Swimming with the whale sharks in Oslob
The thing about the little towns on the Philippine island of Cebu is that many of them are known for doing one thing very well. For instance, every one knows the best chicharrón is made in my family hometown of Carcar, while the best torta is down the road in Argao. Then there’s Oslob on the southern part of the island. Oslob is known for its whale sharks.
Tourists pay 1,000 pesos (about $23) each to be taken on outriggers a couple hundred yards off shore where the whale sharks gather promptly every morning. They show up because they know they’re going to get fed by the guides.
It’s a total tourist trap. But it’s worth every peso to be able to swim among the these things, which are the largest known species of fish on earth. It was also the reason I bought a DiCAPac waterproof case for my camera.
The pictures in this post were all taken with my Olympus E-M1 and M.Zuiko 17mm lens enclosed in the DiCAPac case. The camera fit well enough and seals up like a typical dry bag — you roll the enclosure up and then use Velcro to seal it.
The morning we were there, there were several whale sharks weaving in between the boats and tourists. As soon as I jumped into the water, a huge whale shark swam so close underneath me that I had to pull my feet up to my chest to avoid it.
But snorkeling at the surface and holding the camera down below seemed easy enough. The DiCAPac has a sleeve for your right index finger to slip into so that you can work the controls.
I set my camera on automatic and mostly shot blind, that is without putting the viewfinder up to my mask or using the LCD screen. It’s not the best method but without scuba gear it was the easiest way for me to take photos underwater without breaking the surface.
First the pros. It’s relatively cheap. I bought mine for $66 from B&H. It’s water tight, at least at the depths I used it, which was only a few feet underwater.
On the con side, while the finger sleeve made it easy to use the shutter button, it wasn’t that easy to use any of the other controls on the camera. There was also a major issue with the case fogging up pretty quickly. A defogger might have done the trick. I hadn’t thought about bringing any with me and I didn’t feel like trying the old spit into the mask trick.
My takeaways? If you get a chance to swim with the whale sharks do it. Buy the DiCAPac waterproof case if you’re only going to take your camera into the water once or twice a year. It certainly will do the job at shallow depths. It’s rated up to 16 feet but I never took it below four feet. A better option, however, may be to invest in a waterproof camera, such as the Olympus TG-3. You’ll pay more for the TG-3 but it might be the wise investment over the long haul.
All images by Joe Newman, except for the photo of the DiGAPac. I have no official relationship with any of the products mentioned in this post. The links to the DiPACac case and Olympus TG-3 are connected to my Amazon Associates account, which pays a small commission on referral sales.