Whale sharks are truly magnificent creatures, using their built-in sensitivity to magnetic fields and the phases of the moon to circumnavigate the globe on a yearly basis. Measuring up to 41 feet (12 meters) in length and weighing up to 47,000 pounds (21 tons), whale sharks are the largest fish species in the world's oceans. Despite their enormous size, whale sharks feed on extremely tiny plankton and fish spawn.
Every spring, migrating schools of whale sharks make their way to the waters off of Belize, rising up from their cruising depths to feed on enormous clouds of fish spawn and microscopic organisms during periods of the full moon. Whale sharks have no teeth. Instead, they use an organic filter to strain their feed from thousands of gallons of sea water. Whale sharks are most commonly seen around Gladden Spit and the Silk Cayes in the southeastern part of the Belize Barrier Reef.
Even for experienced scuba divers and/or snorkelers used to marveling at underwater life, interacting with whale sharks is a special experience. The gentle giants are a marvel to behold, juveniles playing and frolicking while calves are being fed by their mothers. To protect the whale sharks, only small groups of divers are allowed to interact with the creatures. Divers and snorkelers will get a special opportunity to approach the magnificent whale sharks. Occasionally, a curious whale shark may be curious about their underwater visitors, but actively attempting to touch or play with the whale sharks is prohibited.
To get the most out of the whale shark experience, divers are given two tanks to try and approach whale sharks while snorkelers usually get two snorkel sessions. Divers are not allowed to take flash photos (non-flash photos are okay) of the whale sharks as they play and feed in order not to disturb the creatures. A maximum of six boats are allowed to approach a school of whale sharks and no diving or snorkeling with whale sharks is permitted after 5:00 PM.
Because scuba diving or snorkeling with whale sharks occurs in the open ocean, individuals who cannot swim are not allowed to participate. Individuals wishing to interact with the whale sharks should refrain from wearing jewelry, watches, or other items that could potentially be lost. Participants should bring a change of clothing, drinking water, and a light jacket in case of brisk tradewinds. As a safety precaution, pregnant women are strongly discouraged from visiting the whale sharks.
The Best Places to See Whale Sharks
Because only a licensed tour operator can take you to scuba dive or snorkel with whale sharks, the two best destinations to arrange for a tour are Hopkins and Placencia on the coast of southeastern Belize. Adventures in Belize can arrange for a unique snorkeling and whale shark experience, working with the top resorts in Hopkins and in Placencia, guaranteeing nature lovers a magnificent experience.
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