ARE YOU UP FOR A SNORKEL OR A DIVE WITH THE LARGEST FISH IN THE SEA?
Of the handful of countries in the world, you can swim with Whale Sharks, Belize is one of them!
Whale Sharks have a preference for warm water, and why they gravitate to Belize. As temporary dwellers of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, they are frequent visitors to Belize’s Barrier Reef system between the months of March through June. Over recent years with the onset of climate change sightings cannot be guaranteed.
Before jumping in with these “gentle giants”, there are a few things you should know:
Are Whale Sharks dangerous to swim with?
Whale Sharks are not only the largest type of shark but the largest fish in the world. They can grow as large as 18 to 32.8 feet in length and weigh over 20.6 tons. The enormity of their size can be a little intimidating at a first, however, these majestic animals are filter feeders with a gentle temperament. They swim the Caribbean Sea in search of food, coming to the surface at times to fill their bellies on plankton before heading back down to roam. They can reach extraordinary depths of over 3,000ft (1,000 m).
When can you see Whale Sharks in Belize?
Swimming, diving or simply just the spotting of a Whale Shark or two is a remarkable experience. They are easily distinguishable because of their size and beautiful white spots among light horizontal and vertical stripes. Sightings in Belize is possible between the months of March – June, usually in conjunction with a full moon. During this time, they come to feed on eggs from the aggregations of spawning tropical fish such as the dog snapper, cubera, and mutton snapper. Despite no guarantee of a sighting, it is recommended you plan your snorkel or dive trip in the middle or last few days of the full moon when spawning is at its peak. The sea is rich in plankton, making for a glorious feast. Pull out your moon chart and start planning.
Tours are scheduled with Splash Dive Centre from April 27 to May 9, May 26 to June 7 and June 24 to July 6.
Where can you see Whale Sharks in Belize?
The atolls and marine reserves in Southern Belize are the most popular hangout spots for Whale Sharks while they are passing through Belize.
Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR) – Located roughly 22 miles East of Placencia or 30.1 miles East of Hopkins village, is roughly an hour to an hour and a half boat ride away. This area is bustling with schools of fish and marine life as it covers roughly 26,000 acres of aquatic habitat. It is a fantastic spot for both diving and snorkeling. Diving with Whale Sharks requires an Advance PADI certification with tours going to a maximum depth of 60ft/18m. Not a diver? Not to worry, you can still have a chance of spotting the Whales Sharks at the surface when they come up to feed. As an endangered species, coming in contact with these special creatures is a rare and treasured moment.