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Best Place To Scuba Dive With Whale Sharks (18 Whale Shark Hot Spots)

Best Place To Scuba Dive With Whale Sharks - The Biggest Fish In The Oceans
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Where in the world is the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks, the biggest fish in the oceans?

You may be looking for the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks, which for some scuba divers the whale shark is the elusive fish they’ve yet to see. Others have been lucky enough to see whales sharks scuba diving or snorkeling. I am fortunate to have swum with these magnificent creatures on the Ningaloo Reef, Australia. But where is the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks?

The best place to scuba dive with whale sharks:

  1. Mexico: Isla Holbox and Isla Mujeres.
  2. The Philippines: Donsol Bay.
  3. Australia: Ningaloo Reef.
  4. The Maldives: South Ari Atoll.
  5. Galapagos: Wolf and Darwin Island.
  6. Belize: Gladden Spit.
  7. Tanzania: Mafia Island.
  8. Indonesia: Cenderawasih Bay.
  9. Mozambique: Tofo Beach.
  10. Thailand: Koh Tao.
  11. Honduras: Utila Open Water.
  12. Djibouti: Gulf of Tadjoura.
  13. Seychelles: Mahe and Silhouette island.
  14. Costa Rica: Cocos Island.
  15. Saudi Arabia: Al-Lith.
  16. Qatar: Al Shaheen Oil Field.
  17. St. Helena Island.
  18. Myanmar (Burma): Mergui Archipelago.

The best way to do more diving and to see whale sharks is to book yourself on a scuba diving liveaboard. You can check the latest and best deals on liveaboards using the following window:

Below is a comparison table of the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks. The article continues into more detail about each whale shark hot-spot, which is followed by my recommendation for your best chance to see whale sharks.

The Best Place To Swim and Dive With Whale Sharks Comparison Chart

Dive LocationWhale Shark SeasonComments
Mexico10Cancun & Cozumel - Isla Holbox, Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres15 June to 15 SeptemberNote: Outside of these dates whale shark trips are illegal.
Swimming only, no scuba diving permitted.
Mexico10Baja California Sur - Sea of Cortez; La Paz, Cabo San Lucas and Cabo Pulmo National ParkNovember to MayNo restrictions on swimming or scuba diving with whales sharks.
Mexico10Socorro Island (Revillagigedo Islands)November to DecemberBy dive liveaboard only.
Philippines8Donsol Bay - Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte, Puerto Princesa, Palawan and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.December to MayWhale shark tours are highly regulated.
Scuba diving is forbidden.
Good option is by dive liveaboard.
Philippines8Honda Bay, PalawanApril to OctoberDive boats scout for whale sharks between dives or on custom trips.
Good option is by dive liveaboard.
Philippines8Oslob, CebuYear-roundGood option is by dive liveaboard.
Australia8Ningaloo Reef (WA)March to JuneWhale shark tours use spotter planes.
Australia8Christmas IslandsOctober to NovemberReferred to as the ‘Galapagos of the Indian Ocean
Maldives8South Ari AtollAll yearA good year-round dive site for whale sharks.
Rated by Lonely Planet as one of the best spots to dive with whale sharks.
Good option is by dive liveaboard.
Galapagos7Wolf Island and Darwin IslandJune to DecemberBy dive liveaboard only.
Belize6Gladden Spit, PlacenciaMarch to JuneGladden Spit is part of a protected marine area.
Good option is by dive liveaboard.
Tanzania6Mafia Island (Chole Shamba)October to MarchStill a relatively unknown tourist spot
Indonesia6Cenderawasih Bay (West Papua)August to OctoberBest by dive liveaboard.
Whale sharks are spotted year-round. More off the beaten track than Raja Ampat.
Indonesia6Raja AmpatAugust to OctoberBest by dive liveaboard.
Mozambique5Tofo BeachJune to JanuaryOff the beaten path destination
Mozambique5Cabo San SebastianOctober to FebruaryUnpressured by mass tourism.
Thailand4Koh Tao - Southwest Pinnacle and Chumphon PinnacleMarch to May.
September to October.
Best by dive liveaboard.
Thailand4Similan Islands - Richelieu RockFebruary to AprilBy dive liveaboard only.
Honduras4Utila Open WaterMarch to April and August to SeptemberCalled "The Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean".
Whale sharks can be spotted year-round.
Best by dive liveaboard.
Djibouti3Bay of Ghoubbet, Gulf of TadjouraNovember to JanuaryPossible to snorkel from the shore.
Best by dive liveaboard.
Seychelles2Mahe and Silhouette islandOctoberGood option is by dive liveaboard.
Costa Rica1Cocos IslandJune to SeptemberBy dive liveaboard only.
Saudi Arabia1Al-Lith, Red SeaMarch to JuneDiscovered as a whale shark hotspot in 2014.
Whale shark research area.
Qatar1Al Shaheen Oil Field, Arabian GulfMay to SeptemberWhale shark research area.
St. Helena Island1South AtlanticDecember to May (peak in January)A reliable aggregation of whale sharks
Myanmar (Burma)0**Mergui Archipelago, Andaman Sea (Western Rocky dive site in particular)February to MayBy dive liveaboard only.
Notes on the best place to swim and dive with whale sharks:
* The country mentions are of the first 10 articles on page one of a Google search for "Best place to scuba dive with whale sharks"
** Mergui Archipelago Myanmar wasn't mentioned by the first 10 results of Google, but is a great off-the beaten track dive area known for whale sharks sightings.

