Jack Van Toorn

Sitting somewhere near the surface of every SCUBA divers bucket list is the mammoth-size marine mammal known to scholars as the Rhincodon Typus. These funny words roughly translate into English as ‘Awesome Big Spotty Shark’. This is close to, but not exactly, accurate.

These magnificent migratory pods are most commonly found…’’What’s that?’’ ‘’Oh for heaven’s sake I’m trying to write an article here’’. The strange words I used earlier are actually just Latin for ‘Whale Shark’, it seems someone woke up in a mischievous mood.

‘’Steve was that you?’’ ‘’Michelle! I highly doubt that’’

Typical Steve. All apologies, so I was informing you about our friend the Rhinco… the Whale Shark. SCUBA divers Love these highly decorative plankton-chomping filter-faces so much I have taken the liberty of putting together a fun and informative Dive Report calendar based facts sheet; the best place to spot a Whale Shark any time of the year!

Split into easy two month sections (Whale Sharks don’t move so fast) each destination title is linked to the areas Dive Report Location page; for more information and for Dive Center recommendations.

I’m going to go ahead and start the calendar with October, to save you precious seconds on booking that flight to Mozambique!

OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER - Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Maputo is two things. Secondly it’s the capital of Mozambique, fancy. Firstly, and most importantly it’s known as the SCUBA backpackers Mecca.

The surrounding waters (some 400km South) boast a constant supply of tiny fish, attracting one of the greatest gatherings of whale sharks in Africa with school sightings of over 50 Whale Sharks in October, and often, as late as March.

DECEMBER AND JANUARY - Cabo San Sebastian, Mozambique

Whale Sharks are a lot like snowballs. Not in every way. Not in a lot of ways. In only one way.

As the annual migratory route group of Whale Sharks move around the coastline, they constantly gather new members, much like the snowball. December finds them in Cabo San Sebastian.

A huge draw for lesser experienced divers; most encounters with the whale sharks here happen close to the surface, where, unlike snowballs, they filter krill. The reefs surrounding Cabo San Sebastian are a hot-spot for sightings with many specimens reaching 30 feet long.

FEBRUARY AND MARCH - Honda Bay, Palawan, Philippines

Those who have Googled ‘where to swim with Whale Sharks’ in the past, may have heard of Donsol Bay. There’s no doubt that this is a great spot, but I urge you, on your trip to the Philippines take a dip in Honda Bay.

Whale Sharks love it here! The best time, when conditions are perfect, is February and March. Still if your holiday doesn’t permit, Mozambique is too far and Belize is too expensive; you can spot Whale Sharks in Honda bar for moths either side.

APRIL AND MAY - Cheer Spit, Belize

It’s not that expensive, but maybe not the top spot for the self-contained underwater breathing backpacker. Still if you can, make your way to Belize for Red Snapper spawning season, the Whale Sharks love it!

The perfect window to spot some bigguns is three days either side of the full moon. In Cheer Spit divers and snorkelers alike are obliged to stay at least 10-foot from the Whale Sharks. Divers are asked not to mock the snorkelers for their stubby little air tubes and flash photography is not permitted. There are some other rules and regs in place for the comfort of the Whale Sharks, which are often adjusted subject to environmental change.

JUNE AND JULY -  Playa Del Carmen, Mexico

Just sitting there, minding its own business. On the Westerly Edge of the Southerly entrance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea; all the cool marine biologists would agree that Playa Del Carmen is a hot-spot for larger-than-average aquatic animals.

The varied and diverse ecosystem boasts an impressive amount migratory visitors and has become a favorite stop off for record numbers of Whale Sharks on their annual snowball-like migration.

Steve said that over 85% of Whale Shark sightings in the Gulf occur between June and October, but the best time seems to land around mid-July each year! Don’t trust him? Wise move, but a quick fact check on the Dive Report animal calendar confirmed his statement, which leads me to think that he’s been copying someone’s homework again. Dammit Steve!

AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER - South Ari Atoll, Maldives

So lasts, I make this calendar breakdown somewhat redundant by telling you that Whale sharks sightings are a year round occurrence in the Maldives. Still there is an obvious peak from Late August to Early September, so the day is saved. The more greedy divers, looking for larger groups on the move should head to the western side of the Indian Ocean archipelago between May and December. These schools then make their way East in the lead up to April.

South Ari Atoll is a Marine Protected Area, with many much needed rules and regulations that affect dive schools and local fishermen. Of course with any top spot, but especially heavily regulated ones; it is recommended to contact your Dive Center before booking your flights.

Hey that’s that… the full year. Where to go, what to see and what to look out for.

Did you know; although they may look similar, each and every Whale Shark has its own unique spotted pattern that makes it possible to track and protect them throughout their entire lifetime? If you didn’t, now you do!  So get out there and love your life, you crazy SCUBA diver you!

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