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How to Swim with a Whale Shark

USA | Tuesday, 2 April 2013 | Views [363]

Ideally when you encounter the mammoth and famously docile whale shark you'll be taken by surprise and have this Jacques Cousteau-esque moment at sea. You'll free dive the underbelly of the biggest fish in the world, thinking for a moment, engulfed in blissful anxiety, that you took a breath underwater. Then you surface with a tear in your eye and a still frame image etched in your memory. As Jacques said, “The Sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

Good news and bad news. The bad news is that unless you're on a private vessel and free of time constraints, this coveted venturesome moment will not be a chance intimate one, rather shared with countless others on a tour. The good news? Someone will be there to take a picture for you!

While the price tag of a whale shark tour can be hard to chew, traveling to countries with an exchange rate in your favor makes it a viable option.  When booking, keep in mind season, tour size, and, most importantly, ethical practices. Because the very presence of the tour boats is arguably disturbing the creatures and their environment, it's crucial that you do your part in seeking out an eco-friendly tour company. Inquire about company procedures for swimming with the sharks and make sure that your guide is operating in compliance with local authorities and regulations.

Also ask how many people are in the water at once. How long does the encounter last? Are you guaranteed a sighting? Is there a videographer offering photos or video? Getting the answers to these questions before you book will ensure that you get the experience you want.

Let your larger than life experience remind you how small we are but how big of an impact we have on animals like the whale shark. And remember, every dollar you spend is a vote, so vote for a company thats mission is education based and steeped in conservation efforts. 

 Whale sharks can be found in tropical and warm-temperate seas ranging from Belize to Australia to the Philippines. Because whale sharks are predominantly solitary creatures, a run in can be hit or miss. Tip? Book in Isla Mujeres, Mexico where they socialize in groups upwards of twenty and you'll be assured a check off your bucket-list.

Here are a few popular places running tours or offering impromptu snorkel sessions between scuba dives:

Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico- June to September

Utila, Honduras and Gladden Spit, Belize- April to June

Ningaloo Reef, Australia- Mid-March to August

Donsol and Palawan, Philippines- April to September

Tags: animal travel, eco-travel, isla mujeres, scuba diving, whale sharks

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