Please read on for help with choosing the best place for you to swim or dive with whale sharks.

Best place to scuba dive with whale sharks

Whale sharks like tropical waters. Whale sharks are rarely found in waters with water temperatures less than 21°C (70°F). So if you’re a ‘blue-water-scuba-diver‘ then you’re in luck.

Places that fit this description include the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico, Belize, the northern waters of Australia, Mergui Archipelago Myanmar, the Maldives, Mozambique, Thailand, the Red Sea, the Philippines, Mozambique and the Galapagos Islands.

Let’s take a look at some of the best places to scuba dive with whale sharks around the world in detail.

Swimming or scuba diving with Whale sharks in Mexico

Swimming or scuba diving with Whale sharks in Mexico

Whale sharks are found in the warm waters of Mexico where there’s plenty of plankton and other microscopic food for them to feed upon.

Mexico whale shark sites include:

  • The islands of Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox and Isla Contoy.
  • Baja California Sur – Sea of Cortez.
  • Socorro Island (Revillagigedo Islands) search worldwide destinations

1. Scuba diving and swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy and Isla Holbox

The above islands Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy and Isla Holbox are off the east cost of Mexico not far from Cancun and Cozumel in the Caribbean sea.

Whale sharks in Cancun and Cozumel:

  • The best time to see whale sharks here is between June and September.
  • Whale shark swimming is restricted from 15 June to 15 September.
  • Scuba diving with whale sharks is prohibited.
  • It’s been known to see up to 40 whale sharks on one trip to these Mexican islands in the Gulf of Mexico.

You’ll see from the video below of swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres, there are a lot of other boat operators around this whale shark sighting. Some operators offer a “money back guarantee” because they are so confident you’ll see a whale sharks on your tour.

Mexico tourist warning:

Be warned about driving in Mexico: When my brother visited Mexico he was stopped by corrupt police with machine guns. He was driving within the speed limit but he was still pulled over at gun point with some police wearing balaclavas. Even though he was within the speed limit they insisted he pay a $150 fine. In the end he got away with a $40 bribe.

Not exactly how you would expect the police to treat tourists in their country. My brother said he’d never go back to Mexico ever again. He was worried these police would take him, his wife and two children and shoot them if he didn’t comply.

I was considering Mexico as my next destination to see whale sharks. But now I’ll be giving it a wide berth and choose somewhere else to experience whale sharks again.

