If you're planning to make the three-hour, seventy-mile trip from Cebu City to Oslob as part of your Philippine itinerary, make sure you take in all the local sights. And no, the whale shark encounter is not all there is to this far-flung Philippines municipality - you'll find plenty more to see and do around town. From a hidden waterfall to a roast seaside feast, find out what Oslob offers to the visitor who wants to hang around.
Getting to Oslob: Buses regularly commute from Cebu South Terminal (Google Maps) to Oslob; look for the bus headed to “Bato Oslob”; air-conditioned buses cost PHP 155 per trip.
Swim with the whale sharks in Barangay Tan-Awan
The world's largest fish, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) have learned to feed from local fishermen, who sprinkle krill in the water for the sharks to suck into their gills. So "domesticated" have the local sharks become, that tourists now congregate to Tan-Awan town in Oslob to snorkel as the sharks slowly circle the waters, sucking in a free meal.
To be sure, this is not considered a responsible travel practice: environmentalists fear some harm will come the whale sharks' way if this practice is not stopped. On the other hand, the visitors have turned a sleepy fishing town into a relatively prosperous tourist town.
To allay fears, local authorities have set up rules to minimize unwelcome contact with the whale sharks, to the extent of requiring sunblock to be washed off before getting in the water.
Cool off under Tumalog Falls
Most visitors to Tan-Awan pair their whale shark watching trip with a visit to Tumalog Falls (location on Google Maps), a 300-foot waterfall in Oslob's highlands. To get there, take your rented car (or the Cebuano motorcycle taxi known as the "habal-habal") up to the jump-off point (location on Google Maps), where another set of habal-habal will take you down a thrilling, steep paved road to the foot of the falls.
Tumalog Falls' water is clean, and descends into a large, shallow, crystal-clear pool where you can wash the seawater off your body, if you'd previously snorkeled off Tan-Awan with the whale sharks (see above). The air around the pool is bathed with a soothing mist, and the surrounding foliage completes Tumalog Falls' otherworldly atmosphere.
Kiss the sky from a paragliding rig
Oslob’s newest attraction goes in exactly the opposite direction as the whale sharks. Instead of going under, you go way, way over – flying over Cebu Island and the surrounding sea in a paragliding tandem harness.
The town of Daanglungsod serves as the launchpad for Oslob Cebu Paragliding Development, which conducts tandem paragliding rides from local hills. No expertise needed: just enjoy the view while your partner controls the flight and takes you on a soft touchdown on the beach.
Each tandem flight takes up to 20 minutes to complete, and costs PHP 3,500 (about US$66). Schedule your paragliding session during the dry season, the southwest monsoon known as “amihan” in the local language between October and April (read about weather in the Philippines). Flights may be postponed without notice if the weather turns foul.
For inquiries, contact Mirhady Rendon at +63 (0) 925-544-6789 or Mary Dalumpines at +63 (0) 956-138-0263; or visit their Facebook page.
Eat "sutukil" by the beach
Cebuanos like their food simple and unadorned. Pork? Roast on a spit with a few local herbs, and you have the famous Cebu lechon; take the skin and broil till crisp, and you have chicharon. Seafood? That's where three syllables come in - "sutukil", which stand for three different methods of cooking.
Su is for sugba, or to grill; shrimp, squid, pork belly and tilapia are favorite grilled meats in Cebu. Tu is for tula, or stew; the Cebuanos are partial to stewed Spanish mackerel (tanigue) and chicken. Kil is for kilaw, or to cook in vinegar like a ceviche; again, Spanish mackerel blossoms wonderfully when marinated in vinegar and coconut milk.
Oslob suits adventurous eaters who want to have their sutukil by the beach. Brumini Bed and Beach Resort (compare rates via TripAdvisor; location on Google Maps) in Barangay Tan-Awan hosts a row of sutukil stalls where you can pick from their meats on hand and have them cooked the way you like them, served with plenty of white rice.
Dive off Sumilon Island
Located just off Oslob, Sumilon Island is the site of the Philippines' first marine sanctuary, first set up in the 1970s by a marine biologist in the nearby Silliman University. Dynamite fishing and other harmful practices once brought the island's ecosystem to the brink, but careful shepherding by local NGOs have allowed Sumilon Island's wildlife to bounce back.
Divers enjoy excellent visibility in Sumilon's crystal-clear waters; the 50 hectares of surrounding coral reef harbor a surprising variety of marine life, from barracuda to snakes to lionfish to stingrays to hammerhead sharks. (Don't forget the whale sharks that commute between Sumilon and their feeding grounds off Oslob!)
Tourists who prefer to stay close to Sumilon's dive sites can stay at Bluewater Sumilon resort (compare rates on TripAdvisor), but divers staying in Oslob, Bohol Island and nearby Dumaguete City manage to make the commute just fine.
Visit the local ruins
The municipality of Oslob is one of the oldest in the Philippines, having first been established in 1690 as a religious sub-parish within a neighboring town. After achieving recognition as a separate parish in 1848, work quickly began on the town's government infrastructure - some of which survives to the present day in the Oslob poblacion, or town center.
Walk down Calle Aragones - first established in 1879 - and you'll come across the Municipal Heritage Park facing the sea. The park contains Oslob's oldest structures - the Immaculate Concepcion Parish Church, built in 1848 out of corals harvested from the nearby sea; the Cuartel, a barracks building that was abandoned after the Americans took over Philippine rule; and a series of defensive structures designed to repel slave raids from Moros, or the Muslim communities living in the south.