Waking up at 4.45am in order to arrive at Alona Beach at 5.30am turned out to be quite doable especially with the sun rise being quite early over in the Philippines. As usual though, we ended up waiting until past 6am for Reenz to arrive and then for the ferry-bus to pick us up and take us to a different beach for our boat to Oslob.
One of the most torturous things ever I have to say, is sitting on a boat with hard seats and wet butts (having had to trudge through hip high water – crotch-high for the less vertically-challenged, in order to get on board), while getting sprayed intermittently by sea water whenever the waves ran high. ANNNNND to add to that, being able to see Oslob from our boat and expecting to arrive within 10min, or another 10min, ok maybe another 10min… only to realise that we hardly seemed to be moving any closer! The only sparks of magic Flo and I caught were these flying fish skimming over the waters periodically. They weren’t the easiest to spot but when we managed to, they never failed to put a smile on our tired faces.
Day 1: (Day 5 in the Philippines)
Upon arrival, Flo and I found ourselves in a rather dusty town with little to do apart from what most tourists go to Oslob for – the Whale Sharks.
Immediately, as our hearts sank further after seeing our bare room at Issyan Beach House and its very sad lighting in our bathroom (We had one bulb out of two working, and maybe only at 10% power), Flo booked another place to stay up Northwest in Moalboal. So rather than the initial plan of spending three full days and four nights in Oslob, we stayed for just the one day and two nights. And to be honest, one full day was more than enough!
We first visited Oslob Town Centre in search of food. We chanced by their wet market and I have to admit that this was probably one of the few things there that amazed me.
They had stalls filled with stack upon stack of dried fish,
some had fresh meat just slapped onto their bench, and others were selling undergarments and footwear. Some were also selling home-cooked food that were stored in covered pots and pans.
We found the one ‘Caucasian-centric‘ eatery in the entire area where I tried a local soup called Sinigang. I ended up having this a few more times in the Philippines at different places and while the one at this place was not the best, it did provide me with some comfort in that it tasted a lot like this preserved vegetable soup we have back home.
The fish sinigang comprised of a lightly sour broth and was filled with vegetables as well as almost an entire fish, bones and all. It didn’t make for easy eating but I was delighted at the vegetables since most places tended to serve either chop suey or where fresh vegetables are concerned, they mainly kept to cucumbers and tomatoes.
The afternoon was spent visiting this old church just a short walk from their town centre, and also the beach area in front.
Although the beach was more just clear blue waters running by the breakwater since there wasn’t any sand to speak of.
We managed to find a gem of a place for dinner though. We took a bus for 20 pesos each to Tagawan where the Whale Shark diving is. We found Big J’s Restaurant through TripAdvisor and it certainly lived up to its hype.
We were treated to a giant bowl of tasty stir-fried vegetables,
Fresh grilled jumbo prawns,
And fork-tender Baby Back Ribs.
We then bus-ed back to Oslob Centre where we found this incredible convenience store that had pretty much everything from ground corn to doggie kibbles, toiletries to pots and pans, local cookies to sachets of coffee, cereal to styrofoam boxes, tinned food to fresh noodles! It was crazy but so awesome! We bought some soap and shampoo from there before getting some stuff to try from their local bakery.
We chose a cookie (I asked the lady if it was coconut in flavour and she just went “It’s a cookie”. Okayyyyyyy!), a filled flat bread that they called Japanese bread, and what looked like a sponge cake/,madeleine type thing called a kabayan? We ended up having these for breakfast the next day.
Day 2:(Day 6 in the Philippines)
Flo and I woke up early in order to get the bus back to Tagawan. The buses tend to take ages to arrive and there’s no schedule so you never know when one might come or whether you’ve just missed one. We ended up waiting about 30-40 minutes for ours.
Our morning turned out to be quite exciting. Flo and I decided we didn’t want to go Whale Shark diving. Instead, we thought we’d fly the drone over the area because it’d be cooler to get aerial shots of the wonderful creatures. We walked into one of the beach resorts catering to these snorkel/diving tours and proceeded to the restaurant area after declining an invite by one of their staff to go whale-watching.
Flo managed to fly a good 10min around the whale-watching area before this Caucasian lady warned us that we couldn’t fly the drone on those grounds and that the staff might kick up a fuss if they found us there. And kick up a fuss they did because within a few minutes, this angry Filipino came towards us angrily demanding that the drone be flown back and that he was calling the police. Not long after, he was joined by a Filipina lady who was irate beyond words as she spat out that what we were doing was against the law and then she switched to Tagalog, before reiterating that the police were on their way.
