|the whale shark of Oslob (photo by Gigi Santos)|
Apparently, this sleepy town averages 300 people per day during weekends. The frenzy may be attributed to a fisherman named Dodong (wearing green in the video) who somehow managed to train the whale sharks, the largest fish in the world to be friendly. Yes, friendly! Marco Santos of Aquaholics said "Oslob is the only place in the world where the whale shark comes to the people."
|Fishermen are now called 'Gentle Giant Defenders'|
Traditionally, the fishermen of Oslob catch fish by collecting krill (Note: as corrected by Scubarazzi, the local name is uyap and the scientific name is Acetes sibogae, from the family Sergestidae) at night and use the krill as bait during the day. As Marco narrated in the video "One day, Dodong started throwing the krill into the water and a whale shark came to eat.. instead of shooing away the whale shark, he said to himself that he will keep feeding the whale shark until it gets full... Dodong is actually the only one in the world who has domesticated the whale sharks."
|under the whale shark's belly (photo by Gigi)|
We spotted five; however, Gigi counted six. The whale sharks would normally go from one boat to the other looking for the "feeder boat". We found a huge one, more than 25 ft., diagonally upright (top and left photos), happily devouring krill and wouldn't leave despite the splashing and kicking of the snorkelers on the surface, the bubbles from us divers below, and the bancas (outrigger boats) bumping into each other. Believe it or not, after twenty minutes, we actually got tired of watching and swam away to look for others.
|LGU mans the ticket area|
Business is definitely thriving in Oslob and now everything has a price. The local government unit (LGU) currently issues tickets - P300 for ordinary viewing (meaning, stay on the boat), P320 for snorkeling, P350 for diving and an additional P100 for camera equipment. Likewise, a penalty of P5,000 is imposed on anyone caught touching the whale shark.
The life vests are rented out for P30 each and the restrooms cost P5 to P10. There are also eateries, barbecue stands, mini sari-sari stores, and t-shirt vendors.
I have mix feelings about the the fishermen. Although they are now organized and call themselves the Tanawan Oslob Whaleshark Wardens and Fishermen's Association (TOWWFA), fishing is no longer their main source of livelihood and I don't know how sustainable this whale watching tourism is. The LGU has come into the picture and split the fees collected, 40% goes to the fisherfolk. I hope that the 60% goes to coastal resources management, education and protection of the area especially from poachers.
|Early morning at Oslob (photo by Marge Buot)|
|Gigi checking the dive equipment|
|Loading of dive gear on the raft|
|Villa on the Cliff with the view of Sumilon Island|