For lots of us, the whale shark is always at the top of our bucket list the Holy Grail of our underwater domain. It is the world’s biggest fish and this majestic animal isn’t easy to find. In order to give yourself the best chance of seeing one you have to select the right destination and make sure you get there at the right time of year. There are more and more dive holidays specifically designed around spotting Whale Sharks so what are you waiting for.
Whale sharks can be up to 12 meters long, weigh in excess of 20 tones and live for 80 years. So, you would think such a large animal would be pretty easy to spot. In reality they are quite elusive and unfortunately their numbers are dwindling. They really are amazing to dive with and if you want to come face-to-face with these gentle giants then we’ve come up with the top 10 destinations that will give you a chance of seeing them.
1. Puerto Ayora, Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos really are one of the true natural wonders of the world and should really be on everyone’s bucket list! This is a dive site for the more experienced diver because of the currents at Puerto Ayora but this gives you a fair crack at seeing these immense animals. The best time for whale shark encounters is between May and October.
2. Gladden Spit, Belize
The whale sharks are drawn here by the spawning cuberera snappers. The best time to visit is three days either side of a full moon as this coincides with when the snappers release their eggs and then the whale sharks feast begins. The best time for whale shark encounters is between April and May.
3. Ari and Baa, Maldives
This place is a great place to see whale sharks even if you aren’t diving. It’s possible to snorkel with them in the warm shallow waters, although it certainly is worth getting the scuba kit on and diving here. The best time for whale shark encounters is between May and December on the western side and December and April on the eastern side.
4. Isla Mujeres, Mexico
You know when a place has a whale shark festival then you know you stand a good chance of seeing them. As scuba diving isn’t allowed here it will be a snorkeling trip but it is pretty awesome from the surface – time to practice your freediving! The water here is beautifully clear and encounters are spectacular. The best time for encounters are from May to September, although the annual Whale Shark Festival takes place in mid-June.
5. Cabo San Sebastian, Mozambique
If you want to see whale sharks and you don’t like crowds then this might just be the destination for you. This place has greatest concentration of whale sharks in Africa gives you a great chance of spotting one. Mozambique is also a little bit off the beaten track so you could find yourself having a one to one experience. November to February give you the best chance of seeing a whale shark here.
6. Utila, Honduras
This is one of the few places on the planet that you have a chance of diving with whale sharks all year round. It is possible to snorkel and to dive with them here and the deeper waters on the north side of the island is the place to go. You can quite often find the whale sharks below the flocking sea birds – a good skipper is worth his weight here.
7. Ningaloo Reef, Australia
Not only is this a great place to see whale sharks but this is also simply just a great place to visit and dive anyway. It’s a really good place for all levels of divers. Dive here between April and July and you stand a good chance of bumping into the whale sharks.
8. Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines
Honday Bay is less well known than Donsol to the north but the whale shark sightings are just as frequent and it’s certainly less crowded. They start to group up here so multiple sightings are common and the dive boats spend their time trying to find them. Whale sharks are spotted between December to May here so certainly the best time to visit.
9. Mahé, Seychelles
This is one of those well-known secrets. The whale sharks migrate past the Seychelles archipelago in the Indian Ocean. It’s a dreamy destination anyway and the whale sharks are the cherry on top. The peak time to see them in October but they are around from September to November.
10. Richelieu Rock, Thailand
This is one of Thailand’s best dive destinations and a lot of the divers are rewarded with a whale shark sighting. Even if the whale sharks elude you this is one hell of a place to dive so it’s a great place to try. Your best time of the year to spot the whale sharks is from March to May.
I know divers that have 100’s of dives under their belts and still haven’t seen a whale shark. I have also met people that have seen them on their qualifying open water dives. It really does come down to luck however you can increase your chances by heading to a place that you know has a good history of sightings. What is guaranteed is that when you see your first, tenth or a hundredth whale shark you will be simply blown away. Keep diving, keep planning and keep those fins crossed!