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The world’s 12 best places to snorkel with whales

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Whales have captivated our imagination for centuries and snorkeling with whales is one of life’s best experiences. Whether you want to meet them in the tropics or under the Arctic sun, there is a whale adventure for you. Here is our guide to the world’s best places to snorkel with whales.

HUMPBACK WHALES

Humpback whales are found at destinations worldwide, making them easy to spend time with. These huge whales are known for their spectacular breaches and complex song and are just as rewarding whether you watch them from a boat or get in the water.

  1. Tonga

If you want to snorkel in clear blue waters with humpback mothers and their calves, visit Tonga. It is one of the most popular places to swim with humpbacks, where you can choose from day safaris or longer trips. Just make sure you book early so you don’t miss out.

When to go: July to September.

  1. Moorea, French Polynesia

French Polynesia is the perfect place to combine a luxurious getaway with a humpback whale swim safari and world-class snorkeling. There are endless snorkeling spots, beautiful beachside resorts and numerous whales. If you want to try scuba diving for the first time, the diving in Moorea is ideal for beginners. The reefs are pristine, the waters are sheltered, and you can swim with Moorea’s famously friendly stingrays whilst you’re there.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Silver Bank, Dominican Republic

The Silver Bank marine reserve provides a safe winter haven for the North Atlantic humpback whale population whilst they gather to mate, calve and raise their young. There are various liveaboard operators that offer multi-day safaris dedicated solely to learning about and swimming with these charming whales. This is a great option if you want to immerse yourself fully in the world of whales.

When to go: January to April.

4. Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Reef hosts tens of thousands of humpback whales each year and is also a migratory route for dolphins, dugongs and manta rays. Lacking the crowds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, it is the most peaceful place to swim with humpback whales in Australia.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Hervey Bay, Queensland, Australia

Hervey Bay – the world’s first World Whale Heritage Site – has been called the whale watching capital of the world, thanks to its abundant humpbacks. This conservation-focused destination is just a 3.5-hour drive north of Brisbane and offers day trips to swim with the whales.

Time your trip right and you can also enjoy the annual Hervey Bay Whale Festival and Paddle Out for Whales.

When to go: July to November.

  1. Reunion Island

Réunion lies 550 km east of Madagascar and is a lesser-known humpback whale hotspot. With only a handful of people allowed in the water at any one time, it is a great destination for more intimate whale encounters.

When to go: August to September.

  1. Iceland

Iceland’s rich waters are a prime feeding ground for humpbacks and offer a unique whale swim experience. Wearing a cozy dry suit, you can spend hours admiring these whales in Iceland’s incredible gin-clear waters.

When to go: June to August.

 DWARF MINKE WHALES

These pint-sized whales grow up to 8 meters long and were only discovered in the 1980s. They might be relatively new to the whale watching scene, but they are wonderful to swim with.

  1. Great Barrier Reef, Australia

Known for being exceptionally friendly, dwarf minke whales create truly memorable encounters as they swim around you, under you and sometimes even between your fins.

Hop on a minke whale safari at Cairns and enjoy. Go snorkeling or try Great Barrier Reef diving whilst you’re there to experience the incredible wonders of this enormous reef system.

When to go: June to July.

SPERM WHALES

Weighing up to 50 tons and reaching 15 – 20 meters long, sperm whales are one of the most sought-after and impressive whale species to swim with.

  1. Dominica

The sheer drop-offs and deep sheltered bays around Dominica are perfect for sperm whales, and the females and calves stay there all year. After just a short boat ride from the coast, you will be swimming with these amazing animals in calm azure waters.

When to go: Year-round, though November to March is peak season.

BLUE WHALES

Weighing up to a staggering 200 tonnes, blue whales are enormous, and there are two great places you can swim with them.

  1. Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka is one of the only places where you can swim with blue whales, watch them from a boat, or go whale spotting in small airplanes – which is arguably the best way to get an idea of their sheer size.

When to go: March to April.