Flo calmly told the man that the drone was on its way back and the minute it landed, he tried to snatch it off of Flo. Flo was adamant that he didn’t touch it and told him so. The couple made such a big deal about the drone that by the time we were walked to their front reception, everyone there was clued in to what was going on. The lady who’d asked if we had wanted to go whale-watching was quick to suggest that she had tried to stop us from entering their grounds but we had ignored her. Lies.
Another guy from the front counter then stepped in and said that the drone was one thing, we had trespassed onto their private property and that in itself is illegal. All of them just had to share their two cents’ worth on the situation and almost all of them got their chance before the tourist police arrived. To be honest, he didn’t seem very bothered by the situation and simply brought us to a waiting area, past where all the whale shark tourists were being hoarded while waiting for their trip into the water. There, this young Filipina woman basically scrolled through Flo’s phone, asked for the pictures taken to be deleted, and right after we offered our apologies for the trouble we had caused, they let us off.
I think it was a small issue that they blew up into something big. The resort owners, or whoever they were, just seemed more upset that we hadn’t paid to swim with the whale sharks, and the extent to which they showed their anger made me feel as though they know that the business they’re running is not completely honest. They appeared to be acting out of fear that we might report them or jeopardise their business by uncovering how they work. Well, I guess I am.
Essentially what they are doing is that they bring food to lure the whale sharks in each morning before the tourists arrive. Whether the food is plankton or a mixture of something else I cannot say for sure. Either way, the sharks come and the tourists get their money’s worth being able to catch sight and even swim along with them. When all they are supposed to do is observe the whale sharks from the boats, many are going into the water to chase after them instead.
I don’t believe in creating a dependency on humans for food especially for creatures of the wild and it bums me to know that there are countless resorts in Oslob partaking in this industry because they know that this will rain money into their pockets. Please try not to support this industry. Imagine how much more amazing it will be being able to take a boat out and being able to spot these friendly giants in the wild – like legitimately in the wild?!
It seems to me like these people running this business think they own the rights to the photography of the whale sharks when these great animals belong to nature, not to them! They try to profit from the presence of these sharks only while they stand to gain. And when the day comes that the whale sharks stop bringing in the money, they will walk away, unconcerned about the well being of these creatures.
Anyway, we managed to finally leave the place at 10.30am and headed over to Ginatilan where we searched for lunch. We literally had to search for lunch.
There wasn’t much because the town is quite small and sleepy but we found some home-style food being sold.
We had a small serving of mixed vegetables, pork stewed with potatoes (which tasted very much like what Mum used to cook but a bit too much saltier), and pork bone soup. All for 80 pesos! Unfortunately, they were all served cold which wasn’t very pleasant even though taste-wise, they were decent.
We ended up popping by their local bakeshops to pick out some breads and buns since Flo was still hungry. He ate some on the spot and we took some with us to eat whenever. Then, we got someone to bike us up to Inambakan Falls some 3.9km from the base.
It turned out to be a bit of a wet day (again) and while it’d stopped raining when we left the town area, it rained on us as we made our way up. From the ‘hut’ where the bike stopped us, we had to walk a few minutes to reach the platform best for viewing the falls.
With the rain, it was obviously quite muddy in some parts but omigawd! The fall was gorgeous – beautiful blue waters at the base and a stunning cascade of water running right off the cliff.
With the wet weather, there was no one else around and Flo and I could gaze at its awesomeness undisturbed.
When we returned back to Ginatilan Town, it was another long wait for the bus back to Oslob. We ended up having dinner at the same place we had lunch the day before. I went for the Chicken Sinigang which was essentially the same as the fish, only with a lot of dry, overcooked chicken.
Flo decided to try the Sizzling Sisig which turned out to be a mishmash of mystery animal parts chopped into small pieces and served on a hot plate. The server then topped it all with an egg that we mixed in and tossed with everything. Let’s just say that Flo wasn’t a big fan of this dish and gave up part way in favour for a portion of French fries. We can’t be sure that it was from this meal but we ended up having upset tummies in the evening, and it went on a few more days for Flo.
And that one sad, extremely dim, working lightbulb in our toilet? It finally served some purpose when I had to visit the loo in the dead of the night. And yes, I must admit that as much as I was laughing at how pathetic is was upon arrival, I was quite grateful for that little bit of light – almost as much as we were both eager to leave next morning for Moalboal.