When & Where To See Whale Sharks In The Maldives
Is swimming alongside the biggest fish in the world, also known as the Whale Shark, on your bucket list?
Well, you’re in the right place! We, at Maldives Secrets, are going to break down everything you need to know about when and where to see the majestic and wonderful Whale Sharks in The Maldives.
Firstly, it's good to know that Whale sharks are harmless, slow-moving, filtered feeding sharks that feed on plankton in the ocean. They are described as the largest fish in the sea as they can reach up to an astounding 12 meters in length! Yes, swimming with Whale Sharks in The Maldives is definitely a once in a lifetime experience!
They can be spotted all year round in The Maldives, yet there is still a lot of research needed in order to fully understand these incredible animals. Charities like Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), are dedicated to studying Whale Sharks and implementing community-focused conservation initiatives in The Maldives.
Secondly, we’d like to point out that sustainability is at the forefront of Maldives Secrets, so in this blog post we are not only recommending the best places to see Whale Sharks, but also how to respect them and the environment you will be in. It is crucial to read through these points before you swim with Whale Sharks so that you do not get in trouble and have an amazing experience!
WHERE TO SEE WHALE SHARKS IN THE MALDIVES
SOUTH ARI ATOLL
Without a doubt, the Whale Shark hotspot in The Maldives is South Ari Atoll (also known as Alifu Dhaalu Atoll). Here, you can spot Whale Sharks all year round and the chances are high of seeing them, as the waters in this atoll are abundant in plankton. The Maldivian Government declared South Ari Atoll as a protected marine area in 2009, and certain restrictions are put into place to protect Whale Sharks, making this the best place to swim with them in their natural environment. Although sightings of Whale Sharks are guaranteed most days, there is a peak time of the year to see them here which is from August to November.
The best places to stay in South Ari Atoll to see Whale Sharks:
Dhigurah Island (Guesthouse Accommodation)
Sun Island Resort (Private Villa Accommodation)
Maamigili Island (Guesthouse Accommodation)
DHIGURAH - LOCAL ISLAND
Dhigurah (meaning ‘Long Island’ in Dhivehi) is a stunning local island with fantastic snorkelling and scuba diving, long stretches of white beach and an affordable place to stay for Whale Shark spotting! Dhigurah is 20-minutes by domestic flight from Malé or a 1h30 minute hour speed-boat ride from Malé airport. You can do all sorts of snorkelling here: coral reefs snorkelling, Whale Shark safaris, snorkelling with Manta Rays, as well as night snorkelling.
Stay at Bliss Dhigurah, a stunning and modern guesthouse on the island. You will experience the local side of The Maldives, an authentic, down to earth holiday with the best snorkelling and diving in the world! Check out our 6-night Whale Shark Trip here.
Dhigurah is also the base for the Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP), a conservation charity, founded on the aim of understanding the population dynamics of Whale Sharks in The Maldives. The team is conducting important research, including tagging and identification by unique spot patterns.
Sun Island is a 4* Resort located on the Nalaguraidhoo Island in South Ari Atoll and its reef is one of the best spots to see Whale Sharks in The Maldives. Sun Island also organise a Whale Shark Excursion to meet these friendly giants. To get to Sun island, you will take a 20-minute domestic flight from Malé followed by a 15-minute speedboat to reach this Resort.
With 462 elegantly furnished rooms, you can choose from a Beach Villa to a Water Villa - all of which are modern, stylish and fully-equipped. See more from Sun Island here and do let us know if you’re interested in booking this resort - we have some exclusive offers!
MAAMIGILI LOCAL ISLAND
Maamigili Island hosts the only airport in South Ari Atoll. It is also a budget friendly island to stay, with many guesthouse options, when aiming to swim with Whale Sharks and enjoy first-class scuba diving. Maamigili, like Dhigurah, is the perfect choice for the traveller who wants to experience something unique and different to a luxury resort, and searches for more of a genuine connection with the culture and local living.
