Gentle Giants: Asia’s Best Places to Swim with Whale Sharks
The underwater world is replete with the potential for incredible encounters. For many, the ultimate marine meet-up is with a whale shark. Swimming or snorkeling alongside the largest fish in the sea is undeniably thrilling.
GENTLE GIANTS: ASIA’S BEST PLACES TO SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS
The underwater world is replete with the potential for incredible encounters. For many, the ultimate marine meet-up is with a whale shark. Swimming or snorkeling alongside the largest fish in the sea is undeniably thrilling. Several prime locations offer visitors the opportunity to see these formidable, but friendly, specimens in the wild. Here are some of our favorite spots.
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea. Growing up to 40ft in length, they feed mostly on plankton and small fishes and pose no threat to humans. They have a reputation for being placid and gentle creatures, tending to move very slowly through the water. You don’t have to be a certified diver to experience them. They feed close to the surface of the water, allowing you to view them from the deck of a boat, snorkel with them or even just swim alongside them.
BRILLIANT BICOLWhale shark watching in Philippines
Whale sharks can be found throughout the Philippines. One of the best places to interact with the creatures is in Donsol Bay in the Bicol region of southeast Luzon. Each year from November to May, possibly the largest school of whale sharks in the world migrates here to feed on the dense concentration of plankton and krill in the area. Donsol's whale shark interaction is strictly regulated to protect the creatures and their natural habitat. They are not captive and the local fishermen don't feed them, so whether they appear or not is pure chance. A small boat takes you out to the bay, and spotters cue you to jump in and swim alongside the whale sharks as they begin to near the surface.
Suggested Itinerary: Culture and Diving in the Philippine Islands
ARABIAN DELIGHTSSwimming with the world's biggest fish in the Gulf of Oman
Oman has rich scope for whale shark encounters in its plankton-rich oceans. Every autumn, the seas attract dozens of whale specimens that come to feed. One of the best spots to strike out to is the Daymaniyat Islands, an archipelago located around 50km offshore from Muscat, rich in coral reefs and marine life. The waters around the archipelago serve as a channel for migratory marine animals, including whale sharks. The first designated marine reserve in Oman and a UNESCO world heritage site, the islands also shelter nesting populations of Hawksbill and green turtles. Stay at the Jumeirah Muscat Bay a sumptuous oceanfront property set against a backdrop of the Al Hajar Mountains.
Neighboring Qatar is home to Asia’s latest whale shark experience, in the crystalline waters of the Persian Gulf. Although you cannot swim with the creatures here, you can view them from the deck of a luxurious catamaran with an on-board professional photographer present to capture the moment.
Suggested Itinerary: Sea, Sand & Sail in Amazing Oman
MALDIVIAN MAGICWhale shark in South Ari Atoll
Whale sharks are year-round residents in the Maldives, making the country one of the best places to get up close and personal with the animals. They tend to favor the western side of the archipelago from May to December, then head to the east until April. One of the best places to encounter the animals is South Ari Atoll, a Marine Protected Area. Visitors can track whale shark sightings as they happen by downloading the local Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme’s Whale Shark Network Maldives app. COMO Maalifushi, the only resort on the Maldives' sublime Thaa Atoll, also operates nighttime snorkeling excursions to see feeding whale sharks. The staff will scout ahead to locate the whale sharks first to ensure you don't spend long searching for these shy creatures.
Suggested Itinerary: Marine Conservation in the Maldives
INDO INSPIRATIONKwatisore, Cenderawasih Bay
Indonesia has several excellent whale-shark spotting locations. One of the best is at Cenderawasih Bay, home to the world's only known non-migratory whale sharks. Located along the northern coast of West Papua, the protected area covers some 5400 square miles. It is part of the so-called Coral Triangle, thought to contain over three-quarters of the coral species on earth and over a thousand different types of fish. The whale-shark hotspots here tend to be near the village of Kwatisore along a peninsula on the bay’s southwest edge. We advise chartering a private schooner to explore the waters of Raja Ampat before sailing to Cenderawasih Bay — contact the Remote Lands team to learn more.
Suggested Reading: How Far Would You Go to Dive with Whale Sharks?
OPEN WITHOUT QUARANTINEVaccinated travelers can travel to any of these destinations right now. Armenia
Papua New Guinea
UAE (Dubai and Abu Dhabi)
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