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How to get there (from Panglao):

If you are doing a Bohol-Cebu trip in one go like I was, I’m sure you’ve wondered: is there any way to traverse the Cebu Strait directly from Panglao to Oslob? The answer is yes.

While information on the internet regarding this route is virtually non-existent, I decided to take a leap of faith and do my visit of Bohol-Panglao first to try my luck with finding a direct route to the famed whalesharks of Oslob, to save me the hassle of having to go back to Tagbilaran/Tubigon port, a boat to Cebu city, and then a 3-and-a-half-hour bus ride back south to end up in Oslob, which is just across the sea from Panglao to begin with, anyway.

To give you an idea, here is a map of the area:

Panglao-Oslob route options

Panglao-Oslob route options

It is a great time-saver. Although not exactly the cheapest, we managed to bargain the one-way boat ride from Alona Beach to Oslob down to Php700 per person (there were four of us, and 6 other foreigners whom I greatly suspect they charged more). Compare that to going through the hassle of commuting back to Tagbilaran/Tubigon pier, a 2hr-600-peso fastcraft ride, and a 3 1/2 hr bus drive down to Oslob, then we did get a great deal. We took all our luggage with us in the boat to Oslob, and explored Cebu from there on.

My tip is: Talk directly with a boatman who owns a boat, for better prices (you may contact our soft-spoken boat man, Toto, at +63920 630 1111). Off-peak season gives you cheaper rates, but it doesn’t hurt to try your charm on other days of the year. Official price was at Php1,500 per head just for the boat ride. Got it for Php 700.

From Cebu City:

Go to the South Bus Terminal Station along N. Bacalso Ave. Take a Ceres bus (nice, modern, clean, spacious airconditioned buses) and tell them you are headed to Tan-awan, Oslob. Fare is Php 155. All drivers and conductors know this as it is a very famous stop. Ask to be dropped off at BCD’s place, in front of the Sutukil Restaurant in order to avoid additional resort fees from other resorts which will take you back here anyway (main hall for registration). Look for this to the left of the road:

road to whaleshark watching main hall

road to whaleshark watching main hall

Now, for the whaleshark watching experience:

When you dock, go straight to the hall-looking-thing where they hold the orientation on whaleshark-watching etiquette. Pay Php 500 per head for Filipino tourists including the use of snorkel masks, Php 300 if just watching  from the boat, and Php 1000 per head for foreigners. You may also rent an underwater camera for Php500–just bring your own memory card to get the pictures after, or get a CD burned for Php50 more. Your boatman will direct your photoshoot. Be careful not to waste your limited time on trying to get a great picture, though, or you might miss out on the main point of actually watching the whalesharks. But it is nice to immortalize this moment with at least one picture! :)

After paying, off you go to small paddleboats that take you a mere 50 or so meters from the shore, where you, along with a dozen other boats, start your 30-minute artificial whaleshark-watching experience.

Whaleshark Commandments

Whaleshark Commandments

These are the biggest fish in the sea, growing up to 35 meters–the ones that come to Oslob to be handfed by boatmen are on the small side, though, the biggest being about 15 meters long. But compared to me, who is a mere 1.7 meters tall, it was huge! It’s an amazing experience to be able to swim right past, above, beside, or under such a creature! Though the rules expressly say not to touch or get too near them, in the water, with the limited space from the boats and the people and the whalesharks (about 6? 7? 8? of them come regularly), it is a tight space to maneuver. Many times I’ve had to watch my arms and legs and back just swimming from one short point to another, because the next thing you know a whaleshark’s open mouth is right there, or another one’s tail is gently swishing about behind you. It is a literal close encounter. As close as any common person could possibly get to such huge, magnificent creatures. Though they are incredibly gentle, being filter-feeders, a certain awe will make you think twice about coming too close (besides the Php 2,500 fine for touching them).

butanding, tuki, whaleshark watching

Snorkeling with the whalesharks

 

Is it worth the dive?

