Insights on Swimming with Sharks!

Adventure travel is slowly becoming one of the top trends of 2019, and snorkeling and scuba diving with cool marine life is one of those exotic adventures. Swimming with Whale Sharks has been a top bucket list item for the scuba diving community for a while, and is now gaining interest from thrill-seeking travelers and those looking for a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Whale Sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean yet, despite their size, they are some of the most gentle and graceful creatures to see underwater. There are multiple destinations around the world that are famous for their whale shark sightings and excursions, but going at the right time determines whether you see marine life or not. Based on our own research and experience, we’ve compiled a list of the best times and locations to swim with whale sharks.


Being easily accessible from the United States is just one of the reasons why Mexico is a great destination for snorkeling and scuba diving. A few destinations in Mexico such as Cozumel, Cancun, and Baja California are a some of the lucky locations that have been graced with whale sharks. Peak season in Mexico depends on where you go. For Cozumel and Cancun, whale shark season runs from June 15th - September 15th. In Baja California Sur, the season runs roughly from November to May and is the best spot for scuba divers to swim with whale sharks. Though these locations are popular destinations, instead of lounging in a resort or going on a dolphin excursion, opt for a whale shark excursion instead!

Gladden Spit, Belize

With around 22 miles of coastline, Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes are part of a protected marine area (GSSCMR) in Belize, allowing it to be rich in marine life such as sea turtles, coral reefs, colorful fish, and of course, whale sharks. The best time to see these beautiful creatures in Gladden Spit falls is between March and June. Belize is also home to several dive resorts that offer whale shark tours and can help you find the best places for swimming with them.

The Philippines

Long known for its scuba diving, The Philippines is also a prime spot for whale shark sightings. Donsol Bay in the Province of Sorsogon on Luzon Island is known for its whale shark encounters but is highly regulated. While snorkeling is allowed, diving is forbidden in this location. Those looking to dive can opt for a nearby location such as Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte, Puerto Princesa, Palawan and Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. Because the Philippines are located along whale sharks’ migration route, the best time to see whale sharks is between December and May. In Donsol Bay, the peak time is between February and April, but they can also be seen as early as December and as late as May.

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Mafia Island, Tanzania

Off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean lies the Island of Mafia (sometimes called Chole Shamba) that belongs to the country of Tanzania. Tropical weather and warm waters aside, this beautiful island is a hidden gem and relatively unknown to most travelers, making it the ideal spot to experience whale sharks without the crowds. Marine lovers can sign up for a whale shark excursion and are able to see these gentle giants up close and not very far from shore. Whale sharks can be seen from Mafia Island around October to March.

The Maldives

Other than the regularly spotted whale sharks, the Maldives has something to offer every traveler. From sapphire blue waters to sandy beaches to tropical forests to an underwater paradise brimming with marine life, this exotic location has much to offer. As for the whale sharks, they can be seen in equal numbers all year round, making it a popular spot for scuba divers and snorkeling. Though they are present year round, the wet season (May - September) sometimes brings periods of poor weather. Along the southern edge of the South Ari Atoll, “baby” whale sharks (ranging from 3 to 8 meters in size) come to feed and grow, staying about two months on average. The Maldives are also home to many diving hotels and luxury resorts for you to rest and relax during your trip.

Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Extending 160 miles along the West Australian Coast, Ningaloo Reef is home to around 500 species of fish, 300 species of coral, and countless other species of marine life. In the winter, dolphins and humpback whales can be seen migrating to warmer climates. Along with the rest of the vast marine life, whale sharks are seen regularly by scuba divers usually between the months of March and June (a.k.a. The Australian fall months.)

Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

Cenderawasih Bay is a sheltered bay in West Papua and its warm waters are home to beautiful coral reefs and World War II shipwrecks, perfect for diving and snorkeling. What makes this destination so special is the fact that the whale sharks in this region exhibit a unique feeding pattern by sucking on the bottom of fishing nets to extract the fish inside. Locals and tourists alike know this amazing secret, which almost guarantees a whale shark sighting. Whale sharks in this region are spotted year-round, but peak season is from August to October.

While these destinations are a few of our favorites, there are plenty of other places across the globe where whale sharks have been seen. Head down to Koh Tao in Thailand and dive along the infamous coral reef. You may see a whale shark there. Or opt for a trip to the Galapagos Islands where whale sharks are just one of the countless species that are regularly seen while scuba diving. The islands are also said to be one of the most beautiful dive sites in the world! 

While most travelers dream of a destination, some dream of an experience regardless of where that experience occurs. Do you need help planning your vacation to swim with whale sharks? Want more information about our favorite locations? Contact us! One of our advisors would love to talk with you.

Katelyn Mitchell