They did have a good time and they did see whale sharks on their trip out to Isla Mujeres. In fact his daughters (my nieces) experienced two whale sharks on either side of them. This was at the same time as seeing a manta ray swimming towards them. It’s such a shame the Mexican police spoiled the experience for them.

Swimming or diving with whale sharks Baja California Sur – Sea of Cortez, Mexico

At certain time of the year swimming with whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico is almost guaranteed.

Swimming or diving with whale sharks Socorro Island, Mexico

Socorro Island diving is by liveaboard only ands is know as Mexico’s ‘little Galapagos“. Socorro is officially known as the Revillagigedo Archipelago. Revillagigedo Archipelago is about 400 kilometres (250 miles) off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.

If you don’t see whale sharks you are likely to see manta rays.

Mexico whale shark season

  • Peak whale sharks season for Isla Holbox, Isla Contoy and Isla Mujeres: Months of July and August are peak.
  • Baja California Sur – Sea of Cortez: November to May.
  • Socorro Island: November to December.

Video of whale shark experience Isla Mujeres

Cancun & Whale Sharks at Isla Mujeres w/ GoPro Hero3 HD
Birthday celebration in Cancun with whale sharks, manta rays, and friends old and new!
Best place to swim with whale sharks in Philippines

2. Best place to swim with whale sharks in Philippines

The whale shark holds a special place for the people of the Philippines. They have whale sharks on their 100-peso bill.

Philippines whale shark encounters

  • A whale shark in the Philippines is called a butanding or a balilan.
  • Whale sharks are protected in law in the Philippines. By Philippines law, snorkelers must maintain a distance of at least four feet (1.22 metres) from the sharks. If they don’t, there’s a fine.
  • There’s also a possible prison sentence for anyone who touches a whale shark. But many reports show these laws are not being followed nor enforced.

There are many boat operators that take tourists out to swim and snorkel with the whale sharks in the Philippines. Both Donsol Bay and Oslob in Cebu are known for regular sightings of whale sharks in the Philippines.

But the problem with the whale shark tours in the Philippines is the tourists are crammed on the boats and there are so many boats around each of the whale sharks, it becomes a less than pleasant experience.

The tour guides are also feeding the whale sharks to keep them interested, which makes the whole experience even less appealing to the average scuba diver.

But if you’re destined to see a whale shark as a part of your bucket list, and you don’t mind sharing it with a lot of other people in the water, then the Philippines may be right for you. But it might not be the best place in the world for most.

Whale shark season in the Philippines

The whale shark season in the Philippines depends on the location. The following are the best times for each Philippines whale shark location:

  • Donsol Bay – December to May.
  • Honda Bay – April to October.
  • Oslob – Year-round.

Video of a whale shark experience in the Philippines:


Wild Me Project on whale sharks Philippines

According to the Facebook page of the Wild Me Project, the 1000th whale shark has been identified in Philippine waters.

This makes the Philippines the third largest known aggregation of whale sharks in the world, but the biggest in South East Asia. Not only that, satellite tracking has revealed that the waters around the Philippines are important for endangered whale sharks.

EurekAlert states that: ‘The Philippines is an important hotspot for whale sharks and globally hosts the third largest known population of whale sharks.’

Swimming and diving with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef Australia

3. Swimming and diving with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef, Australia

The Ningaloo Reef is the lesser known reef of Australia. It’s off the coast of Western Australia near to Exmouth in the north. Scuba diving on the Ningaloo Reef is fantastic. At certain times of the year, there’s also a good chance to see whale sharks too.

The whale shark boats use a spotter plane to locate the whale sharks in the ocean, which is why you’re almost always guaranteed to see at least one whale shark. When I experienced the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef I did this snorkeling on the surface.

Whale shark season in Australia

The best time to swim or dive with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef is from March to June each year. During this time of the year you are almost guaranteed to see whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef.

