Thursday, March 12, 2015

Whale Sharks & Falls, Cebu Island

At the southern tip of the narrow long island of Cebu, is the small municipality of Oslob.  It is here that a surge in tourism has occurred over the past three years due to the whale shark population which swims just off the coast.  Once a day, the sharks are fed by local fishermen while fascinated onlookers observe from small canoes or from beneath the water as they swim with the sharks.  Bob and I were picked up from the Crimson Resort at 4:00 a.m. on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 and began the 3 hour drive to Oslob.  We were going to swim with the 20-feet long 20,000-pound sharks!  They are the largest mammalian vertebrates and many are twice the size of the ones we would see.  These gentle giants are "filter feeders" like whales, and feed on plankton and other small sea life, so they are no danger to humans.  However, when they swim toward you with their 4-foot wide open mouth, they appear quite threatening!

It had been raining most of the night and the clouds were still dark overhead when we arrived at Oslob earlier than expected.  This meant the water would be a bit murkier than usual with little light filtering through the seawater.  We were treated to a local breakfast of fresh mango, sticky rice, and hot-chocolate.  Oh, Philippine mangoes are heavenly!  We sat through a brief orientation and by about 7:30 a.m. we were in a canoe and rowing toward the shark feeding grounds.

We hired our boatman to take underwater photos of us with the sharks.  Fitted with fins and masks we jumped into the warm turquoise water and began searching for sharks.  Snorkeling was difficult due to the choppy surface waves and even more difficult upon shedding our life-vests.  But the sharks were feeding near our canoe and it was time to descend under water for some photography.

It was a little startling to find one of the sharks swimming right beside me, but I was really never afraid. We were out of breath by the time our thirty minutes were exhausted.  But it was a fascinating experience and certainly one of those "bucket list" items we can brag about having completed!

The second part of our tour was to visit Tumalog Falls.  A very steep hike descended into a cozy enclosed valley where very cold freshwater cascades over the cliffs, forming a beautiful veil and pooling into a large clear blue pond. It really created a picturesque scene!  We were told that much of this site was destroyed by the earthquake of 2013, when the rocky ledges were dotted with beautiful flowers and ferns, and a small spa was operated by some of the local women.

We were treated to a nice lunch featuring local delicacies such as spring rolls, roasted chicken, fatty pork (not so delicious), grilled fish, soup, rice and fresh fruit.

The long drive back to Mactan provided a final chance to photograph a bit of Cebu Island. 

We would soon have to pack our bags and leave the Philippines.  But we would take with us beautiful memories of beautiful people and places back to Korea with us, where we would recommend our destinations and experiences to many of our friends!


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