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Sunday, February 24, 2013

Whale Shark "Butanding" Crazy Experience

Whale Shark "Butanding" Crazy Experience

My Butanding experience was fascinating and bizarre. I've never been a huge fan of marine animal’s especially big fishes. I have the courage to go snorkeling and find Nemo and swim with all those other colorful fishes as they nibble my skin and that's about it. But never in my wildest dream that I hope for a whale shark to be lurking below me or swim even a few inches away from me. This is one of those crazy summers I had where I'll be telling the story over and over again for the rest of my life. 

How to get there: Cebu-Oslob
Location: Natalio Bacalso, Tan-awan Oslob 6025, Philippines
From the airport:
Take a taxi to South Bus Terminal, from the bus terminal look for the Ceres Bus bound to Bato then alight at Oslob. 

From Cebu City:
Head to South Bus Terminal, a few walks metres away from Elizabeth Mall. The terminal is clean, organized and don't worry you'll never get lost inside. Buy your ticket in the counter and make sure to read the board signs placed in front of the windshield mirror before hopping inside the bus.

Transportation and Travel Time
Buses Operates from 1 AM - 9 PM 
From South Bus Terminal to Oslob:
Ceres Bus Fare (non-air-conditioned) :150+ php
Ceres Bus Fare (air-conditioned) : 155 php
Travel time : 2-4 hours ( depends on the traffic )

Butanding Feeding Schedule:  6:00-12:30am
UPDATED PRICE LIST as of March 2014
Whale Watching only : 300 php (Locals)
Whale Watching plus Snorkeling (inclusive of equipments) for Locals : 500 php
For foreigners- 1,000 php
Waterproof Camera Rent (without memory card) : 500 php 
Waterproof Camera Rent (with memory card) : 550 php 
Optional: Locker Rent of 20 php or just leave your belongings in the fisherman's shack.

My friend just came from abroad for a vacation; she'd been dragging me for so long for her Butanding Bonanza and I just can't help it but to say yes to adventure. I was extremely fearful for this trip but I was excited to add this to my checklist. The wooden boat was weak and vulnerable for any predators. The boat man paddled until we were about 24 feet deep and our 30 minutes time allotted started. We were hesitant to leave the boat,only 3 of us paid for the snorkeling activity with the whale shark while others stayed safe watching the whale shark swim around us . It took great courage to touch the water with my toes especially when I saw the whale sharks famous triangle fin making its way to our boat. I made sure it was far away from the boat when I'd plunge in the water, I was that scared. 

I was clinging to the side of the boat like it was the last land on earth (one look from that picture and surely it won't keep you guessing where am I!). The whale shark were feed by the fisherman's, their mouths were like vacuum cleaners taking all that was feed to them. They passed by our boat and we started screaming, during the orientation they said we we're suppose to maintain a 4 meters distance away from them. But then they were freakin' close to us like you can almost touch them; we were also advised to avoid moving our feet to keep the water free from bubbles as it would be mistaken by the whale shark as food ; Perfect! There was this moment when I've felt it was already at my back and that was way more frightening compared when it was just beneath us. My friends felt the chills in their spine and immediately we jump or more like fly right back to the boat for safety. It was crazy and I was surprise to see myself laughing like a lunatic. The guys knew about our situation and started feeding the whale sharks more. They were teasing us like kids and even feed more for them to tag longer alongside our boat. We were surrounded with more than three whale sharks. I can't keep the huge smile from my face especially when I tried to see the whale shark underwater again and again. 

They were breathtakingly gigantic, it's my first time to see such enormous marine life and I couldn't believe what I was missing all this time while clinging on the boat. We didn't get a chance to get good shots with the Butanding as I refuse to bring my camera with me and the underwater camera rental was not available during that time. Great thing is are friendly new friends were kind enough to share the pictures they have with our backs on it; better than nothing. I guessed their camera was set-up at the wrong time frame, anyways I am deeply thankful for the pictures: shout out to the family with a German couple and her Filipina wife, they've been living in Germany for so long and they took a one month vacation here in Philippines, along with their two outgoing relatives. These people were really kind and they showed sweet concerns for us, we were like their kids who has gone wild and they have to keep an eye on us all the time.

( All pictures with the Wrong Time Frame are from our friendly companions, thank you for sharing the pictures with us. )
Snorkeling with whale sharks was an experience of a lifetime; it's a must-try! I can't guarantee its safe because we never know what these gentle giants might be thinking at anytime, as long as we keep in mind to follow the guidelines and continue respecting the ocean that should send a good signal to the Butanding not to have a bite on you. I hope nothing will post a threat to these whale sharks that will provoke them to change.

Back to the City or Sidetrip
Two options:
a. If you're in a hurry or need to catch your flight or a boat ride then better get back to the city early as the traffic is unpredictable. Just wait for the Ceres Bus to pass by the road and make sure before hopping in it has the sign going back to Cebu City. 

b. Check out Tumalog Falls. There are parked motorcycles nearby the briefing area. These guys will you take you to the Tumalog Falls. Entrance Fee: 20 php 

If still have ample of time then you can drop by Our Lady of Immaculate Concepcion Church, one of the oldest churches in Cebu.

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