Swimming with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia
In 2012 we were lucky enough to go swimming with the Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef out of Exmouth in Western Australia. It is one of the best things I think I’ve done so far and wanted to share it with you.
Scuba diving with whale sharks in the Maldives

4. Scuba diving with whale sharks in the Maldives

The Maldives are a scuba diver’s paradise in the middle of the Indian Ocean. Beautiful coral reefs, sea turtles, large schools of coral fish, manta rays and of course whale sharks.

The warm seas around the Maldives are perfect for the whale shark.

In the Maldives there’s no specific season for whale sharks. The whale shark population in the Maldives is there year-round. If you fancy a trip to the Maldives, you should take a read of this page about liveaboard diving the Maldives and the best time to dive. The page includes a table of the best times, weather and water temperatures.

It’s the rainy season from early May through to late September in the Maldives. This is when there are stronger winds leading to choppier seas.

Maldives whale shark encounters log

An indication of the number of whale sharks in the Maldives, and at the time of writing this article the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) had logged over 6,000 encounters with whale sharks since 2006.

One of the best known places to see whale sharks in the Maldives is close to Maamigili, South Ari Atoll.

Of course the Maldives are not only good for whale sharks. It’s also great for diving with sea turtles, other shark species such as reef sharks, manta rays and dolphins too.

Maldives whale shark diving season

If you choose the South Ari Atoll you can dive with whale sharks all year. It then boils down to the best time for diving for weather, water temperature and cost of the trip.

Here’s a video showing a whale shark in the Maldives:

Maldives Diving with Whale Sharks | Into the Drink
Traveling halfway around the globe to search for the world’s largest fish; sometimes, you have to invent your own entertainment – – and cocktails – – when you’re on a boat in the middle of the Indian Ocean
Whale sharks around the Galapagos Islands

5. Whale sharks around the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands are another scuba diver’s paradise. The Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. They are a part of the Republic of Ecuador, but are 906 kilometres (563 miles) west off continental Ecuador. The sea life in this region is prolific and a wildlife lovers dream.

The two islands Darwin Island and Wolf Island in the Galapagos Islands is the best place to dive and swim with whale sharks in the Galapagos Islands. The only way to experience whale sharks at Darwin and Wolf Islands is by liveaboard boat.

In addition to whale sharks, you’re likely to see turtles, and rays, including the magnificent manta ray and other species of shark. On the Islands of the Galapagos you’ll see penguins, Galapagos tortoises, and marine iguanas too.

Galapagos Islands whale shark diving season

The best time to dive with Whale Sharks in the Galapagos Islands is in their dry season, which is between June and December.

Galapagos Whale Shark Project
The Galapagos Whale Shark Project, supported by Galapagos Conservation Trust, aims to increase our knowledge about the world’s largest fish including what their migratory patterns are, and whether the majority of individuals seen in Galapagos are actually pregnant females. Find out more in this video, made by collaborating scientist Chris Rohner (
Diving with whale sharks in Belize Gladden Spit

6. Diving with whale sharks in Belize Gladden Spit

The best location to scuba dive with whale sharks in Belize is Gladden Spit, Placencia. Gladden Spit is a protected marine reserve, which means its rich in sea life.

Whale shark season in Belize

The best time to see whale sharks in Gladden Spit, Belize is between March and June. This is when snapper and grouper are spawning, which is what the whale sharks come to feast upon.

Amazing Whale Shark Encounter – Belize
Diving with whale sharks off Mafia Island in Tanzania

7. Diving with whale sharks off Mafia Island in Tanzania

Mafia Island is an island in the Indian Ocean where the waters are warm and ideal for whale sharks. This area of the wold is not so well known and a bit of the beaten track, which is good for those who want to dive with no one else around.

Whale shark season Mafia Island Tanzania

The best time to dive or swim with whale sharks off Mafia Island, Tanzania is between October ands March.
Whale sharks Mafia Island
Scuba diving and swimming with whale sharks Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

8. Scuba diving and swimming with whale sharks Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia is further off the beaten track than Raja Ampat. It’s one of the best places to dive or swim with whale sharks. This area is unspoiled and is still be explored by scuba divers.