  1. San Diego, California

Baja California hosts the largest population of blue whales in the world every summer and there are a small number of operators that offer blue whale swimming safaris from San Diego. With small group sizes and week-long programs, they are perfect for maximizing your time with these huge whales.

When to go: June to October.

BELUGA WHALES

Beluga whales are easy to recognize thanks to their bright white coloring and rounded heads. These highly social animals are one of the most vocal whales and gather in large groups in Canada.

  1. Churchill, Canada

Tens of thousands of beluga whales gather each year in Hudson Bay and the small town of Churchill offers unique trips to swim with them. You can enjoy close-up encounters with hundreds of belugas in the water, plus spot polar bears, moose, Arctic foxes and more whilst you’re there.

When to go: June to September.

If you can’t get enough of whales, read the SSI guide to diving with whales to discover even more destinations where you can meet these giants of the ocean.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

 

Scuba Schools International (SSI) is the largest professional business-based training agency in the world. For over 50 years now, SSI has provided the ultimate training experience for millions of certified divers, not only in Recreational Scuba, but in every training category: Freediving, Extended Range, Rebreather Diving, Mermaid, Swim and Lifeguard.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Porbeagle

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This time we’re showcasing the robust Porbeagle, one of the only known sharks that may love to play..

Shaped like a rugby ball, this muscular stocky shark is incredibly hydrodynamic and built for endurance. Dark grey-blue in colour with a white belly, they have a pointed snout and large black eyes.

Porbeagle’s belong to an elite group of sharks known as the mackerel sharks. These include some of the most powerful and agile sharks in the world, such as the White Shark and Shortfin Mako. This group are endothermic, so can keep themselves nice and warm, due to a remarkable adaptation known as a rete mirabile. This makes them more efficient hunters and able to tolerate colder waters.

Porbeagle’s look a lot like White Sharks, so are often mistaken for them. As they’re found in UK waters, this has led to many false reports of White Sharks in the UK. But Porbeagle’s are around half the size. Although still a large shark, the biggest Porbeagle on record is 3.6m. While the largest White Shark is 6m.

Found worldwide in cold-temperate waters, Porbeagle’s are strong swimmers. Travelling thousands of miles in search of food and to give birth. One individual, tagged in Irish waters, journeyed over 2,000 miles to Newfoundland in Canada. A known mating ground for Porbeagle’s.

Porbeagle’s may live on their own, or in small groups made up of similar sized or same sex individuals. With males and females coming together usually in September-November to mate. Yet in some places this can take place in January.

These sharks reproduce slowly, so are extremely vulnerable to destructive fishing. Females take 12-16 years to reach sexual maturity, males 6-10 years. After 8-9 months, females will give birth to litters of just 1-5 pups, which are relatively large at 60-80cm long.

Two distinct populations exist – the north Atlantic and south Pacific. Individuals from these areas don’t seem to mix, resulting in key differences. North Atlantic Porbeagle’s get a lot bigger, and don’t tend to live as long as those in the south Pacific.

During the day Porbeagles tend to spend their time in deeper waters, rising to the surface at night. They’re opportunistic feeders, mostly eating small fish – such as mackerel, whiting and herring – as well as octopus, squid and cuttlefish.

Highly inquisitive, Porbeagles have been seen chasing each other, rolling at the surface, and even pushing around floating objects and kelp. Could they be playing? Currently there are no scientific studies to back this up. But what an interesting study that would be…!

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Lamna nasus
  • FAMILY: Mackerel Sharks (Lamnidae)
  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 3.6m
  • DIET: Small fish & squid
  • DISTRIBUTION: Wide-ranging in temperate waters (except North Pacific).
  • HABITAT: Coastal and oceanic waters from 0-1,800m deep. Prefers temperatures below 18°C but can tolerate -1–23°C.
  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable

For more amazing facts about sharks and what you can do to help the Shark Trust protect them visit the Shark Trust website by clicking here.

Header Image: Doug Perrine / Alamy

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Top Destinations to dive with Manta Rays

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In their mission to create a billion Torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean, PADI is encouraging divers to seek adventure and experience first-hand the vital eco-systems below the surface of the ocean.

