- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Swim with a Whale Shark
Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean and one of the most gentle and majestic creatures to see underwater. In this article, you’ll find the best whale shark diving locations around the world and the best time to swim and scuba dive with them.
BEST WHALE SHARK DIVING LOCATIONS
The following are the 10 best whale shark diving locations in the world along with an indication of what is the best season to go and how the diving and swimming with whale sharks is carried on.
1. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN MEXICO
Easily accessible from the United States and Europe, Mexico is one of the lucky locations to be graced by whale sharks. Many claim that Mexico sees more whale sharks at a given time than any other country in the world. In fact, some operators offer a “money back guarantee” because they are so confident you will see a whale shark during your tour. To swim with these large fish, head to Cancun, Cozumel or Baja California.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN MEXICO
The best time to swim with whale sharks in Mexico depends on what part of the country you intend to visit. Near the Yucatan Peninsula, whale shark season ranges from June to September, whereas whale shark season in Mexico’s Baja Peninsula occurs from winter to early spring.
SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN BAJA CALIFORNIA SUR
Along with great scuba diving, Baja California Sur offers fantastic opportunities for swimming or diving with whale sharks. Unlike Cancun where whale shark encounters are highly regulated and scuba diving is usually not allowed, scuba divers have a good chance at blowing bubbles with a whale shark in the Sea of Cortez. So where can you snorkel with whale sharks in Baja California Sur? La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Pulmo National Park all offer scuba diving sites where you’ll have an elevated chance at diving with a whale shark. Bahia de Los Angeles is another up-and-coming scuba diving destination where whale sharks are occasionally seen.
2. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN BELIZE
Gladden Spit in Belize is another of the best places to dive with whale sharks. With about 26,000 acres (10,510 ha) and 22 miles of coastline (36 km), Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes are part of a protected marine area (GSSCMR) in Belize. Being a protected area, Gladden Spit is rich in marine life such as sea turtles, coral reefs and colourful fish. Because of its natural biodiversity, this part of Belize offers excellent sightings of whale sharks. If you are ready for your whale shark diving adventure in Belize, head to Gladden Spit.
3. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN THE PHILIPPINES
Long famous for its scuba diving, the Philippines also pleases with whale shark encounters. Both Donsol Bay and Oslob in Cebu are known for regular sightings. However, if you want a more natural experience, visit Donsol Bay where whale shark tours are highly regulated. Noteworthy are also Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte, Puerto Princesa, Palawan and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Recent research has identified more than 942 individual whale sharks in Philippine waters.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN THE PHILIPPINES
The best time to see whale sharks in the Philippines is from December to May. During these months, you can swim with whale sharks on their natural migration routes in the Philippines.
SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN DONSOL BAY
There are over 7,500 islands in the Philippines. Donsol is a small town in the Province of Sorsogon on Luzon Island, which has become very famous for its whale shark encounters. In Donsol Bay, it’s forbidden to dive with these animals, but snorkeling is allowed. For diving with these sharks, it is possible to move to a nearby location. Overall, Donsol Bay is considered the best place to swim with whale sharks in the Philippines.
4. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN TANZANIA
Mafia (a.k.a. Chole Shamba) is an island in the Indian Ocean which belongs to Tanzania. The warm waters and typical tropical surroundings create pleasant moments. Moreover, this tourist destination is still relatively unknown to the average traveler, making it more attractive. To make a trip to Mafia, Tanzania even more unforgettable, marine life lovers should sign up for a whale shark excursion. These graceful giants can be regularly spotted and approached close to shore.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN TANZANIA
Whale sharks can be seen near Mafia Island between October and March.
5. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN AUSTRALIA
Ningaloo Reef extends for 160 miles (260 mi) along the west coast of Australia. This stunning reef is home to a plethora of fish (500 species), corals (300 species), molluscs (600 species) and many other marine invertebrates. During the winter you may encounter migratory animals such as dolphins, manta rays and humpback whales. Along the beaches, different species of sea turtles lay their eggs. In addition to this wonderful variety of marine life, whale sharks are often encountered by scuba divers in the region. Ready to dive with whale sharks in Australia? Head to Ningaloo Reef.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN AUSTRALIA
The best time to dive with whale sharks in Australia is during the Australian fall months, from March to June each year.
6. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN THE MALDIVES
Imagine you're lost in the middle of the Indian Ocean and on a desert island that you can explore in just a few minutes of walking. Inside there is a tropical forest along with palm trees that provide you with shade. White coral sand and turquoise seas stretch out before your eyes. Underwater exists a marine paradise rich in everything imaginable, such as turtles, colorful schools of fish, manta rays, dolphins and whale sharks. These are the Maldives, 1,192 coral islands divided into 26 atolls. Along the southern edge of the South Ari Atoll, "small" whale sharks (from 3 to 8 meters) come to feed and grow, staying about two months on average. These warm tropical waters allow them to find lots of food and an environment without predators.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN THE MALDIVES
Whale sharks are present in equal numbers all year round. Early May to late September is the ‘wet season,’ a period of sustained southwesterly winds which may or may not lead to periods of poor weather. The proximity to the equator means temperatures rarely venture below 82°F (28°C).
The team of researchers of the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme have discovered and identified 298 whale sharks since 2006, and have recorded 4063 different encounters.
7. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN MOZAMBIQUE
Are you looking for a location still to be discovered? Tofo Beach is situated in the south of Mozambique, not too far from South Africa. Thanks to its uncontaminated nature, Tofo Beach is a very interesting place to visit. Manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles and, during their winter migration, humpback whales are often spotted nearby. You can see all of this and whale sharks, too. If you’re ready to venture off the beaten path, be sure to plan your whale shark adventure for Tofo Beach in Mozambique.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN MOZAMBIQUE
The best time to find these sharks in Mozambique, and Tofo Beach in particular, is between June and January.
8. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS, ECUADOR
The Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, not far from Ecuador. Made famous by Charles Darwin, these islands boast the presence of numerous endemic species, such as penguins, Galapagos tortoises and marine iguanas, which can be seen while scuba diving in the area. There’s also a wide variety of corals and sharks. Wolf Island offers unforgettable dive spots such as Shark Bay, The Landslide, The Pinnacle, The Caves, North Islet, The Elephant and The Anchorage. Darwin Island offers only two dive sites, but they are considered among the most beautiful in the world! Because of the sheer biodiversity of the area, whale sharks are among the wealth of species regularly seen while scuba diving.
WHALE SHARK SEASON IN THE GALAPAGOS
The best time to swim with whale sharks in the Galapagos is during the dry season, which takes place between June and December.
9. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN THAILAND
Thailand offers a lot to tourists including gorgeous landscapes and temples, the bustling capital of Bangkok and the southern islands. Among these, Koh Tao is one of the most beautiful and is famous for diving. In addition to all the marine beauties you will meet along this tropical coral reef, you can also swim with whale sharks. The best places to see these graceful creatures are Southwest Pinnacle and Chumphon Pinnacle, located approximately 45 minutes away from Koh Tao. Two other popular points are called Shark Island and Hin Wong Pinnacle. Even if you don’t see a whale shark, you are likely to see one of the many sea turtles dwelling at these sites.
10. SWIMMING & DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN INDONESIA
Cenderawasih Bay is a large, sheltered bay in West Papua which belongs to Indonesia. Gorgeous reefs and shipwrecks from World War II can be found in these warm, tropical waters. Moreover, this tourist destination is still being explored by scuba divers, meaning you may be one of the first people to dive any given dive site. To make a trip to Cenderawasih Bay even more memorable, scuba divers should ensure at least one whale shark dive. These graceful giants exhibit a rare feeding pattern in this part of Indonesia. They suck on the bottom of fishing nets, extracting the delicious small fish. Because this pattern is known, seeing whale sharks in Cenderawasih Bay is nearly guaranteed.