Oslob is located on the Island of Cebu, on the south-east coast, and is also very close to the island of Siquijor. I had contemplated visiting Siquijor as part of my travels but decided on Siargao instead. Oslob is famous for the activity of swimming with whale sharks, as well as home to some beautiful waterfalls, and is also a great location for a day trip to Sumilon Island and Sandbar. I had originally booked 3 days in Oslob, with the main motivation being swimming with the whale sharks. However, as time went on I became more and more concerned around whether the tourism around the whale sharks in Oslob was ethical and responsible.
So I decided not to visit the Whale sharks in Oslob, and instead use the extra time, to catch up on some writing and photo editing, and also maybe some Netflix and chilling! After enjoying quite a few activities in Moalboal the previous few days it was nice for both me and my bank balance to relax and just be, rather than chasing the next sightseeing opportunity. There isn’t a whole heap of stuff to do in Oslob, so I recommend that you only really need a day or two here, and you can actually fit in all of the main sights in one day, at a push.
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- Visa – British Nationals can enter the Philippines without a visa for an initial period of 30 days. However, as I stayed for 5 weeks I got a tourist visa from the Philippine Embassy which allowed me to stay for up to 59 days. For the most up to date information, consult the Philippine Immigration website here.
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – I felt relatively safe whilst I was in Oslob, exercise usual caution around looking after valuables and being safe alone or at night.
- Currency – Philippine peso (PHP)
- Language – Filipino is the national language which is the standardized variety of the Tagalog language, as well as English. I also spoke with several Filipinos especially in Cebu who spoke Cebuano. There are 4 indigenous languages (including Tagalog and Cebuano) with around 10 million or more native speakers and a further 8 languages with around 1 to 3 million native speakers. As a general rule though as a tourist – most people can speak English.
I was initially a little worried about having to get two public buses from Moalboal to Oslob and was imagining that it would be a pretty terrible journey with long waits and uncertainty, but this couldn’t have been further from the truth! I hopped on a motorbike to get back up to the main street where the bus stop is from my hostel, waited around 5-10 minutes and the Ceres bus arrived! The last stop would be the terminal at Bato so I knew that everyone would be getting off and I would be in the right place.
After around 1 hour 30 minutes, I arrived in Bato, I used the convenient ladies, and then started to search the parking lot for my next bus, just as I asked someone who appeared to be on a reception type desk he shouted out ‘wait!’ my bus was just about to leave but before it did I jumped on. I showed the conductor where I was staying and he assured me he would let me know where to get off. Around 40 minutes later I arrived in Oslob, and the bus dropped me off just down the road from my accommodation.
The journey along the coast of Cebu was so picturesque too, try to get a window seat if you can so you can enjoy the breeze and take in all the beautiful sea views. In total, the journey only cost me 119PHP (83PHP + 36 PHP), and to think I was considering paying thousands of PHP for a taxi! So moral of the story, don’t fret about using public buses in the Philippines they really are the best mode of transport, they may not be the quickest but if you leave early ahead of traffic, its the best way fo getting around, and so cheap too!
After checking on booking.com to see what kind of accommodation was available in the area of Oslob, I settled on Luna Oslob Inn. Treating myself to an actual hotel room with my own double bed as opposed to a hostel with bunk bed was a real luxury! I didn’t think there was a huge array of affordable options in Oslob, but found booking.com really useful to compare options.
Visiting the historical and cultural sites was quite easy to reach on foot from my hotel, however, it will depend on where you are staying. As well as walking around and exploring the area, I also arranged for a tour of the three most popular waterfalls and a boat trip to Sumilon Island and Sand Bar. The husband of one of the hotel staff kindly took me out on his motorcycle and drove me to each waterfall, and waited whilst I explored. He then arranged the boat trip for me, and again was waiting when I arrived back to shore.
Sometimes it’s worth waiting until you arrive at your accommodation and finding out what your hotel or hostel can help arrange for you as you may be able to get a cheaper deal or tailor-made package. I effectively chose where I wanted to go and could explore at my own pace throughout the day and the cost was pretty reasonable at just 700PHP.
Oslob Whale Sharks
After reading a few articles based on evidence from marine biologists, I decided not to take part in the tourism in Oslob to see the whale sharks. this was because of a few reasons. Whale sharks now associate boats and humans with food, due to the feeding that takes place, and now actively approach boats instead of avoiding them. Often as there are so many tourists the whale sharks are touched by humans, exposing them to human bacteria. Active feeding is affecting their migratory pattern and also limiting their diet to one main feed, as opposed to a variety they would find in the wild. Instead, I learnt that I could have the opportunity to view the whale sharks in the wild off the coast of Honda Bay at Puerto Princesa on the island of Palawan so decided I would take my chances and see if I could see them this way instead.
Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church
One morning I took a leisurely stroll down to the seafront, and visited the ‘Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church’. This pretty church is made from coral stone, and construction began in 1830 and took 18 years to complete. Sadly the church was burned down during World War II but was later restored to its former beauty. When I visited early on Sunday morning, all of the congregation were inside singing hymns, it was a very peaceful moment.
Just beside the church, you’ll also find the Baluarte (Spanish for watchtower). The Tower was part of the coastal defence system against raiders in the past. Guards would be posted here so they could observe the coastline and react quickly to any potential threats. Just in front of what’s left of the tower, you’ll also find a statue of Fr. Julian Bermejo Statue, paying homage to his courage and military prowess as he was the one responsible for devising the successful coastal defensive system in Cebu.
Cuartel De Espana
Situated just across from Our Lady of Immaculate Conception Church, this building was originally meant to be barracks for Spanish soldiers, however, construction was put on hold when the Americans arrived in 1899, and subsequently never finished. Just like the church, thick Coral stone was also used for the Cuartel De Espana.
This was my absolute favourite waterfall to visit out of the three during my tour around Oslob and neighbouring Samboan. Aguinid falls, is located on the south-west coast of Cebu, in the Samboan region, and is connected to the Tango River. It took us around 40 mins – 1 hour to reach Aguinid falls. Once we arrived, I had to pay an entry fee of 60 PHP, and 10PHP for hiring some aqua shoes, as my flip flops weren’t going to be very practical! I was then assigned two lovely guides, one to help me navigate the terrain and climb the rocks, and the other to take all manner of action shots on my Go Pro. There isn’t a set amount to pay the guides and it is actually voluntary but essentially they are the guide’s wages, so it pays to be generous. My hotel advised that people usually pay around 100PHp per guide.
There are eight levels to Aguinid falls, and the first level to climb was this bulbous rock face, luckily with a rope affixed to the surface to help you up, as some of the rock can be quite slippery. There is some climbing involved too so you need to be relatively fit and flexible to traverse up the levels of the waterfall. Once you do though, you’re rewarded with these little pockets of beautiful blue freshwater to dunk in and swim around.
If you are the adrenaline seeker type, there are also some opportunities for jumping into the water. I am not one of these types however so it was an immediate ‘no thank you’ when my guide asked if I wanted to! It was still fun climbing on the rocks though and floating in the refreshing cool pools of water.
Next up and just a 10-minute walk from Aguinid falls, in the region of Samboan was Binalyan Falls. Not as impressive or adventurous as Aguinid but still beautiful and refreshingly cold for a swim. Entry is 70 PHP, plus 70PHP to the guide. There’s only a short 15-20 minute dirt trail, and some wooden stairs to reach the waterfall, so it’s not as physically demanding as Aguinid, but a peaceful stop if you’re in Samboan and want to relax and cool off.
Last but not least Tomalog falls, which is situated in the region of Oslob. Unlike Aguinid and Binalyan, the Tomalog rock face of the waterfall is pretty huge and quite impressive. There’s no climbing of this waterfall at all. Instead when you visit you can marvel at the beautiful waters as they cascade down the rock face, and also enjoy the pool that gathers at the bottom.
Unfortunately, due to the season, there wasn’t an awful lot of water, so the falls had turned into a mere tickle and the pool was just about knee length. Although this didn’t stop plenty of children enjoying the waters and playing. It’s also really fun getting to the falls. As you reach the entrance at the main road, there is a very steep hill to get down to the falls, fear not you don’t need to walk it though, just pay 50PHP, and one of the several motorbike drivers will whizz you down in no time!
Sumilon Island and Sand Bar
An idyllic slice of paradise just off the coast of Oslob, my boat trip to the island cost around 850 PHP. The island itself is actually privately owned by a resort – Bluewater Sumilon Island Resort and was of course totally out of my price range to even consider staying there for a night, on my minuscule backpacker budget.
There is however a portion of the island which allows tourists to temporarily visit, whilst they enjoy the super clear, cool, crisp sea waters and stunningly beautiful sandbar. There are no amenities here though, there is one toilet and a handful of wooden benches, so do make sure you bring with you any water, snacks, towels, and plenty of sunscreen, as there is also zero shade!
Oslob wasn’t exactly what I had planned, without seeing the beautiful whale sharks, (my main reason for the stopover) but I’m so glad that I made the decision, because turns out swimming with whale sharks in Puerto Princesa was just out of this world! So check back here soon, as I’ll be bringing you all things Puerto Princessa in another blog post. Even though I didn’t take part in the swimming with whale sharks, Oslob still has a tonne of great activities and beautiful scenery to soak up, so if I were to do it again, I’d still definitely include it on my itinerary.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my trip to Oslob, and that I’ve given you some inspiration for your own travels, and also made you question and think about responsible travel and engaging with wildlife and animals. I must admit I haven’t always been so aware and vigilant, but questioning the safety and welfare of animals should be common practice whenever you consider a tour involving other living beings. If you have nay questions or queries I’d love to hear from you.
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