To further raise awareness of this mission on International Manta Ray Day (17 September 2021), PADI has rounded up the top destinations in the world that are currently open to divers.

Machadilla National Park, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Diving in Ecuador offers a special paradise for scuba divers, in which the chance of encountering marine species nowhere else on earth is extremely high due to the heavy currents and nutrient rich waters. And for those keen to dive with manta rays, head out with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Exploramar Diving, or PADI 5 Star Dive Center Mares Ecuador here they take divers out to Machadilla National Park in Isla de la Plata for a chance to greet these graceful creatures every July to September.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Ecuador

Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii’s volcanic origins and isolated geographical location makes for a whirlwind of scuba diving encounters underwater, with manta ray encounters being likely all year long. For those looking for an extra special experience,  PADI 5 Star Dive Center Jack’s Diving Locker offers a manta ray night dive and a PADI Distinctive Specialty Course called Manta Ray Diver, which covers everything from the manta ray anatomy to cleaning habits, reproduction and how to identify individual rays in the local population.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Hawaii

Bryon Bay, Australia

For those who are currently in Australia, they can have their backyard manta ray encounter with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Sundive Byron Bay. The summer months of December to May bring manta rays to the nearby Julia Rocks Marine Reserve, which National Geographic once acknowledged as one of the top 20 dives in the world.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Australia

Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Bali

The name speaks for itself. Manta Point in Bali is a haven for manta rays all year long, with the best time to see them being from April to May. PADI 5 Star Dive Center and Resort  Scuba Junkie Penida  offers the ultimate manta ray diving experience in the area, adding coral dives and drift dives to the day’s adventure.

Find out more with PADI’ Dive Guide for Bali

Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s most famous diving destinations is also one of the best places to dive with manta rays! PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Blue Marlin Komodo is the perfect place for a manta ray holiday, where divers can stay at the dive resort while getting their PADI Open Water Diver certification and then hop aboard their dive vessel for a day of diving out at sea with manta rays!

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Indonesia

Six Senses Manta Point, Laamu Atoll, Maldives

Crystal clear warm waters, white sandy beaches and manta rays—PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Six Senses Laamu offers the ultimate luxurious manta ray holiday. As the only dive resort in the Laamu Atoll, divers of all levels will have extremely personable encounters with manta rays every month of the year in this world-class diving area.  There are also more than 180 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts in the Maldives that can take divers out to have a manta ray encounter.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for the Maldives

Azores, Portugal

The islands that make up the Azores off the coast of Portugal are one of the most diverse for marine life. One  specific type of manta rays known as the Mobula birostris is known tohang out in large groups around the island of St. Maria between June and October, with PADI 5 Star Haliotis Dive Center offering guided boat trips to the island.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Portugal

Diving with whale sharks and manta rays can make a difference in protecting these incredible species for future generations – dive tourism encourages protection from local communities and governments. But its important to always adhere to local guidelines and best practices to ensure these creatures’ well-being is always at the forefront. PADI dive operators understand the importance of using the proper equipment, the time of day to dive with sharks, and the maximum number of operators that should be on the water at any given time. To learn more about responsible shark and ray tourism and other ways you can support the protection of these incredible animals, visit padi.com/aware/sharks.

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Egypt | Simply the Best Itinerary | 14 – 21 October 2021 | Emperor Echo

Jump on board the latest addition to the Emperor fleet and enjoy diving the famous sites of the Red Sea with this fantastic special offer. Great value for money and perfect for small groups of buddies with a ‘Book 5 and 1 dives for FREE’ offer all year round.

Price NOW from just £1175 per person based on sharing a twin cabin/room including:

  • Flights from Gatwick to Hurghada with 23kgs baggage
  • 7 nights in shared cabin
  • 3 meals a day, soft drinks, red wine with dinner
  • 6 days’ diving, guide, 12ltr tank & weights, Marine Park fees and port departure fees
  • Free Nitrox

Subject to availability.
Alternative departure airports available at supplement.

Email info@diversetravel.co.uk to find out more!

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