Diving rates are at a standard Php 3,500. And frankly, though I didn’t try, I don’t think it’s worth it. The whalesharks feed from the top where boatmen feed them, so they are 100% visible even if you don’t get down from the boat. They tend to stay up there. Snorkelers often get the best views and pictures. Divers might mostly only be able to see whaleshark underbellies or a few whole when they go down and away from the boats. A Belgian diver who took the boat with us from Panglao originally wanted to dive, but when he saw the situation and location, changed his mind and decided that snorkeling would be enough.

Fargazer Verdict:

Overall, it felt very… fabricated. It left a bitter, rip-offy, disappointing taste in my mouth after the incredibly-fast 30 minutes of it. While it’s good that the municipality has standardized the rates, put up a seamless system for fishermen and tourists to follow, spelled a boom in tourism for the locals, I can’t help the feeling that this was on the abuse-y side. First of all, the whalesharks are in no way in their natural state, being handfed by boatmen to ensure that they keep coming back and stay. Second, the fee seems unreasonable to me, being that their only capital is a 30-second no-engine paddle-boat ride (a distance which people can actually swim from shore), snorkel masks, and life vests, and some krill for the whaleshark.

Distance of whaleshark-watching area to the shore... pretty disappointing.

Distance of whaleshark-watching area to the shore… pretty disappointing.

Other than that, there are too many employees, too many boatmen crowding the area, offering rooms to stay in, and habal-habal trips to the nearby falls. Something about it feels like a fast, standardized, legal robbery of my money. Why are snorkelers only allowed 30 minutes? That time zips by in a flash when you’re having fun out there, you know. You’re only starting to be amazed and poof! suddenly you’re done.

Everything aside, though, the mere fact of being able to swim with the oceans’ biggest fish is a wonderful, soul-feeding experience. Is the price fair? Maybe not. But the experience is an inspiring one, allowing normal people to experience nature in a different, memorable, and accessible way. You must not miss it, when in Cebu. Or Bohol. (Or Dumaguete, which is a quick boat ride away from Oslob).

Next up, when in Oslob, you should definitely not miss a Tumalog Falls sidetrip!

~

Would that whalesharks were more common to come by in island-hopping trips, eh?

Cheers,

Shaira the Fargazer

 

71 thoughts on “Panglao to Oslob Whaleshark Watching

  1. So glad to have found your tip on Panglao-Oslob route! Gives me assurance that it is possible. How was the boat ride, i.e., was it an outrigger or motorized boat? Thanks so much :)

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  2. Thanks so much for the great info! Could you please also let me know where you stored your luggage whilst swimming with the whale sharks as I will be making the same trip from Alona Beach to Oslob later this year and will too have my luggage with me! :)

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  3. Hey Shaira, sorry, me again! Hahaha. could you please let me know what time roughly the boats leave from Along Beach and head to Oslob? Thanks a bunch. :)

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  4. Hi Shaira!

    What time of the year you went to Oslob? I’m just wondering if we can still see the whale sharks if we go there sometime in October.

    Thanks!

    Like

    • We’re planning to go to Oslob too from Alona this October. Julie will you be coming from Alona beach as well and when is your trip?

      Hi Shaira, do you have a picture of the boat you rented? We have kids going with us so I want to make sure it’s safe. Thanks

      Like

      • I’m planning on going there sometime between October 13-15. Do you want to come to Oslob with us? We might have the chartered boat cheaper if we have a bigger group.

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        • Too bad our trip is on Oct. 20-22. It will be so much cheaper if we can share a boat. Please do update us with the boat info on your trip. I’ve been searching online for alona beach to oslob boat rental but didn’t find a lot of info. One website charges 2500/person if they can gather up enough divers. The other one charges 3000/person but they need 10 snorkelers.

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        • Hello. I just found this page with this great article and was reading the comments. We are planning to leave for Oslob oct 13, and looking to share a boat. Are you still looking for people? We are 2. Please let me know. It would be great!!

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        • Hi Julie,
          I just found this page with this great article and was reading the comments. We are planning to leave for Oslob oct 13, and looking to share a boat. Are you still looking for people? We are 2. Please let me know. It would be great!!

