Top Four Places to Dive With Whale Sharks – The Chase Is On!
(DiverWire) Scuba Divers who love to dive and travel have a bucket list of places they just have to go and better yet those oceanic animals they want to see and photograph. Some divers are nuts over the little things like reef seahorses, nudibranches and the tiny uncommon Sea Plume shrimp, while others look for the big stuff- Hammerheads, dolphins, Humpbacks and the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.
Diving with sharks has gained popularity over the recent years and diving with whale sharks is most incredible as the fish is so large and at the same time very tame. Whale Sharks are mainly migratory and therefore only show up in certain areas of the world during distinctive seasons. The seasons mainly correspond with spawning periods and the food sources that sustain them. If you really want to swim with a whale shark- the amazing chase is on!
There is as of yet very little known about the ocean’s gentle giants. The research studies that are now being conducted are fairly recent compared to others species like dolphins and Humpback whales that have been closely studied for over forty years. One reason is the rarity of the locations that they feed along coastlines and another is the fact that they tend to stay at depths of thousands of feet between feedings. They are pelagic dwellers, otherwise known as Open Ocean where they remain at depths between 2.6 miles and up to 6 miles below the oceans surface.
If you truly wish to see a whale shark there are few places in the world where they are spotted regularly. The whale shark inhabits only tropical and warm-temperate seas. The four top places in the World to see whale sharks is Australia, Mozambique, Mexico and Honduras Bay Islands. Off the West coast of Australia, they are known to migrate every spring to the continental shelf. The coral spawning of the area’s Ningaloo Reef provides the whale shark with an abundant supply of plankton. In Mozambique, Tofinio is an exceptional location where whale sharks tend to gather in numbers due to the upwelling and nutrient rich waters at Tofinio point and the surrounding area. In Mexico, during the summer months (June – September) hundreds of Whale Sharks gather just north of Isla Mujeres in a seven-mile radius to take advantage of the plankton rich waters created by the joining of the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Around the tiny island of Utila off Honduras Caribbean coast is one of the only locations in the World where researchers have discovered a year round population rather than just a migratory one. It is perhaps the unique combination of the undersea topography and an almost constant food source that keeps the whale shark in this popular diving destination.
Although more frequent in the months March-May and August-September, the Whale Shark is regularly sighted around the North side of Utila where the Cayman trench drops into the abyss. These periods coincide with the onset and duration of snapper spawning. Between April and June whale sharks dive significantly deeper in the new moon–first quarter periods once spawning is no longer occurring and spend longer time at depth. This means that during full moon and last quarter moon there are more sightings during spawning seasons. Fortunately, Utila is home to a great variety of snapper, which is one reason why whale sharks remain in these waters year round. The other significant reason is the great depths of the Cayman trench coupled with the shallows and mangroves where snapper spawn. Most dive shops and dive resorts offer snorkeling trips to view the whale sharks. Below are a few types of the snappers found around Utila and their spawning seasons. Click here to request a 2012 lunar calendar noting when the moon is full or in the last quarter and sightings may be higher as that is when the snappers spawn.
Species of Snapper On Utila (These are most prevalent)
Spawning Period Apr to Sept Red Snapper
• Yellow tail Snapper
• Vermillion Snapper
• Dog Teeth Snapper
Spawning Period Mar-June
• Mutton Snapper
Spawning Period Jul-Aug
• School Master Snapper
• Mangrove Snapper
• Cubera Snapper
End the chase and fulfill your dive adventure by swimming with the amazing whale shark!
Angelika Lukacy is the Director of Utopia Village, Utila Bay Islands
Contact Utopia Village for more information and 2012 scuba dive package specials.