Whale sharks are very common at Cenderawasih Bay, which means you stand a good chance to see one when you are diving.

Whale shark season Cenderawasih Bay

The best time to scuba dive Cenderawasih Bay for whale sharks is from August to October.

Swimming with Whale Sharks Around Cenderawasih Bay, Nabire in West Papua Indonesia.
How to swim with whale sharks? And what´s the best place?
Whale sharks around Tofo Beach in Mozambique

9. Whale sharks around Tofo Beach in Mozambique

According to some the coral reefs around Tofo in the south of Mozambique have one of the highest Whale Shark populations in the world.

There’s been recordings of up to 20 whale sharks spotted on one boat trip. You could combine an African safari on the mainland, followed by an ocean safari to see whale sharks in Tofo, Mozambique.

In addition to whale sharks, you’re likely to see dolphins, manta rays and turtles. Plus there’s a chance to also see humpback whales too between June and October.

Mozambique whale shark season

The best time to snorkel with whale sharks in Tofo beach is between October to February. At this time whale shark numbers increase. But whale sharks can be seen year-round off the coast of Mozambique. This means you may see other date ranges for the best time for whale sharks in Mozambique.

Dolphins and Whale Sharks – Tofo, Mozambique
Little is known about whale shark migration paths but, for some reason, Praia do Tofo area is one of the hotspots where you will find juvenile male whale sharks almost all year round! It is definitely an amazing place if you want to have close encounters with marine megafauna!
Scuba Diving And Swimming with whale sharks in Koh Tao Thailand

10. Whale sharks in Koh Tao, Thailand

Koh Tao is a top scuba diving spot. Koh Tao translated to English means Turtle Island, which is in the Gulf of Thailand. Their claim is to be second only to Cairns, Australia and the Great Barrier Reef for the number of scuba diver certifications.

Whilst whale shark sightings are not as common as some of the places I’ve included in this article, they are seen around Koh Tao.

The best places to see whale sharks in Thailand are at the Southwest Pinnacle and Chumphon Pinnacle, which are located approximately 45 minutes away from Koh Tao.

In addition to whale sharks, there’s plenty of other sea-life to see. This includes giant groupers, barracuda, stingrays and large schools of coral reef fish.

Whale shark season Koh Tao, Thailand

The best time to see whale sharks in Koh Tao, Thailand is between March to May. But also, September to October are also good months too.

[Whale] Shark Island – Koh Tao, Thailand
Located of the southern coast of Koh Tao sits Shark Island. The best dive site to spot whale sharks and one of the best dives Koh Tao has to offer, regardless of experience level.
Scuba diving with whale sharks in the Bay Islands in Honduras

11. Scuba diving with whale sharks in the Bay Islands in Honduras

The Bay of Islands is a group of eight islands and 53 cays off the coast of Honduras. These islands are also located in the Caribbean sea and are a known place where sightings have been made of whales sharks.

Honduras has been named “The Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean“.

Whale shark season Honduras

Whale sharks are seen year-round in Honduras. But March to April and August to September are the best months to swim or dive with whale sharks.
Swimming with a Whale Shark in Roatan, Honduras
Footage from swimming with a whale shark off the West End of Roatan, Bay Islands, Honduras. Was a big one, probably 25 – 30 ft.

12. Dive and swim with whale sharks at Gulf of Tadjoura, Djibouti

The Republic of Djibouti is a country located in the Horn of Africa. Djibouti is bordered by Somaliland in the south, Ethiopia in the southwest. This is known to be one of the most dependable places to dive and swim with whale sharks in the world.

Whale shark season Djibouti

The peak season to swim or dive with whale sharks in Djibouti is November to January.

Djibouti’s Whale Shark Season
Djibouti is the perfect location to come face to face with whale sharks during their migrational period. Getting in to swim with these gigantic fish is an experience one is not soon to forget. They are one of the world’s coolest fish, and very sadly now, officially Endangered globally.

