To dive with Whale Sharks in their natural habitat is a breath-taking and a very rewarding experience. The whale shark is the biggest ‘Shark’ and fish in the ocean. You do have to understand that this is NOT a whale but a shark but it is a gentle giant. The whale shark has a huge mouth that can open up to 1.4 meters wide but feeds on krill and plankton. The Whale Shark has a wide, flat head, a rounded snout, small eyes, five large gill slits, two dorsal fins which are on its back and two pectoral fins which are on its sides. The spiracle, located behind the shark’s eyes is the vestigial first-gill slit used for breathing when the shark is resting on the sea floor. Its tail has a top fin much larger than the lower fin.
Whale Sharks are passive creatures and can be disturbed by aggressive behaviour such as being touched or chased. We need to take responsibility to ensure the survival of these creatures for future generations. This means that causing minimal disturbance to the sharks when we approach them by boat or when diving. Although the whale sharks are harmless, their sheer size makes it necessary to exercise caution around them, especially at its tail end.
Divers need to be aware of local regulations or protocols that are set by the dive organization regarding the behaviour around the whale shark before entering the water. A Code of Conduct was created by the Marine Megafauna foundation to ensure the safety of both you as the diver and the whale shark.
The following is the general code of conduct for swimming and diving with whale sharks in all countries:
- Do not touch, ride or chase a whale shark
- Do not restrict normal movement or behaviour of the whale shark
- Maintain a minimum distance of 3m from the whale shark’s side 5m from its nose and a 4m from its tail end
- Do not use a flash when taking photos
- Do not use underwater motorized driver propulsion