Scuba diver with whale shark

Where is the Best Place to Swim with Whale Sharks?

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Written by
Louis Dhont

Published on: September 5th, 2017

Last modified: March 20th, 2024

The whale shark is the world's biggest fish and an incredible sight to behold. It has a great size, cavernous mouth and a flat back speckled with thousands of tiny white spots.

Whether you're snorkelling or diving, swimming with these gentle giants will prove an unforgettable experience. Fortunately, with a bit of planning, the best place to swim with whale sharks is not too hard to find.

Idyllic island biosphere
Holbox Island
Diving enthusiasts
Cocos Island
Incredible coral reef
Gladden Spit
Panoramic view of Holbox Island, Mexico

1) Holbox Island, Mexico

The island’s large, shallow lagoon is what has earned Holbox its renown for whale shark spotting. Go there between May and September to get close to these magnificent creatures. And that is by far not the only attraction of this little corner of heaven off the coast of Mexico.

Beach, Holbox Island, Mexico

Part of the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, development on Holbox Island is minimal, making it a deliciously unspoilt Caribbean haven with a sustainable and eco-conscious philosophy at its heart, and a paradise for over 150 species of birds that flock to its lagoon.

Diving with Whale Shark
Beach, Costa Rica

2) Cocos Island, Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

Costa Rica‘s Cocos Island is only for serious diving enthusiasts. The journey to get there takes about thirty hours by boat from the remote wildlife paradise of the Osa Peninsula – but for those who live to dive and swim, the journey will be worth it.

Whale shark

Surrounded by deep waters with counter-currents, the island has a unique ecological character that is not shared with any other in this island of the world, and divers here will also see hammerhead sharks, rays and dolphins among other large marine species.

Osa Peninsula, Costa Rica

3) Gladden Spit, Punta Gorda, Belize

Home to the famous Great Blue Hole, Belize‘s barrier reef is famous for its diving opportunities. This section of the central part of the reef, however, is the best of the lot, containing some of the healthiest parts of the reef system due to its elevation, good water quality and protected status as a marine reserve.

scuba diver Great Belize Reef

Base yourself in the nearby rainforest paradise of Punta Gorda for perfect access to the Gladden Spit promontory with its steeply sloping shelf, where you’ll see whale sharks in large numbers.


4) Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Visit this beautiful coral reef between May and September for the best chance of swimming alongside the elegant and silvery whale sharks. For exclusive access to Ningaloo, stay in luxury tented eco-camps on the beach at Sal Salis – perfect for snorkelling the shores in the day and enjoying the spectactular sunsets at night.

Home to hundreds of different sea life species, Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef is a hub of other activity that is also worth exploring. Expect to see turtles, shoals of tropical fish, reef sharks and even humpback whales while on your quest for whale sharks.


Whale Shark in Ningaloo Reef

The best of the rest

5) Mafia Island, Zanzibar, Tanzania

Surrounded by a barrier reef teeming with vibrant marine life, almost half of Mafia’s coastline has been designated as protected marine park. Head here between November and January to catch the whale sharks, and while you’re under water keep an eye out for exotic fish, turtles and more than 50 different types of coral.

Dhow boats sailing on the water in Zanzibar

6) The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

There’s a good reason the Galapagos are on every diver’s bucket list, and whale sharks are just one of the many, many incredible species of marine and wildlife you’ll see here between August and October. Galapagos cruises might stop at great whale shark sites, but for extra freedom and ease why not stay at one of the islands’ luxury hotels?


7) Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Mozambique is about as close as it comes to an earthly paradise, with hundreds of miles of unsullied coastline, balmy blue waters and pristine white beaches. Tofo Beach is particularly famous for whale shark sightings between November and February, and you can get there in just 35 minutes with a flight from Azura in the Bazaruto Archipelago.


8) South Ari Atoll, the Maldives

Combine exclusive, unspoiled island living with some truly sublime diving at this gorgeous island resort in the idyllic Maldives. Chances of seeing a whale shark here are huge all year round, so don your swimming trunks and get stuck in.

Maldives, underwater

9) Mahe Island, the Seychelles

The largest island in the Seychelles, with its sweeping tropical beaches, lush mountains and sandy coves, Mahe is also diving nirvana, playing host to a countless tropical underwater species as well as some fabulous shipwrecks. Spend your days swimming with whale sharks here between August and November, and your nights kicking back at the sublime Banyan Tree.

Mahe Island, the Seychelles

Talk to one of our travel experts today and start creating your once-in-a-lifetime trip to one of our whale-shark friendly destinations.