Swimming With Money Sharks

Rhincodon Typus, commonly known as the Whale Shark, is a wonder of the animal kingdom, and holds many records for its sheer size and weight. I have never seen one of these beasts in my life, never mind in the wild, now was the time.

Oslob was nothing more than a tiny settlement situated on Cebu island, now it’s the main draw for spotting butangding and has turned it into a huge money making opportunity. The big fish are known to be very friendly and somewhat playful towards humans and the fact that they have no teeth, made the idea of diving with them perfectly safe.

Let me make it clear, the whale sharks in Oslob are there everyday for one reason, and that is that local fisherman are feeding them between 9am and 1pm. Most of the time the sharks are just hanging around right next to the bangkas with their mouths open waiting for their daily serving of fish guts, to me this made the whole scenario seem phoney and more like a underwater circus. You have to pay a £25 ‘marine fee’ just to go into the sea at the beach where they can be seen, a marine fee by the way, is a sum of money that goes towards the barangay captain, town mayor, the police department, district governor and by now, pretty much anybody who is anybody who is involved with politics in Cebu. This was introduced when the locals realised that people were curious about seeing whale sharks in the wild. Anyone familiar with corruption in the Philippines, will understand how the system works. The whole set up at Oslob was a bit of a joke to be honest, which I realised when the fisherman demanded an ‘entrance fee’ to walk into the water from that part of the beach, and charged to sit in a cheap wooden shelter to get changed into our diving gear…

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A Whale Shark is printed on the reverse of a 100 piso bill, ironic

The catch 22 being that, this is the only place where you are guaranteed to see whale sharks in their ‘natural environment’. To be within touching distance of these leviathans was a pretty cool experience, close enough to see the toothless whale looking like grandpa Simpson hoover up the constant supply of grub, close enough to swim around and see the gills, fins, tiny eyes and everything else that make the shark tick, close enough dive beneath it and see the feeder fish which literally live of the butangding just like the political hierarchy are living off this entire scheme…

Is it whaley worth it? All been said and done, it was fantastic and something that can be enjoyed with the right management of expectations, even though you do get the feeling you’re being extorted. The day when I get to see a whale shark drifting along graciously in its real natural habitat will have to wait…

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Categories: Philippines | Tags: , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Swimming With Money Sharks

  1. Always wanted to do this! And I’m sorry to hear you’ve been victimized by the ‘white tax’, if it is. I’m not sure locals have to pay the same fees? It’s ridiculous anyhow.

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