Whale Sharks in Maldives - Dive with the Majestic Underwater Species

The underwater beauty of Maldives matches its terrestrial beauty, and there exists a marine paradise rich with fascinating, majestic creatures. One such marvel of the ocean is - The Whale Shark. The Maldives is one of the top hotspots of the largest known fish species where these can be spotted all year round. Even though the whale sharks found in the Maldives are comparatively smaller than other whale sharks, they easily measure up to 8 meters and swimming with these creatures is not meant for faint-hearted.

Whale Shark in Maldives
Whale Shark in the Maldives

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 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 Atoll

South Ari Atoll
South Ari Atoll
South Ari Atoll is a marine protected area with year-round diving and snorkelling excursions going on which provide excellent sighting of the whale sharks. The area around the 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 the Rangali Island are also an excellent option to spot both Whale Sharks and Manta Rays.

Baa Atoll

Sunset at Baa Atoll
Sunset at Baa Atoll

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 Maldives 

Resorts in Maldives
Resorts in Maldives

Some resorts and hotels in the Maldives offer diving programs and other excursions in water. For those keen on spotting whale sharks in Maldives, the best option is to secure a base hotel/resort in the South Ari Atoll as the region is renowned as a whale shark hotspot and will give you easy access to the local whale shark tour packages or the opportunity to organise your sighting tour from the hotel itself. Some hotels and resorts offer whale shark sightseeing tours as a part of their area excursion packages.

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. 

Here are some of the most popular operators for your convenience:

1. Island Divers, Dhigurah

Island 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

Diving with Whale Sharks in Maldives
Diving with Whale Sharks in Maldives

2. iCom Tours, Maafushi 

Awarded as the best tour operator on many occasions, iCom Tours are known for providing quality service and comfortable transport. Maafushi to South Ari Atoll is a two-hour journey post which you will get to spend three hours snorkelling with the whale sharks in the ocean. The online reviews talk about the fantastic photography/videography of the surreal experience, and the excellent quality equipment they provide.

Approx. Price: MVR 1540 per pax.

3. Elite Diving Agency

Elite 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.

Diving in Maldives
Diving in the Maldives

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).
Swimming with these fascinating creatures is a once in a lifetime experience; and when you're in the Maldives, a beautiful, adventurous and an unforgettable experience is almost guaranteed. So book your tickets and pack your bags, the whale sharks in Maldives are waiting!

This post was published by Pranjali Kureel

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