much), 100 pesos for the resort (for showering and safekeeping of valuables) and 550 pesos for the underwater camera. For lack of a GoPro (the first item on my wishlist this year), I rented an underwater camera, a Sony one which takes pretty decent pictures. Thank God because I met two travelers from Manila so we divided the cost by 3. The area for interacting with the gentle giants is nearer the shore than I expected. There were boats stationed for feeding them while the other boats carrying tourists are parked in a straight line. When I shared my experience to a friend, he commented that there was an issue surrounding the activity in Oslob because of a picture that circulated on the internet showing a family RIDING the Butandings. Just like what the boatman said, we humans bring so much stress to these creatures but it can’t be helped because there’s money in tourism. THE LEAST WE TOURISTS COULD DO IS TO PLEASE FOLLOW ALL RULES LIKE NO SUN BLOCK AND NO TOUCHING.
I am very thankful to the guide who took pictures of us and to the other one who assisted me underwater. And I’m very sorry to the foreigner couple in the same boat because I kept invading their personal space for lack of control and ability to swim. I even accidentally kicked the guy on face T.T
Now let me walk you through the struggle that is swimming with Butandings when you don’t know how to swim.
The vest makes it hard because you start to float the instant you’re pushed down. Plus, you’re too stupid you forget that snorkels’ tubes are short so if you’re down under and you breathe through the mouth piece, you’ll drink water. Lots and lots of water.
Despite your apprehensions, kuya convinces you to remove your life vest so you’ll stay underwater longer. Unfortunately, you two are not in sync and he pushes you down hard even before you take a deep breath.
Anyway it was still a surreal experience seeing these gentle giants up close. How you wish you could swim like the boatmen. They looked so comfortable underwater you are reminded that we are, in fact, covered in amniotic fluid for 9 months before being born.
Next stop was Tumalog falls. Your father, scared to let you go alone, accompanied you even if it meant riding a motorcycle. You were touched when he said you’re the only person who can make him ride a habal habal.
Then you are welcomed by the falls which, just like what you always say, your photos don’t give justice to. It’s ideal to arrive before 10AM because almost everyone is still swimming with whalesharks and you have the place all to yourselves. The best thing about Tumalog is that it’s only shallow so you can actually go near the falls without fear of drowning.
TIP: Wait for air conditioned buses. The difference in fare is so minimal but in comfort so huge I kept on asking myself why we rode an ordinary one. Again, enjoy the ride back to the city.
That night you suffer from the worst abdominal ache of your life. It’s your first time to vomit and poop simultaneously. Your parents panic because you’re in an unfamiliar place. They were on the verge of bringing you to the emergency room of the nearest hospital which was Chong Hua but you said medicines would do. Your mom is especially worried because she knows your pain threshold is pretty high yet you were wailing. You cried yourself to sleep. You conclude it’s because of all the sea water you drank earlier. Still, you know that the pain was worth it (tho you wish not to experience that kind again). Also, your youngest brother took care of you :]