2. BAA ATOLL
Another fantastic place to spot Whale Sharks is in Baa Atoll. This atoll is famous for its UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Hanifaru Bay, and during the right season Baa Atoll is home to hundreds of Manta Rays as they feed on the masses of plankton in the ocean. Of course, the plankton also attracts Whale Sharks who are seen in Baa Atoll from May to November. The coral reef in Hanifaru Bay stretches a total of 1300 meters, and a specific section of the reef, approximately 600 meters long, is where whale sharks sightings are common.
During May to November, the South West Monsoon causes a massive build-up of plankton, drawing in hundreds of whale sharks and manta rays. Hanifaru Bay is the largest known Manta Ray feeding station on our planet! It is now a marine protected area where fishing, boating and scuba diving are restricted. Snorkelling is also controlled, with a limit of 5 boats and 80 visitors who are allowed to spend a maximum of 45 minutes in Hanifaru Bay. Specific rules also include swimming distance and photo restraints. Visitor tokens are required which can be obtained from the Hanifaru Visitor Center.
The best places to stay in Baa Atoll to see Whale Sharks:
Royal Island Resort
DHARAVANDHOO LOCAL ISLAND
Another down to earth, beautiful island in The Maldives, Dharavandhoo provides an affordable getaway to paradise. Easily accessible by domestic flight from Malé Airport, the laidback and tropical Dharavandhoo Island is located in the heart of UNESCO's marine biosphere reserve, Hanifaru Bay. It takes only 5-minutes by boat to reach Hanifaru Bay from Dharavandhoo.
We recommend staying at the stunning hotel, Kiha Beach. You will experience the local side of The Maldives, an authentic, down to earth holiday with the best snorkelling and diving in the world! Check out our 6-night Manta Ray Trip here.
There will also be Dive Centres on the island such as, Liquid Salt Divers - a 5 star PADI Dive Centre, who provide services to swim with Whale Sharks and Manta Rays, as well as other services such as PADI Diving Courses.
ROYAL ISLAND RESORT
Royal Island is 5* Resort on a secluded island located nearby Hanifaru Bay. Just like the bay, Royal Island is encompassed within the protected region of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Royal Island resort has tours that can be booked at the resort and boats chartered for going out into the water to swim with Whale Sharks. Thanks to the reserve, the marine life here is abundant so you’ll encounter much more than just the biggest fish of the ocean!
HOW TO BE RESPECTFUL OF WHALE SHARKS AND THEIR ENVIRONMENT
Keep to one side of the Whale Shark
Stay at least 1.5 metres away from the Whale Shark
Remain calm as sudden movements can scare the Whale Shark away and it will dive down deep and disappear into the depths.
Do not touch the Whale Shark’s body or tail. Its huge tail can potentially harm you, unintentionally, if you approach it. You must keep your distance for your own safety and for the Whale Shark’s well-being.
Do not swim across a Whale Shark’s mouth area.
Don’t forget to bring a Go-Pro or your underwater camera but turn off the flash as this can be alarming and harmful to the Whale Shark and may cause it to dive down deep.
Please remember that swimming with Whale Sharks is never a 100% certain guarantee as they are wild and free creatures. We recommend that you allow enough time in your holiday itinerary in case you don’t see them the first time round.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS IN THE MALDIVES?
In our Maldives Secrets Packages’, the cost of swimming with Whale Sharks is included. However, if you want to know how much to budget on local islands vs in Resorts, here is an estimation of the cost:
Local Islands: from $70 USD per person for a half day snorkelling excursion with all equipments included.
Resorts: from $150 USD per person for a half day snorkelling excursion with all equipments included.
Swimming with Whale Sharks is a bucket list experience for many visitors in The Maldives. Fortunately The Maldives is the best place to experience this - and we can't wait to help you plan your once-in-a-lifetime trip!
- Maldives Secrets