Thailand is known for bright and colourful coral reefs and a plethora of exotic marine life seen at some of the world's best diving spots that it houses. And it is interesting to know that the whale sharks are exclusively spotted only at few diving spots in Thailand and not at many other places in the world. So here's a complete guide about for your next adventure-filled trip to the Land of Smiles.
Best Time To See Whale Sharks in Thailand
April is the month when whale shark spottings are the highest amongst divers. And if you're lucky, you might see one in the month of February and March too. Unfortunately, the whale shark spottings have reduced drastically due to ocean pollution and killing of whale sharks by illegal means. During these months, Richelieu Rock at the Similan Islands are filled with crowds from all across the globe, only here to get a glance of the largest fish in the world.
Liveaboard tours for whale shark spotting commence in October and run until May. But remember, none of the tours would guarantee you that you'll be able to spot one. Don't worry if you fail to spot a whale shark, there's still a plenty of marine species that you will across. Few of the many are manta rays, sea turtles, and barracudas.
Where to See Whale Sharks In ThailandIf it's your lucky day, whale sharks can be spotted just about anywhere but the most common dive sites where these graceful fishes are seen at Koh Tao's Sail Rock, Chumphon Pinnacle, and Southwest Pinnacle at the Gulf of Thailand. Whale sharks are also sometimes spotted in Phuket. Koh Tao is widely popular for the diversity of marine life witnessed by divers. In addition to whale sharks, you will also be able to spot the Trevally and Barracuda.
Here are the Best Places To See Whale Sharks In Thailand -
1. Koh Tao
During the whale shark season, which is March to June, you can snorkel along with a whale shark in the Shark Island, the dive site in Koh Tao where sharks are usually sighted. The sharks swim close to the surface. Even though they can dive a hundred metres deep into the cold water, but they come up to the surface for warmth. They are regularly spotted in Koh Tao, feeding on planktons delivered by the underwater currents.Best time to visit: March to June is the whale shark season, because these are the months for maximum sightings. However, they are also present between October and December.
Cost: 2500 THB at Crystal Dive. May vary for other operators.
How to reach: There are several possible options. A flight to Koh Samui and then a ferry to Koh Tao, a flight to Chumphon, then a bus to pier and then a ferry to Koh Tao, flight to Surat Thani then bus to pier and ferry to Koh Tao and also buses and ferry from Bangkok to Koh Tao.
2. Chumphon Pinnacle
Whale sharks are often spotted at the Chumphon Pinnacle which is a dive site just about a 15 minutes boat ride from the Koh Tao Island. Koh Tao is famous for its cheap diving and this pinnacle is an excellent spot to swim with the harmless whale sharks.
Best time to visit: Although a pot-luck affair, spotting whalesharks here is common from April to June, because the water then has more algae for them to eat. However, they have been spotted all year round too.
Cost: Expect paying 2000 THB for a 2 dive trip.
How to reach: There are several possible options. A flight to Koh Samui and then a ferry to Koh Tao or a flight to Chumphon, then a bus to pier and then a ferry to Koh Tao or a flight to Surat Thani, then bus to pier and ferry to Koh Tao and also buses and ferry from Bangkok to Koh Tao. After reaching Koh Tao, take a boat to Chumphon Pinnacle.
3. Hin Daeng
Hin Daeng translates to red rock and is one of the best place to encounter whale sharks in Thailand. Whale sharks are common here because it is both a feeding and cleaning station. There are red corals carpeted and whalesharks and manta rays visit all year round. If you are lucky, you might as well spot two or more whalesharks in a single dive. It cannot, however, be assured that you will spot them.
Best time to visit: April to June is the best time although they visit all year round
Cost: 5500 THB for both Hin Daeng and its sister island, Hin Muang.
How to reach: You can get to Ko Lanta by speedboat, minivan, ferry or a drive from Bangkok. From Ko Lanta, you can take a boat to Hin Daeng which is a ride of about two and half hours.
4. Richelieu Rock
The whalesharks at Richelieu Rock is a diver's delight. Richelieu rock is considered to be the best spot for a whale shark encounter in Thailand. This dive site warrants multiple dives. Major whale sightings at Richelieu Rock occurred in the year 2001, 2012 and 2014.
Best time to visit: Encountering a whale shark is possible any time from November to April, but the ideal period is from March to April.
Cost: For a daytrip diving at Richelieu Rock, the total cost is around 6000 THB, which includes the prices of diver, park and other equipments. Food, taxis and dive guides are the basic inclusions in such packages.
How to reach: Can reach from Phuket, Surin Islands or Khao Lak. Richelieu Rock is about 1 hours 45 minutes from southern parts of Phuket. There are boats from Surin islands to Richelieu.
Apart from these places, the Shark Island (located southwest of Koh Tao) and Hin Wong Pinnacle (east side of Koh Tao) are two other popular dive sites to locate whale sharks. Although both these sites are frequented only by professional divers because of the challenges the water current here brings forth. It is advised to not visit these sites if you are a newbie to the diving scene.
What Are Whale Sharks?
For those wondering, a whale shark isn't a whale; it is a shark. It gets confusing with both denominations in the creature's name and the gigantic size. Fret not, as whale shark sounds dangerous by its name but is completely submissive and innocuous. Due to its tranquil nature, it is safe to get very close to this alluring creature and admire what wonders nature packs for everyone. Whale sharks have over 3000 teeth, but it's funny that they don't use it to eat, so they are pretty much useless. Another fascinating fact about whale sharks is that each whale shark has a different dot print on its body, just like different fingerprints in humans. Though not under a threat of extinction, the species are listed under the "vulnerable species" list due to illegal poaching.
Tips For When You Spot A Whale Shark
Here are some tips for when you spot the gentle giant. First off, consider yourself the luckiest person in the world for it's not every day that one comes across the largest fish in the world. It time you finally tick this off your bucket list. Jokes apart, with spotting the largest fish in the world comes great responsibility. Enjoy the whale shark experience to the fullest but keep in mind a few dos and do nots.
1. Do not touch the whale shark: However friendly they may seem, touching the whale sharks is a BIG no. While they might not eat you, their large sized body can cause you grave harm. Maintain a safe distance and enjoy the unimaginable beauty in front of your eyes.
2. Maintain a safe distance: You must maintain at least a 2-meter distance from the head of a whale shark and a 4-meter distance from its tail. This is considered as a safe distance.
3. Do not use flash while clicking pictures: Flash photography is strictly prohibited inside waters as it might irritate the whale shark. And you would not want to face an irritated fish the size of 10 adult humans, would you?
4. Do not feed the whale sharks: A whale shark feeds on feeds on plankton - a type of sea organisms which include krill, copepods, and fish eggs. In addition to this, they also eat squids, fishes, and crabs. Feeding a whale shark yourself is strictly prohibited just like feeding zoo animals.
If you are lucky enough to spot the gentle giants, it will be an unforgettable experience. For liveaboard tours and swimming with whale sharks, you can contact local diving shops in Thailand or contact them online.