One of the best destinations for whale sharks encounters, the Maldives is known for being home and haven to some of the most unique and beautiful marine animals in the world.
Due to the country’s vigorous sustainability and marine conservation efforts, the Maldivian archipelago is ripe with these gentle giants.
Whale sharks are the largest shark and incidentally, the largest fish species in the world too. They can grow up to 20 m and can weigh around 11 tons. Although they are sharks, they are filter feeders like whales which means they feed on tiny creatures like plankton.
As we near the optimal season for whale shark sighting, travellers and adventurers have a chance to snorkel or free dive with these gentle giants. Below is the ultimate detailed guide for the best whale shark experiences.
Excursions to find whale sharks can be arranged almost any time of the week, and tracking whale shark sightings is accessible through the local Whale Shark Network Maldives app. Many island resorts, guesthouses, and liveaboards offer their own diving excursions, swimming tours, and snorkelling tours for this exciting trip.
The best time to visit is around the beginning and end of the monsoon season, in May and November, or even December when there's good visibility and calm waters, while the optimal time to get out to the water is around three to five hours before the high tide.
South Ari Atoll
The marine protected area located in South Ari Atoll is one of the undisputed hotspots for whale shark spotting in the Maldives. Incredibly unique, as it is the only year-around whale shark aggregation site of its kind in the world. With its nutrient-rich waters and warm temperatures, the marine park serves as a secondary nursery to mostly juvenile male individuals. It is also home to Fernando - a sub-adult male of 7.8 m, one of the most frequently sighted and a favourite whale shark. Popular local islands: Dhigurah, Dhidhdhoo, Maamigili, and Fenfushi.
World-class luxurious resorts: LUX* South Ari Atoll, Holiday Island, Sun Island and Conrad Rangali.
Unesco Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area - Hanifaru Bay, is an uninhabited island, a sanctuary for marine life in Baa Atoll, and the largest known whale shark feeding ground in the world. The 1300 m long funnel traps concentrations of plankton between May to November. Thus, a frantic feeding frenzy occurs during this time. This is where travellers can spot Maamui, estimated to be between 4 to 4.5 m, a juvenile female whale shark.
Strict rules and regulations are in place to protect the Bay and the wildlife that passes through. There is a limit on the number of boats that can visit the Bay, as well as special rules that the boats must follow. Scuba equipment is not permitted and to reduce the impact on marine life, tourists are no longer allowed to dive in the bay. Instead, snorkelers are treated to memorable displays to watch the wonders from a distance.
World-class luxurious resorts located in Baa Atoll : Soneva Fushi, Amilla Fushi, Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas, Finolhu, Royal Island Resort and Spa, and The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort.
Popular local islands: Fulhadhoo, Fehendhoo and Ghoidhoo.
Swimming around this island one finds mostly large female sharks averaging 8 m in length, which is incredibly exciting as coastal populations of whale sharks worldwide tend to have a heavy male bias.
Although famous for its unusually large congregations of tiger sharks, the waters of Fuvahmulah are no strangers to whale sharks as well as black oceanic manta rays.
Stay at one of the local guest houses in Fuvahmulah for the full cultural experience. Kayak in the mangrove lakes, dive with tiger sharks, have a beach day on the famous ‘Thoondo’ beach, take a mud bath, and fall in love with the island of Fuvahmulah. -TradeArabia News Service