          Like

  5. Hi! We will be going to oslob next month and we are planning to do the side trip to panglao. Do you know time schedule of the boats going to panglao TY

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    • Hi there! Will you update us with the boat rental? Contact person? And prices? I will there in October.

      That would be great if you have additional information.

      Thanks!

      Like

  6. Thank you so much Shaira for the info! Big help Since I’m goiing to do backpacking around Cebu and Bohol for 8 days this September. However I wonder if there are boat rentals from Oslob to Panglao? Coz it will really save time. :)

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  7. Thank you so much! It helped me a lot for planning the way to oslob from paglao then go to cebu city directly from there. Btw, if there are people planning to snorkel with whale sharks on 29, DEC, 2015, departing at around 5:30~6:00am, plz leave ur comment below.

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    • Sorry for changing but I think 4:40~5am leaving from the island is better. Plus we can enjoy the sunrise at 6 in the middle of the sea if we r lucky.

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      • Hi Avril… My partner and I will be departing Panglao to head over to Oslob for the whale sharks on December 28… could that fit in with your itinerary?

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        • I’m afraid it doesn’t :'( Cause i already arranged my accomodation on 29th 12 in cebu city.. If u change ur schedule, let me know. I have two more friends who travel with me,so if you two and some more people join in, we can save a bit more money. Anyway, hope u have a nice trip there :)

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  8. Hi Shaira,

    Thanks soooo much for this info. Just wondering…did it seem like there were fairly regular departures for Oslob? Did you have to arrange in advance? We’re only 2 people, so I’m worried that there wouldn’t be enough other passengers going, and the price to charter would be too high. Would really appreciate any thoughts you might have. Thanks again!

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  9. Hello! We are in Panglao at this moment and we came across your article. We are planning to go to Oslob on Tuesday Oct 13, 2015. We are looking for people to split the cost. Not aware of any forums that exist for ride sharing in the Philippines. If you know any please advise. Thanks a bunch. Jess

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  10. Pingback: A Well-Spent Day with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu | Blue Forest on Wet Boots

  11. Hi there,

    Great article! My husband and I are on our honeymoon and hoping to squeeze in Oslob before we fly out of Cebu in a couple of days.

    Can you advise of what you did with your luggage while swimming with the whale sharks?

    Thank you in advance.

    Megan

    Like

    • Hi Fred !
      As you pointed, this link explains how to get back from Oslob to Panglao. but is it possible in the same day to do the round trip from Planglao ? take a boat early, See the Whales, the Falls, and do the return ?
      I’ll be on site at the begining of march. what about you ?
      Cheers.

      Like

      • It is possible, and what I have outlined here is actually from Panglao to Oslob. :) Good luck! The key is scouting and haggling early on in the trip. The boast usually leave at around 4-5 in the morning, so you must secure your trip before that.

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  12. Could anyone give me the contact for the boatman at Alona beach?
    I would like to planning on 11Feb16 from Alona beach to Oslob.

    Cheers
    Yan

    Like

    • Just make sure you jump on a boat that leaves SUPER early from Alona Beach, otherwise you may miss out on getting a ticket to swim with the whale sharks. That is what happened to my partner and I, we just came back from the Philippines a few days ago :( But I guess we now have a reason to have to go back! :)

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi,
    We will visit Cebu and Bohol in April 2016. Is the same boat from Panglao to Oslob also taking passengers the other way round? Our trip will start in Cebu and continue in Bohol. If that boat will take us it will spare us a bus trip back to the pier in Cebu City :)

    Like

    • Yes it should be possible to arrange the other way around! Just try to arrive at Oslob early and then scout out the docked boats for one that goes to Panglao. I would say there will be an above 75% chance that you would find one that could take you to Panglao.

      Like

      • Thank you for your reply, this will save us a trip back to Cebu and then to Tagbilaran and back to Panglao :)
        We are looking forward to stay in Oslob a couple of days!

