Swimming, snorkeling, or diving with whale sharks is high up on many wildlife-watchers’ travel bucket list. Paddling next to the world’s largest non-mammalian vertebrate certainly gives you some perspective! These giants of the sea grow up to 10, 15, or even 20 meters in length, depending on who you ask – making them the double-decker buses of the fish world (a reputation reinforced by Disney’s Finding Nemo). They may be big in size, but little is known about these mysterious marine creatures, only adding to their allure!
The giants are gentle; feeding on plankton and krill, gracefully swaying through the waves, wandering along with mysterious migratory patterns, mouths agape mirroring the humans nearby saying, “Wow.” If whale shark encounters appeal to the inner mermaid in you, here are the best places to see whale sharks in the wild, when you should go, and how to ensure both you and your new fishy friends have the best experience possible.
Although whale sharks don’t harm humans, the same can’t be said for the other way around. Although the whale shark isn’t officially listed as endangered, that’s only because there’s a lack of data about whale shark numbers (because they’re so dang mysterious!). Pollution, boats, fishing, and irresponsible tourism practices are certainly depleting numbers fast.
No matter where you choose to go to see whale sharks in the wild, make sure you do your research and go with a reputable, responsible tour operator. When swimming, snorkeling, or diving with whale sharks, remember not to get too close, don’t touch the animals, wear eco-friendly sun-cream, and never use flash photography.