Best Places In The World To Swim, Scuba Dive, or Snorkel With Whale Sharks

As amazing as snorkeling and scuba diving is as an activity in itself, it becomes truly outstanding when you can do it in the company of some of the world’s most remarkable—and largest—fish. If you’ve ever asked yourself the question “where can I swim, snorkel or scuba dive with whale sharks?”, this post gives you the answer.

Below, we’ve listed the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks. These amazing marine creatures are the largest fish on the planet, reaching lengths of 40 feet (12 meters) or more.

Just because they’re sharks doesn’t mean that they’re dangerous, though. Rather the contrary even, they are among the gentlest fish in our oceans. A slow-moving shark that “filter feeds” exclusively on plankton—much like several whale species do— whale sharks are not at all dangerous to humans.

Because of the above and the fact that they prefer (sub)tropical water that is no cooler than 72°C (22°C), they are an ideal swimming, snorkeling or scuba diving companion. The “problem” is that they’re quite rare and migrate seasonally. They’re not abundantly present. So, there are a limited number of places where you can actually swim, snorkel or scuba dive with whale sharks. You’ll find the best ones right here.

Note that, because they migrate, swimming with whale sharks is a seasonal activity. Even in the following places, where they’re spotted basically every year, there is often only a short window when it’s possible to swim, snorkel or scuba with whale sharks. We’ve made sure to highlight the best times of the year to do this for each destination.

Baja California, Mexico (November – May)

Whale Shark
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Chainarong Phrammanee

One of the best snorkeling with whale shark destinations in North America, Mexico’s Baja California has several places where you can scuba dive with whale sharks. These are Cabo San Lucas, Cabo Pulmo National Park and La Paz. Winter is the peak whale shark season in these parts.

Cancun and Cozumel, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox and Isla Contoy , Mexico (June – September)

Free diving with a whale shark.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Wonderful Nature

Don’t swim with dolphins in Cancun, but scuba dive with whale sharks at the nearby off-shore islands. Although they are present for about six months every year, the season is highly regulated in this busy tourist region. The official season is from June 15 to September 15. All other times of the year, whale sharks excursions are not legal.

South Ari Atoll, Maldives (year-round)

A boat in front of an island.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Jag_cz

A collection of more than 1,000 tropical coral islands in the Indian Ocean, Maldives is one of the greatest beach destinations in the world. It’s especially amazing because of its superb snorkeling and scuba diving opportunities, an archipelago literally made up of and surrounded by coral reefs. This is a marine paradise, home to many protected areas where sea life thrives.

Everything from sea turtles, manta rays and colorful fish to dolphins and whale sharks live here. The South Ari Atoll is home to smaller whale sharks who use the enormous supply of food to feed and grow before moving on. Sightings are common throughout the entire year.

Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia (year-round)

A beautiful bay.
Image credit: Shutterstock / FriedChicken99

In West Papua, Cenderawasih Bay is a beautifully sheltered bay home to breathtaking reefs and World War II shipwrecks. This remains one of the world’s greatest “unknown” dive destinations. Whale sharks are present throughout the year because of the bay’s abundant food supply—they even feed by sucking the smaller creatures from fishing nets—, but the peak season is from August to October.

Koh Tao, Thailand (April – June)

Group of people with a whale shark.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Dudarev Mikhail

(In)famous for its tropical party islands, Thailand also has several peaceful islands that offer world-class underwater exploration. Koh Tao is one of those islands. Renowned for its cheap diving opportunities, the island is visited by whale sharks year-round. However, your snorkeling and scuba diving chances are highest in April and May. The best places to scuba dive with whale sharks are Chumphon Pinnacle and Southwest Pinnacle, both a quick boat ride from the island.

South Mahé, Seychelles (August – November)

Islands in the Seychelles
Image Credit: Shutterstock / My Lovely Planet

Whale sharks find protected refuges in the Seychelles, incidentally one of the earliest places where whale sharks were officially recorded. The best place to see and swim with them is the island of Mahé, the largest one in this gorgeous tropical archipelago. The giant fish migrate past the Seychelles from August to November, with October as the peak month.

Gladden Spit, Belize (March – June)

Scuba diver taking a picture of a whale shark.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / belizediversity

Another one of the best places to swim, snorkel or scuba dive with whale sharks is Gladden Spit in Belize. It is a part of the Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve, which has a wealth of sea life and coral reefs. A mass fish spawning in spring draws in the whale sharks. The best months for sightings and swimming are April and May.

Donsol Bay, Philippines (December – May)

Aerial view of whale sharks.
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Peter116

The Philippines is a world-famous scuba diving destination as it is. What sets it apart even more are the seasonal whale shark visits in Donsol Bay and Oslob in Cebu, of which the former is the more ethical destination choice because of its eco-tours and eco-accommodations. Research has confirmed that there are almost 1,000 whale sharks in the Philippine waters. The peak whale shark season is from February to April.

Tofo Beach, Mozambique (June – December)

A beach in Mozambique
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Nektarstock

One of the most paradise-like destination in Africa, Mozambique boasts stunning beaches, clear waters, great lodges, coral reefs and lots of wildlife. This is arguably Africa’s best place for snorkeling and scuba diving. Not in the least because of the large concentration of whale sharks. Between October and March, it’s not exceptional to see groups of 50 of them, thanks to a permanent abundance of plankton.

Ningaloo Reef, Australia (March – July)

Whale shark in Ningaloo Reef in Australia
Image Credit: Shutterstock / Lewis Burnett

Much less famous than the reef on the other side of Australia, Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is actually the country’s largest and most accessible fringing reef. In many places, you can simply walk into the water and swim to the reef. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ningaloo Reef is visited by whale sharks from mid-March to July, attracted by a huge coral spawning.

Bram Reusen

Author: Bram Reusen


Bram Reusen is fluent in both English & Dutch, and his writings include news articles, equipment manuals, and more.

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