More places to scuba diving with Whale sharks

More places to scuba diving with Whale sharks including Mergui Archipelago

Other places you can scuba dive or swim iwth whale sharks includes the Seychelles, Cocos Islands, Costa Rica, Al-Lith-Saudi Arabia, Al Shaheen Oil Field-Qatar, St. Helena and Mergui Archipelago.

Mergui Archipelago is a remote diving destination off from Myanmar (Formerly Burma). This is an almost untouched scuba diving destination where you’re almost guaranteed to see sharks of many different species.

There has also been known to be the occasional whale shark seen at Mergui Archipelago. If you would like to experience remote scuba diving with the chance to see a whale shark, this is the place to go.

Scuba diving with whale sharks in the Red Sea

The Red Sea houses the perfect conditions for whale sharks, as the waters are warm and tropical. There are many whale sharks seen in the Red Sea by scuba divers, but I for one, despite numerous dive trips there, have yet to see a whale shark in the Red Sea.

However, if you’re going to scuba dive the Red Sea and you would like the opportunity to see whale sharks, the southern Red Sea is a better bet.

Scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), colleagues from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and Massachusetts Division of Marine Fisheries have found a large population of whale sharks near Al-Lith.

Al-Lith is on the central coast of the Saudi Arabian Red Sea, which is towards the southern Red Sea.

How to choose the best place for you to dive with whale sharks

Best place to scuba dive with whale sharks is as follows:

  • Best place for guaranteed whale shark sightings: Ningaloo Reef, Australia; Holbox Island and Isla Mujeres, Mexico; Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia.
  • The best place for whale sharks that is remote and off the beaten track: Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia; Mafia Island, Tanzania; Tofo Beach, Mozambique; Mergui Archipelago Myanmar.
  • For the best place with much more to offer scuba divers: Wolf Island and Darwin Island, Galapagos Islands (i.e. large schools of hammerheads); Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia (A diver’s dream due to its remoteness and 30+ metre (100 feet) visibility; World War II wrecks, turtles, dolphin pods and dugongs).
  • Best place for year-round sightings of Whale sharks: South Ari Atoll, Maldives; Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia; Utila Open Water, Honduras; Oslob, Philippines.
  • Best overall place to see whale sharks: Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia – best dived by liveaboard.

Table of Cenderawasih Bay Indonesian liveaboards

This list of Maldives liveaboards is in descending customer rating order, followed by Scuba Diving Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating, see below), so the liveaboards with the highest customer rating and the best SDE lux rating will be at the top of the list. If you want to change the list order, use the “Sort by” dropdown below.

Sort by:
Total Records Found: 11, showing 7 per page
Discover LiveaboardCustomer RatingSDE Lux Rating %Flexible BookingDive CoursesDietary RequirementsNitroxGear Rental
Review: Mutiara Laut; Book: Mutiara Laut 9.7 85% YES YES YES YES YES
Review: Coralia; Book: Coralia 9.5 85% YES YES YES YES YES
Review: MSY Damai I; Book: MSY Damai I 9.5 75% YES NO YES YES YES
Review: KLM Sea Safari VI; Book: KLM Sea Safari VI 9.3 69% YES NO YES YES YES
Review: Calico Jack; Book: Calico Jack 9 79% YES NO YES YES YES
Review: KLM Sea Safari 8; Book: KLM Sea Safari 8 8.9 69% YES NO YES YES YES
Review: Kurabesi; Book: Kurabesi 8.8 67% NO YES YES NO YES

The Scuba Diving Earth Luxury Rating (SDE Lux Rating) is explained on each liveaboard review when you click the “Discover Liveaboard” link, and is my own Liveaboard Luxury Rating I’ve assigned to all liveaboards. Choosing between liveaboards is helped by customer scores, and if you get stuck choosing between two or three liveaboards, where each one has a high customer score out of 10, you can use the SDE Luxury Rating to help narrow down your choice.

