Whale sharks are truly amazing animals. Weighing in around 10 tons and measuring as long as 40 feet (12 meters), whale sharks are the largest non-mammalian animals in the world.
Whale sharks are sharks, not whales, but they got their name for their enormous size. Like many giant creatures in the oceans, whale sharks feed exclusively on tiny plankton and krill, and they have no teeth as such, just a complex filter organism that strains out their food from the water. Because of this, they pose little danger to humans.
Whale sharks circumnavigate the planet every year, traveling more than 30,000 miles (48,000 kilometers) as they follow the tides and currents. Whale sharks often cruise a deep depths, sometimes more than 5,000 feet (1.5 km) below the surface AND can filter over 1,500 gallons (5,600 liters) of water per hour when they feed.
Once a year, in the springtime, whale sharks enter the waters of Belize near the area of Glover's Reef in the outer part of the Belize Barrier Reef. In synch with the phases of the moon, whale sharks rise to the surface of the ocean in search of tiny fish spawn, making this the best time for people to snorkel or scuba dive with these incredible animals.
Whale sharks are protected animals in Belize, and only licensed tour operators are allowed to enter the area where whale sharks are present. Flash photography is forbidden, and boats can only spend 90 minutes in the area. Visitors on licensed tour boats are permitted to snorkel or scuba dive with the whale sharks, an incredible chance to interact with some of the largest creatures in the world's oceans.
Despite their gargantuan size, whale sharks are generally described as being gentle and graceful. They often approach tour boats and seem genuinely curious about human visitors.
Whale sharks are generally solitary creatures, but they are known to occasionally travel in large groups. In 2011, more than 400 whale sharks were spotted off the coast of Mexico just north of Belize. In the waters off of Gladden Spit, it's not unusual to see small groups of whale sharks. Whale sharks are believed to live between 70 to 100 years.
Adventures in Belize (AIB) specializes in crafting bespoke vacation experiences in Belize. If you'd like to dive or snorkel with the whale sharks in 2018 or enjoy other organized tours of the top activities in Belize, contact AIB today.