Make the most of your Whale Shark Adventure with these handy diving tips.
When Should We Come To Ensure We Have A Good Chance Of Seeing The Whale Sharks?
The whale shark season in Belize normally begins 2 days before the Full Moon up until 10 days after in the months of March, April, May, and June. However, the best sightings normally begins a few days after the full moon, this is normally when we get the best sightings.
Traditionally April and May have been the better months for Whale Shark shark sightings. Although your chances of seeing a whale shark are very good then, we do sometimes miss, therefore we recommend booking multiple days to ensure that you get the best encounter.
Whale Shark Dates 2014
March 15 – March 26 (Full Moon – March 16)
April 14– April 25 (Full Moon – April 15)
May 13 – May 24 (Full Moon – May 14)
June 12 – June 23 (Full Moon – June 13)
Whale Shark Dates 2015
March 4th – March 15th (Full Moon – March 5)
April 3rd – April 14th (Full Moon – April 25)
May 3rd – May 14th (Full Moon – May 25)
June 2nd – June 12th (Full Moon – June 23)
Whale Shark Tour
The Whale Shark Tours normally last full day, beginning in the morning and not returning until the late evening. Divers get 2 dives, and snorkelers get 2 snorkel sessions in the whale shark zone. Most of the time on the trip is spent having lunch, and snorkeling the patched reefs inside the barrier reef as we wait for our next session to go in the park.
Because the Whale shark Tours are conducted in open ocean, where most of the time there are no visible button, this tour is recommended for more experienced divers and snorkelers.
Experience: Recommended for divers with 20 plus dives. If you have not been diving within a year we recommend doing a refresher course. Snorkel must be of experience level as well.
Whale Share FAQs
1. Is there an Optimum time to see the whale sharks? We normally begin to see whale shark 2 days before the full moon until 2 days after the last quarter moon. However, the Optimum time to see the whale shark is a few days after the full moon.
2. What if we don’t see any whale shark, is there anything else to see? The dives out at Gladden Split can be very exciting, even if we don’t see any whale shale sharks. Also, the Gladden Split is a spawning ground for many different species of fish not only Snappers. Sometimes we can find ourselves diving in a school of horse eye or Carville jacks. Divers are also sometimes visited by Dolphins that feed on the fish, as well as other sharks (Caribbean Reef Sharks, Bull Sharks, or Hammerhead Sharks) and one time we were even visited by a pod of pilot whales making there migration further south.
3. Do I have to be a diver with an advance certificate to do this dive? You don’t need to be a diver with an advance certificate to do the whale shark dive. However, because the dives are done in Open Ocean, where most of the time there is no visible bottom, it is not recommend for beginner divers. You basically just hover at a depth of 60ft – 80ft, so proper buoyancy is a must. Therefore we recommend that you be a certified diver with 20 or more logged dives.
4. Can Divers and Snorkelers Be on the same boat? Yes, Divers and Snorkelers can be on the same boat.
5. If we are not allowed to stay late in the evening when spawning is most likely to take place, how do you attract the whale sharks? To attract the whale shark we dive in a tight formation over the snappers. The bubble clusters from all the divers simulates the spawn from the snappers, and if the whale sharks are down there, they come up to investigate, because they think it is a meal.
6. What happens if I am bumped by a whale shark, will I get fined $10,000BZ? You should try your best to get out of the path of the whale sharks if it is approaching. However, we understand that the human body is not designed to move gracefully under water. Just remember, you cannot touch the whale shark, but it can touch you.
7. Are there strong currents on the whale shark dive? Sometimes there can be strong current and it might require some heavy swimming. It is recommended that you be in good health and physically fitness to do this dive.
8. Does it get rough on the whale shark tour? Because the whale shark dives are done beyond the barrier reef. It can get rough on the whale shark dive, and as a result some people do get sea sick.
More About Whale Sharks
The Whale Shark (Rhincodon Typus) has the distinction of being the world’s largest fish, reaching 60ft/18m in length. The largest confirmed confirmed whale shark measure a whopping 41.50 ft/12.65m and weighed more than 21.5 tonnes. There are unconfirmed sightings of considerable larger whale sharks. The name “whale shark” comes from the fish’s physiology, being as large as many whales and also a filter feeder like many whale species.
Whale sharks are found throughout the tropics and in the territorial waters of over 120 counters, and have thought to have inhabited the earth’s oceans for more than 200 million years. Recording sighting of these majestic creatures date all the way back to the Mayas of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
What Do They Eat?
Until recently, they have been feared due to their immense size and the general misconception of all sharks being man-eaters. But, they are one of only three specie of sharks that are filter feeders (along with the Basking Shark and the Megamouth shark).
Whale Shark eat a variety of tiny animals including zoo-plankton, jellyfish, small bait fish, fish eggs and squids. They feed by filtering large amounts of water across their gills while swimming or by gulping water and filtering food in a stationary position (the only filter feeding shark known to do this).
Life Span and Reproduction
Like many sharks, whale sharks grow slowly, mature late in life, and live long lives. Scientists believe whale sharks live 100 years or more. Males appear to reach sexual maturity at lengths of 25-30 ft / 7.5 – 9m, or approximately 25 to 30 years old. The young sharks, called pups, develop in egg-cases in the female’s uterus and then are born live.
Behavior Toward Divers
Despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans. Younger whale sharks are actually quite gentle and can play with divers. In Belize, whale shark sometimes mistakes the bubble from dives as fishes, and are often seen gulping the divers bubbles.
Other Local Names for The Whale sharks
Known as a deity in a Vietnamese culture, the whale shark is called “Ca Ong”, which literally translates as “Sir Fish”. In Mexico, and throughout much of Latin America, the whale shark is known as “pez dama” or “domino” for its distinctive patterns of spots. However, they go by “Sapodillo Tom” in Belize due to a man name Tom who reported sightings of these huge fish at the Sapadilla Cayes.
In Africa, the names for the whale shark are very evocative: “papa shillingi” in Kenya came from the myth that God threw shillings upon the shark which are now its spots. In Madagascar the name is “marokintana” meaning “many stars”.
Javanese also reference the stars by calling it “geger lintang,” meaning “stars in the back”. In the Philippines, it is called “butanding” and “balilan” while in Madurese, it is known as “kikaki”.
Whale Shark Conservation
Because they grow and reproduce far more slowly than many fish species, whale sharks are very vulnerable to depletion through fishing, and scientist believe their numbers have been greatly reduced in areas where targeted fishing takes place. Yet whale sharks continue to be fished, primarily in the Asia-Pacific region to supply the Asian fin and meat markets.
Although whale sharks are protected in several countries and are listed in the convention for Migratory Species and on Appendix II of the Convention on international Trade in endangered Species, which monitors and regulates trade in Whale Shark Products. However, whale sharks do not currently benefit from global management and protection.
Tourism is a lucrative and potentially sustainable activity that can help to promote whale shark conservation. Most countries are realizing that whale sharks are worth far more alive through tourism than dead. consequently several countries, many with developing whale shark tourism, such as Mexico, India, Maldives, Honduras, Belize Australia, USA, Seychelles and the Philippines have passed national state or site specific laws protecting whale sharks.
However, tourism can adversely affect whale sharks. Divers and snorkelers harassment can alter a whale shark’s behavior and boat collisions can maim or kill them. As a precaution several countries such as Belize, Philippines and Australia have related whale shark Tourism and in Belize Local Whale shark tour-guides have undergone training to promote safe and sustainable tours. Whale Shark Conservation in Belize is head by S.E.A (You can visit there website here).