Belize is a world-famous mecca for scuba diving
thanks to its massive barrier reef
system (the second-largest in the world), crystal clear waters, and abundance of marine life. But one of the rarest and most beautiful animals in the ocean's waters only visits Belize once a year.
Whale sharks are not whales in the true sense of the word. Instead, they are the largest fish which have ever existed. Whale sharks can grow to up to 41 feet (12 meters) in length and weigh up to 47,000 pounds (21 tons), roughly double the size and weigh of a semi truck. Despite their huge size, these sharks pose almost no danger to humans because they are filter feeders.
Whale sharks may be huge, but they feed exclusively on microscopic plankton and fish spawn and have enormous mouths that can be as much as five feet (1.5 meters) wide, which they use to gulp down thousands of gallons of water. Whale sharks use 10 filter pads in order to strain out their microscopic food from the water.
These sharks are global animals, swimming all the way across the planet in the course of a year, only exist in warm waters, and they migrate around the globe in order to feed on huge plankton blooms. Most of the time, whale sharks exist at depths that are inaccessible to human divers, but they occasionally rise to the surface during key phases of the moon.
As part of their annual migration, whale sharks begin arriving in Belize in the late springtime and usually congregate on the outer reaches of the Belize Barrier Reef near points of land such as Gladden Spit. Whale sharks are attracted to the mass spawning of fish and other animals on the reef that occur at this time. As they rise to the surface to feed, whale sharks can safely be approached by human divers and snorkelers, a truly special opportunity to interact with some of the largest animals in the ocean.
Because whale sharks are strictly protected by the government of Belize, only licensed tour operators can bring divers or snorkelers to whale shark areas. Furthermore, the number of dive boats and the length of time spent in the area is also strictly limited.
If you're interested in snorkeling or diving with whale sharks, book your tour with Adventures in Belize