Whale sharks are a popular choice for shark fans, being easy do dive or snorkel with at a variety of great dive destinations around the world. It’s possible to dive with them somewhere at just about any time of year! Read on to find out more.
This whale shark diving destination might be less well-known than others but that’s part of its charm. Djibouti’s thriving reefs are free of dive crowds, meaning you can explore Red-Sea-like coral reefs in peace and swim alongside whale sharks with ease.
You don’t need any experience to snorkel with Djibouti’s whale sharks but if you visit as a diver you can also enjoy the varied dive sites on offer. Diving between two tectonic plates is a definite highlight once you’ve had your fill of swimming with sharks.
When to go: Visit from November to February for dedicated whale shark and diving safaris. It’s the best time to see adult and juvenile whale sharks.
Liveaboard options: Being a relatively new destination, there are just a handful of liveaboards to choose from. The Nemo is a great choice for safaris that include the best of Djibouti’s dive sites as well as whale shark swims.
Ask where you can swim with whale sharks and most people will name Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. This colourful reef just off the UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Coast hosts hundreds of whale sharks each year and it is easy to go snorkelling with them there.
As well as whale sharks, Ningaloo Reef also hosts a diverse array of other seasonal marine life:
- Manta rays peak in numbers from May to October
- Humpback whales visit from July to November
- Dolphins and turtles are present all year
When to go: March to June for whale shark season
Liveaboard options: For a laid-back Western Australia dive-sail safari, try the Shore Thing liveaboard. This small catamaran gets you up close to Ningaloo’s wildlife with a maximum of 10 other guests.
Whilst other areas of Indonesia are hit by trade winds during the European summer, Cenderawasih Bay remains tucked away from the storms and offers unique whale shark encounters. This area is known for its friendly whale sharks, which visit the bay in large groups.
The local fishermen have always given the sharks a part of their catch for good luck, resulting in the sharks being very tolerant of divers and snorkelers in the water.
When to go: July to September
Liveaboard options: The Pearl of Papua liveaboard offers Cenderawasih Bay safaris, as well as other Raja Ampat safaris year-round.
Another top choice for whale shark encounters, the Maldives offers the quintessential tropical diving experience, amongst idyllic white-sand islands and with plenty of sunshine.
With so many islands to choose from it can be tricky to know which atolls to dive in the Maldives to see whale sharks. Ari Atoll is a popular choice for spotting whale sharks. Huvadhoo and Thaa atolls are also good options.
When to go: Ari Atoll is best dived from December to April.
Liveaboard options: The Eco Blue liveaboard offers a variety of safaris throughout the Maldives, allowing you to choose your whale shark destination and enjoy manta ray and other shark hotspots.
The Galapagos truly lives up to its name as a wildlife destination, offering not only whale sharks but also hammerheads, silky, Galapagos sharks and more. It is a premier shark lover’s dive destination.
Wolf Island is one of the best places to find whale sharks at the Galapagos and there are always numerous other sharks there to dive with.
When to go: June to December
Liveaboard options: If you want to combine Galapagos diving with naturalist tours, the Aqua liveaboard could be for you. You can add on naturalist tours before or after your dive safari.
Recently in the news as an emerging whale shark hotspot, Madagascar is definitely a destination to dive before word gets out. Over 80 whale sharks have been identified in just one season at Madagascar so far. They are usually found off Nosy Be island.
When to go: September to December
Liveaboard options: The Oceane’s Dream catamaran caters to just 8 guests and offers whale shark swims as well as Madagascar diving.
The diving hub of Utila in Honduras’s Bay Islands has plenty of whale sharks to dive with, as well as stunning dive sites along the underwater mountain range of Roatan, Utila and Guanaja. Expect dramatic walls and vibrant reefs as you go in search of these spotty giants.
When to go: March and April for peak shark season, plus September to December for whale sharks in fewer numbers.
Liveaboard options: The Roatan Aggressor is a popular choice for cruising the crystal-clear Bay Islands waters.
Gladden Spit in Belize has long been known as a whale shark destination, thanks to the fish-spawning that draws these sharks to the area each year.
Make sure you dive there a few days after the full moon to see the maximum number of whale sharks feasting before your eyes.
When to go: April and May for the best sightings
Liveaboard options: The Belize Aggressor III and Belize Aggressor IV offer Belize diving safaris.
The lush volcanic landscapes of Donsol would be enough to keep your eyes to the horizon if it were not for the untouched dive sites and numerous whale sharks in the turquoise waters below. This remote destination is famed for both its whale sharks and manta rays.
When to go: February to April for peak whale shark season
Liveaboard options: The gorgeous Philippine Siren cruises a range of the Philippines best dive destinations, including Donsol.
The biodiversity of marine life at Richelieu Rock is astounding and a big draw for divers from around the world. As well as numerous critters and schooling pelagic fish, you can also find whale sharks and manta rays feeding on plankton blooms.
When to go: February to April for peak whale shark and manta season
Liveaboard options: The Similan Explorer offers Richelieu Rock safaris, as well as trips to the Surin Islands. The inaccessible Surin Islands offer plenty of shark action, including whale sharks, and are visited by just a handful of liveaboards.
This article was written by divers and writers at LiveAboard.com