Oslob’s Whale Sharks

My sunburn has subsided, and the bruises I collected on our Cebu holiday have now all but disappeared, but my memories of our time in the Philippines have not.

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Some things….like this public urinal, for example…are unforgetable

 

Now, before I get into writing about our time in Cebu, I want to write about one activity we decided NOT to do.  Most people who travel to Cebu Island stay in the little town of Oslob.  We opted to stay in a town nearby this popular tourist destination, but we skipped the activity most people do while in the area:  swimming with whale sharks.

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Whale Sharks are the world’s largest fish. But don’t worry…they aren’t the type of sharks that eat people. They just eat tiny krill, so swimming with them is pretty safe.

For those of you who know me, this probably seems like the kind of thing I would love!  Swimming in the ocean…seeing incredible wildlife…learning about a fascinating animal… but after spending the last 4 years learning how to be a responsible tourist, I took the time to learn about the Oslob Whale Sharks, and I learned how human contact affects the fish.

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I learned that although the government has set up all sorts of rules that tourists and tour operators are suppose to follow, it doesn’t stop people from touching the fish.  Sharks have very sensitive skin, so a watch or a ring can easily hurt one of these beautiful animals. 

First, I should say that unlike riding an elephant, swimming with whale sharks is not as obviously harmful to the animals.  They are not captive or trained in any way, so on the surface, it doesn’t seem like swimming with them should be too much of a problem.  After all, they are just being given some free food.  What’s the harm?

Whaleshark feeding in Oslob, Cebu
The whale sharks are swarmed by people and boats as soon as they arrive.  Tourists are also only given a few moments in the water with them, before they are told to get out, to make way for more tourists…

Unfortunately, whale sharks in the area are becoming too comfortable around boats, and are frequently hurt when they approach fishermen, expecting food.  Some fish are also dealing with malnutrition, because the krill they are fed by the fishermen is only 1 of the various types of fish they need in their diets.  Unfortunately, if their bellies are full of this free krill, they don’t search for food, and don’t get all the nutrients they need.

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But there’s actually a bigger problem with feeding the Whale Sharks of Cebu Island.  The free food they receive is actually changing their migration patterns and many scientists believe that this will ultimately result in fewer whale shark babies being born.

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I’d be happier if these animals didn’t join the very long list of critically endangered animals in our oceans.

Ultimately, we decided that seeing the whale sharks was not as important as protecting them, so we chose not to go on that adventure.  We did, however, see Tumalog Falls, a church made of coral stone and of course, and the highest point on all of Cebu Island!

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Over the next few weeks, I have several posts planned about our week in paradise.  They will all be short, and full pictures, so stay tuned!

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