7 Best Places To Dive And Swim With Whale Sharks

If you’re looking for an amazing adventure and the chance to swim with whale sharks, then you’ve come to the right place! These gentle giants can be found in various places around the world, and we’ve put together a list of some of the best spots.

To be able to swim with a whale shark in its natural environment is a true privilege and one of the most unforgettable experiences in a lifetime. I, for one, will never forget seeing giant whale sharks just a few feet away from me in La Paz, Mexico!

Whether you’re looking for a luxurious vacation spot or something more off-the-beaten-path, we’ve got you covered. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your trip today!

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What Are Whale Sharks? Are They Dangerous?

Whale sharks are the largest known fish species and can grow up to 60 feet long. Despite their size, they are gentle giants and pose no threat to humans. In fact, swimming with them is an unforgettable experience that you’ll never forget!

They are an incredible sight to see in person, with their dark blue skin smattered with a constellation of bright white spots. And because no whale shark’s spots are the same as another, they are all very unique in their own way.

Some fun facts about whale sharks include:

  • Whale sharks are filter feeders and mainly eat plankton.
  • They are slow swimmers but can accelerate quickly if they want to.
  • Despite their size, they are very shy creatures.
  • They are found in tropical waters all over the world.

Now that you know a little bit more about these gentle giants, let’s take a look at some of the best places to swim or dive with them!

Best Places to Swim or Dive with Whale Sharks

1. La Paz, Mexico

La Paz - Best Place To Snorkel With Whale Sharks

If you’re looking for a sweet vacation spot where you can snorkel with whale sharks, then look no further than La Paz, Mexico. This beautiful resort town just 2 hours away from Cabo San Lucas is located on the Sea of Cortez and is home to some of the world’s most stunning beaches.

In addition to its beaches, La Paz is a very reliable place to snorkel or swim with whale sharks, especially in the fall and winter months.

The whale shark tours here are considered among the most ethical in the world from a conservation perspective. Tour operator activity is heavily regulated by the Mexican environmental authorities, with only 14 boats allowed to run tours each day.

The best time to visit La Paz to swim with whale sharks is between the months of October and November, when the water is warmer and plankton is abundant. A visit in the winter, while still possible, means cooler water temperatures and less visibility, but also the added possibility to see grey and humpback whales.

I swam with whale sharks in La Paz in early March and boy was the water cold! Visibility was low as well, so I’d recommend planning your trip for when the ocean waters are warmer.

In the La Paz area, you can also enjoy diving, fishing, and plenty of other activities. Those of you looking for a resort-style vacation can head to Cabo right after La Paz! There you’ll find no shortage of shopping, restaurants and bars, entertainment, spas, golf courses, and more!

Read More: Where To Stay In La Paz, Mexico: 10 Best Hotels For Any Budget

2. Isla Mujeres, Mexico

13 Best Things To Do On Isla Mujeres - Travels With Elle

If you’re looking for an adventure that’s just a tad off the beaten path from a typical vacation to Cancun, then head to Isla Mujeres, Mexico.

This small island is located just off the coast of Cancun and is home to a plethora of delightful whale shark swimming experiences during the summertime. During the summer months (particularly in July and August), the plankton-rich waters and breeding tuna eggs draw in hundreds of whale sharks (and manta rays)!

Most operators will snorkel off Isla Holbox, where the whale sharks gather to feed on plankton and krill. Other tour operators will take snorkelers way off Isla Mujeres to clear blue water, where whale sharks and mantas feed on bonito eggs after spawning events.

In addition to snorkeling with whale sharks, you can also enjoy diving, fishing, and plenty of other activities.

Read more: 17 Unforgettable Adventures & Things To Do On Isla Mujeres, Mexico

3. Gladden Split, Belize

If you’re looking for a truly unique experience, then Gladden Split in Belize is the place for you. This remote location is only accessible by boat, but it’s worth the effort to get there.

The clear blue waters around Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes Marine Reserve near Placencia in Southern Belize are teeming with whale sharks, and you can swim with them in their natural habitat.

Each year between the months of March and June, whale sharks visit to munch on the enormous amount of fish spawn in the area.