Think about it like using when searching for the best hotel. also use a customer score where each customer rates hotels out of 10. This is similar to the liveaboard customer rating, which is also rated out of 10. But let’s say you only like to stay in hotels rated 8 and above on, but you also want the hotel to have WIFI or parking, or to have a swimming pool etc. The features each hotel has is usually secondary to the score out of 10.

Report your whale shark sightings

At the time of writing this article ‘,’ had recorded 9,306 identified whale sharks sightings and 48,426 reported sightings of whale sharks.

If you want to report your whale shark sighting, please visit their site. ‘The Wildbook for Whale Sharks photo-identification library is an award-winning visual database of whale shark encounters and of individually catalogued whale sharks.’

Whale shark facts

Whale shark facts

Here are a few interesting facts about the whale shark:

FACT #1: How big do whale sharks get?

The whale shark is the largest fish in the ocean. It’s a slow-moving filter-feeding carpet shark. Wikipedia confirms the largest whale shark length of 12.65 m (41.5 ft). This weighed about 21.5 t (47,000 lb). But whale sharks are said to grow to over 18 metres (60 feet) in length.

FACT #2: How big is a whale shark’s mouth?

The whale shark’s mouth is quite distinctive and wide. The large specimens can have a mouth as wide as 1.5 metres (5 feet).

Their huge mouths are used to draw in the surrounding water which is rich in food. The various microscopic organisms are filtered out. The filtered water is passed out through their five large pairs of gills.

FACT #3: Can a whale shark eat a human?

Despite the huge size of whale sharks and their ‘5-foot-mouths,’ they are not man eating sharks. The esophagus of a whale shark measures only inches across. Which means that this enormous creature couldn’t swallow a human even if it wanted to.

Whale sharks are plankton feeders and they often close their mouths when they are around bigger fish or when they approached by scuba divers or snorkelers.

FACT #4: Are whale sharks aggressive?

Whale sharks aren’t aggressive fish. Despite having enormously wide mouths and thousands of teeth, they pose no risk to humans. The whale shark has an average swim speed of about 4.8 k.m.h. (3 m.p.h.) so they are gentle giants and they are very docile creatures.

However, it isn’t a good idea for you to get too close to their large tails. A swipe from their tail could be quite serious. So as with all sea creatures, it’s good practice to keep a safe distance away and to watch without trying to touch.

Having said that, some whale sharks are quite curious and sometimes approach scuba divers or snorkelers. If they approach you, then they are unlikely to attack you with their tails, as they obviously don’t feel threatened.

If this does happen, stay still in the water and watch with interest, as they’ll not harm you. Although, the scuba diver in the video below had to keep swimming away from this overly curious whale shark.

This video is of an extremely curious whale shark that seemingly attacks a scuba diver:

Whale Shark plays with diver

The whale shark was actually only curious and interested in the bubbles of the scuba diver. The diver was not harmed by the experience.

FACT #5: Do whale sharks have teeth?

Despite the fact that whale sharks are filter feeders and feed mostly on plankton, krill and small fish, they have about 3,000 tiny teeth. These numerous teeth are less than 6mm long. They are not used for eating.

FACT #5: What do whale sharks eat?

Whale sharks are filter feeders and one of only two extant filter feeding sharks. The second largest extant fish, which is also a filter feeder, is the basking shark. Manta rays, which are a cartilaginous fish like sharks is also large and a filter feeder in the same way.

Whale sharks are extremely patient feeders. Whale sharks feeding on the following:

  • Plankton.
  • Small squid.
  • Small fish.
  • Krill.
  • They are known to wait for hours for fish to spawn on coral reefs in order to eat the eggs.

Whale sharks feed in two ways:

  • The first is by ram-filtration, where the whale shark opens its mouth and swims forward. By swimming forward, the food-filled water is pushed into it’s mouth.
  • The second method of feeding is by suction. With this method of feeding, the whale shark actively sucks the food-filled water into its mouth instead.

FACT #6: How long can a whale shark live?

Whale sharks surviving through to adulthood are thought to live to as long as 100-150 years.

They reach sexual maturity when they are around 25-30 years old.

FACT #7: Do whale sharks give birth to live young?