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        • Hello Arjan! When is your travel date? we are going to have our tour cebu-bohol tour as well on April 3-9. well doing the whaleshark watching on the 6th. and im thinking also to do this oslob- panglao boatride instead of going back to cebu city then ride a ferry. mind if you give me your number so that we could possibly share our expense for the boatride going to panglao? Thanks! :)

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  14. Hello everyone! WOW if I could explain how awesome this post is! This helped me so much… So I had a few questions. The first one is: did I understand it right; this boat from Panglao Island to Oslob is one way right?? And second, Shaira, do you think one could actually swim out with their own snorkels to the whale sharks? That would be awesome. Sorry for my bad english.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey! It was only one way for me because I needed to continue on to Cebu. But definitely possible to arrange a roundtrip if you plan on staying in Panglao. I highly recommend visiting Cebu, though! Not sure about bringing your own snorkels, but I think the price would be the same no matter what. The price includes the snorkel gear. Have fun!

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    • Hi Rowan,
      As Shaira wrote, it seems to be a 2/2,5 hours trip.
      I also look for a day round trip if possible.
      (Whalessharks and falls nearby)
      We may be at panglao on feb 24/25.
      When will you be on site ?
      Regards.

      Like

  15. Thanks for this very helpful post! My boyfriend and I are planning to go to Bohol then Cebu from March 28-April 2 and also planning to go straight to Oslob from Panglao. We might leave Bohol on the 30th, if anybody here is interested in sharing a boat ride please let me know! Thanks!

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  16. Hello,

    We were thinking of taking boat trip from Alona Beach to Oslob Return. The diving company is saying 21000 pesos for 3 of us. It includes all the equipment, entrance fees etc., They say it is 21 metre boat.

    Trip will be next year – April 2017.

    Dates can be April 13th or April 14th or April 15th 2017. (I had put 3 dates for flexibility).

    If any family wants to share, we can split the cost and also have bit of company as well.

    Cheers,
    Sai

    Like

      • Dates can be April 13th or April 14th or April 15th 2017. (I had put 3 dates for flexibility).

        Sharing private boat which is 21000 pesos. We are 3 and could share with another 3 or 4 for splitting the cost and also we can share our experiences and enjoy the day together

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  17. Hi we are planning to go frm panglao to oslob on Sunday, June 4, 2016 and we are looking for people to split the cost. Our resort is dumaluan and we are 7 plus 1 kid

    Like

    • Hi i wonder if you can adjust your sched going to oslob if possible. We’ll be in panglao on june 2 and planning to go Oslob the next day june 3. Hoping that we can split the cost. If not, ok lang po. Thanks!

      Like

  18. great blog!it really help me plan our trip much better with all the time saved!me and my friends are planning to go from oslob to alona beach on 7th May preferably late afternoon. Anyone have the same plan? We can split the cost :)

    Like

  19. Anyone planning to take the trip on July 7 or 8? We don’t have any contacts yet but we wish to share the cost of the boat. Thanks!

    Like

  20. Hi Shaira, great blog by the way! We are planning the same route in July, do you know if we should contact a boat by now or we can do it when we get there? Thanks!

    Like

  21. Pingback: A Well-Spent Day with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Cebu - Blue Forest on Wet Boots

  22. hi we are planning to go from panglao bohol to oslob cebu on december 23 or 24 2016 maybe some other people wants to join with us so we can have our own boat trip and save some hours and money :) please let me know , this is my emal ad cur_rain04@yahoo.com

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  23. Hello everyone, WOW! ive enjoyed reading all your messages, thanks for everyones time , helping everyone’s needs / information travel..
    Just wondering if anyone has a mobile no of the boatman Panglao To Oslob so we could directly contact him please, we are in a group of 6, Going to Oslob on the 16th Feb. 2017, pls. anyone would to come with us so we could split the cost?

    Thanks you all, your reply will be highly appreciated,
    God Bless.
    Joel

    Like

  24. Hello,

    We were thinking of taking boat trip from Alona Beach to Oslob Return. The diving company is saying 21000 pesos for 3 of us. It includes all the equipment, entrance fees etc., They say it is 21 metre boat.

    Trip will be in April 2017.

    Dates can be April 13th or April 14th or April 15th 2017. (I had put 3 dates for flexibility).

    If any family wants to share, we can split the cost and also have bit of company as well.

    Cheers,
    Sai

    Like

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