Due to the sensitive nature of the whale sharks, only strictly controlled tour groups in Gladden Split are allowed to dive with the whale sharks. The best place to encounter these majestic creatures is about 30 miles offshore of Placencia, Belize.

  • Best time to swim with whale sharks: March to June
  • Type of experience: Snorkel, swim, or dive

4. Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Ningaloo Reef Australia - Best Place To Swim With Whale Sharks

For those looking for something a bit more off-the-beaten path, Ningaloo Reef, Australia’s largest and most accessible fringing coral reef, is the perfect spot.

This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to an abundance of marine life (over 500 fish species), including whale sharks.

During the months of March to July when whale sharks arrive to feed following a mass coral spawning, you can snorkel or dive with these gentle giants!

Most tours depart from Exmouth and many tour operators offer pick-ups from local caravan parks and hotels. Ningaloo Whalesharks is one of the best companies to go with. They even have their own spotter plane, which dramatically ups your chances of spotting whale sharks. That means more time in the water with them compared to what some other tours can offer.

5. South Ari Atoll, Maldives

Swimming with Whale Sharks - Best Time To Visit Cancun - TravelsWithElle

If you’re looking for a Maldives vacation that’s unlike any other, then South Ari Atoll is the place for you. Boasting sun-swept island beaches and sandbars surrounded by tropical blue waters, you can come for the whale sharks and stay for the unbeatable tropical vibes.

This pristine location is one of the best places for spotting whale sharks. Maamigili is one of South Ari’s best sites for swimming with whale sharks.

So when exactly should you plan a trip to the Maldives? The answer is any time you’d like!

Whale shark sightings are excellent year-round, with a peak season of August to November. And while the area generally has crystal clear waters, the best water conditions for diving can be experienced from January to April.

Not only can you snorkel or dive with whale sharks and see them in their natural habitat, but if you have any interest in manta rays, South Ari is also the place! From October to May (with a peak season of February to April), manta rays are prevalent in South Ari, particularly at Madivaru.

  • Best time to swim with whale sharks: All year round (peak is August to November)
  • Type of experience: Snorkel, swim, or dive
  • Check for tours

6. Tofo Beach, Mozambique

For those looking for an African adventure, the southern coast of Mozambique is the perfect spot. Not only is this country home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, but it is home to a resident population of whale sharks. That makes snorkeling or diving with whale sharks possible all-year-round!

Tofo Beach, Mozambique’s whale shark capital of Africa, is very well-known for its whale sharks. Tofo is a colorful fishing and diving town on the remote coasts of Mozambique’s magnificent Inhambane Province. Between October and March will probably be the best time to visit, when the blooming plankton draws in whale sharks by the droves!

The abundance of fish food during peak whale shark season doesn’t attract just whale sharks–but also the enormous and majestic manta rays too!

Tofo is home to several dive centers and tour operators (such as Tofo Scuba and Peri-Peri Divers), all of which offer whale shark swimming and snorkeling trips.

  • Best time to swim with whale sharks: October to March
  • Type of experience: Snorkel, swim, or dive

7. Wolf and Darwin Islands, Galapagos Islands

Where To Dive With Whale Sharks - Galapagos Islands

Last but not least, The Galapagos Islands are a must-see for any nature lover. This unique location is home to an abundance of marine life, including whale sharks.

For the best chances of seeing whale sharks in the Galapagos, head to the open water around Wolf and Darwin Islands between June and December. In fact, these islands are two of the only places in the world where you can consistently scuba dive with whale sharks.

From June to December, the weather and water temperatures in the Galapagos start cooling down, and thanks to natural upswelling currents, plankton starts to bloom. And when plankton bloom, whale sharks come to feed.

However, it’s important to note that conditions are highly variable at Darwin on a day-to-day basis. While whale sharks can appear at any time, there are plenty of other sharks around to see, so it’s quite an underwater adventure!

We hope you enjoyed reading about the best places to swim or dive with whale sharks around the world! If you’re looking for an amazing adventure, then any of these spots would be a great choice.

Have you ever had an up-close encounter with a whale shark? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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