All set for ticking it off your bucket list? Dive into planning your perfect tour right away! Here's all that you need to know:
1. Best Time to Visit to See Whale Sharks in the Maldives
These gentle giants of the ocean can be spotted year-round, at any time of the day, in the South Ari Atoll Marine Protected Area. However, for the best possible experience, it is advisable that you visit the Maldives in May, November and December when the sea is calm, and visibility is good, and dive in some 3 to 5 hours before high tide.
2. Best Places to Spot Whale Sharks in Maldives
South Ari AtollSouth Ari Atoll is a marine protected area with year-round diving and snorkelling excursions going on which provide excellent sightings of the whale sharks. The area around Sun Island, especially the southern part of its reef is best suited for spotting these gentle giants as the depth ranging between 5 to 10 meters makes it easier. The reefs of Rangali Island are also an excellent option to spot both Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.
Hanifaru Bay, an uninhabited island in Baa Atoll is a great option for those travelling to the Maldives during the wet season, i.e. May to September / October as during these months; the South-West monsoon ensures massive plankton build-up that draws hundreds of Whale Sharks and Manta Rays. Whale Sharks are more common in the narrow part of the Hanifaru Bay and it is known as the world's largest known feeding station.
This region was declared Marine Protected Area in 2009 with a few regulations put in place, i.e. diving is not permitted, restricted fishing and boating, and for snorkelling, only five boats and 80 visitors are allowed at any given time with a time limit of 45 minutes.
3. Resorts & Whale Shark Tour Operators in the Maldives
Resorts like LUX* South Ari Atoll, Sun Island Resort and Spa, and Conrad Maldives; and hotels like Whale Sharks Inn Maldives, TME Retreats, and The Holiday Inn Resort Kandooma are some of the best options for a hassle-free, mind-blowing experience with the gentle giants.
Private tour operators are another option if your hotel does not offer whale shark excursions. You can either ask your hotel to get you in touch with one or book online after reading user reviews and comparing prices.
1. Island Divers, DhigurahIsland Divers is a PADI affiliated diving centre based in one of the largest protected areas of Maldives - Dhigurah, South Ari Atoll. Apart from a wide range of daily dive trips, it also arranges full day/half day excursions which include whale shark safaris and snorkelling with the Manta Rays with well-qualified diving experts. A transfer is free from recommended hotels.
Price: Pricing and availability on request
2. iCom Tours, Maafushi
Approx. Price: MVR 1540 per pax.
3. Elite Diving AgencyElite Diving Agency provides an opportunity to fully enjoy the diverse sea life while cruising in the heart of Maldives. Their Liveaboard is the best option for a thalassophile, which will not only let you swim with the whale sharks among other water activities but will also pamper you with massage and spa therapy. Elite Diving Agency promises to turn your one-week vacation into a dream holiday!
Price: MVR 54,000 to MVR 37,400 (depending upon the suite/cabin) which includes 1-week accommodation, full board, 12 dives -or- 12 Spa treatments -or- 6 dives and 6 Spa treatments, Pickup to and from the airport.
4. Tips - Things to Keep in Mind
- Although these 'gentle' giants are harmless creatures who feed on planktons, it is always advisable to maintain a respectful distance from them. Swim at least 3 meters away from the body of the whale shark and 4 meters away from the tail.
- Refrain from touching the whale sharks and avoid flash photography; such actions could irritate the creature and put your safety in jeopardy, so be safe.
- Do not use underwater scooters.
- Although scuba diving skills are not required in the whale shark tours, basic swimming skills are necessary. Avid divers are sure to have an advantage over non-experienced divers.
- Divers and snorkelers should be dropped off at a safe distance in front of the whale shark, enabling it to swim towards the divers and snorkelers instead of having them chase it.
- Do not swim right in front of the whale sharks or obstruct their path.
- You can track whale shark sightings by downloading the local Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme's (maldiveswhalesharkresearch.org) Whale Shark Network Maldives app.
- Do not apply regular sunscreen / other chemical lotions on your body before going underwater as the chemicals are harmful to the aquatic creatures. Biodegradable suntan lotions are readily available, which are eco-friendly and safe.
- Do not forget to carry the excursion essentials like a camera, hat, sunglasses, a pair of comfortable footwear, biodegradable suntan lotion, and a wetsuit (if you have one).