Whale sharks (contradictory to the first half of their name) are fish and in fact the largest in the sea. Growing up to 12m long you would be forgiven for thinking that they should be avoided at all costs, but as any diver or snorkeller who has experienced diving with whale sharks will tell you, they are harmless and quite simply magnificent.
Being filter-feeders they glide along, mouths wide open, collecting plankton and small fish to feast on. They give birth to fully developed live young, which is unusual for sharks, and probably contributes to the 'whale' part of their name along with their size and feeding habits.
Whale sharks are warm water species and are found throughout the vast tropical seas. As a result they are very difficult to track and little is known about their life history. The data that has been collected shows them to be highly migratory, thought to be governed by the presence of high concentrations of their food: plankton blooms. Monitoring where these plankton blooms occur can help to keep tabs on these majestic creatures.
Although very little is known about them, there are several known locations throughout the globe where diving with whale sharks is almost guaranteed at the right time of year.
Our top picks (where we also happen to offer trips!) are:
- Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
- Placencia, Belize
- Mafia Island, Tanzania
- The Maldives
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
- Southern Mozambique
This is not by any means an exhaustive list but it's a good start!
There is nothing quite like swimming alongside these giant, elegant, spotted creatures so much so that the memory will stick with you for a very long time.
Have you been snorkelling or diving with whale sharks? Tell us your story in the comments.