The Maldives stands out as a premier destination for encountering whale sharks. All it takes is some knowledge of where to locate them. Read on to know some of the best spots for an encounter with the gentle giants.
South Ari Marine Park, South Ari Atoll
Designated as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) by the Maldivian government in 2009, the marine park has firmly established itself as a prime location for observing whale sharks in the Maldives. What sets the South Ari Marine Park apart is its exceptional status as the world’s sole year-round aggregation site for these magnificent creatures. The MWSRP (Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme) believes that this marine park functions as a secondary nursery, primarily for juvenile male whale sharks. Blessed with nutrient-rich waters and balmy temperatures, the South Ari marine park can be seen as the nearest thing these whale sharks have to a ‘home.’
Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll
Hanifaru Bay, a globally renowned UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Marine Protected Area located in Baa Atoll, stands as a vital refuge for marine life. While it is primarily celebrated as a sanctuary for manta rays, this 1300-meter-long funnel becomes a focal point for plankton concentrations from May to November. Consequently, a frenzied feeding spectacle unfolds during this period, offering the remarkable opportunity to swim amidst hundreds of manta rays. This phenomenon may well constitute the world’s largest feeding congregation of its kind. What’s not as widely recognized is that the endearing whale sharks also make their way to the bay to partake in the plankton-rich waters.
Fuvahmulah, the only one-island atoll in the country, stretches over 13,000 hectares, boasting an abundance of mangroves, lakes, and wetlands. As a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, this region is a haven for wildlife enthusiasts, divers, surfers, and those seeking an unforgettable getaway.
While Fuvahmulah is renowned for its exceptional gatherings of tiger sharks, it also plays host to whale sharks and black oceanic manta rays. The prime season for encountering whale sharks spans from December to March, with August standing out as the month with the greatest likelihood of an encounter. In contrast to the juvenile male sharks often found in South Ari Atoll, Fuvahmulah boasts predominantly large female sharks, averaging an impressive 8 meters in length