Whale shark give birth to live young. Similar to other sharks species, whale sharks eggs hatch inside their bodies.

Whale shark litters can be up to 300 pups. When they are born they are about 40-60cm (16-24 inches) in length.

Not much is known about the life cycle of whale sharks, but it’s thought that survival rates of young whale sharks is low.

FACT #8: Are whale sharks an endangered species

Due to the over-fishing by humans, the whale shark is on the endangered species list.

The whale shark is listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN. This is as a result of growing human pressure on this beautiful creature. Numbers of Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) have more than halved over the last 75 years.

These slow-moving sharks continue to be fished by countries like China and Oman. They are also killed by ship propellers.

FACT #9: Are whales sharks in the Mediterranean?

Despite the Mediterranean Sea being warm enough for whale sharks, they are not found there.

It’s probably because they are not able to get to the Mediterranean without swimming through waters that are colder than 21°C (70°F).

FACT #10: What are the enemies of a whale shark?

Once a whale shark reaches maturity and has grown to a large size, it generally doesn’t have many predators. However, it’s main enemy is man. Until many of the countries that killed whale sharks for their fins stopped hunting them, humans killed whale sharks in huge numbers.

Whale sharks are hunted by the Chinese and in Oman. But places like India, the Philippines and Taiwan have ended large-scale fishing of Whale Sharks to help their conservation. They have instead turned to ‘whale-shark-tourism.’

Juvenile whale sharks are more vulnerable to predation. Baby whale sharks have been found in the stomachs of a blue marlin and blue sharks.

FACT #11: How does a whale shark defend itself?

Whale sharks protect themselves against these predators using their tail. Be careful about approaching a whale shark. You may think they are docile and gentle giants, but if they are feel threatened they will use their tails in defence.

FACT #12: Do whale sharks migrate?

Whale sharks are migratory fish and migrate very long distances. One particular whale shark was tracked 8,000 miles across the Pacific Ocean.

Dugong - Conclusion to the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks
The Dugong is a cute underwater creature you may also find as well as whale sharks at Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

Conclusion to the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks

For an all-round best place to scuba dive with whale sharks it has to be Cenderawasih Bay (West Papua), Indonesia. Scuba diving Cenderawasih Bay is almost guaranteed to see whale sharks. Plus if you like off the beaten track dive destinations, Cenderawasih Bay is the place to go.

Cenderawasih Bay also has so much to offer scuba divers. It is also one of the whale shark destinations that offers year-round whale shark sightings too. Cenderawasih Bay is a diver’s dream due to its remoteness and 30+ metre (100 feet) visibility. You can dive on World War II wrecks (most of which are within recreational dive depths), spot numerous turtles and manta rays, enjoy dolphin pods and see dugongs.

Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia is best dived by liveaboard due to its remoteness. Please enjoy and report back your diving experiences.

I hope you enjoyed this article about the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks

I’d love to hear from you. Tell us about your adventures of diving and snorkeling, in the comments below. Please also share your photos. Either from your underwater cameras or videos from your waterproof Gopro’s!

If this article hasn’t answered all of your questions. If you have more questions either about snorkeling or scuba diving (or specifically about the best place to scuba dive with whale sharks), please comment below with your questions.

There will also be many more articles about scuba diving (and snorkeling) for you to read and learn about these fabulous sports.

Have fun and be safe!

Best Place To Scuba Dive With Whale Sharks (18 Whale Shark Hot Spots)

Article written by Russell Bowyer who has been a scuba diver since diving on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia in 1989. After his first dive he trained as a BSAC diver in the UK. He attained his Diver Leader certification with BSAC. He then went on to become a scuba diving instructor, teaching others how to dive and was voted as Diving Officer and Treasurer for the Saffron Walden BSAC club too. Russell has dived all over the world, including the UK, on liveaboards in the Red Sea, the Caribbean, South Africa and the USA. Russell is experienced in all dive types, including drift diving, deep dives that involved decompression stops and recreational dives too.

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