Swimming alongside the largest fish in the sea is one of the ultimate bucket-list experiences
I became obsessed with whale sharks while on a trip in Galapagos. We were on a boat and encountered one by chance between Isla Isabela and Santa Cruz. A massive fin approached our boat and I leaned over the edge and saw what looked like starry constellations under the water. I was awe-inspired by this beautiful shark that was larger than our skiff! And just like that, the moment passed and the whale shark descended into the depths. Ever since that moment, I was on a quest to swim with whale sharks.
I learned that Mafia Island, an island off the coast of Tanzania, was considered to be “Home of the Whale Shark,” and is one of the most consistent places to encounter whale sharks in the world between November and February. I had to go! Fast forward to a 2021 safari trip to Kenya and Tanzania with my husband and we were finally going to swim with these gentle giants.
We opted for a private boat to take us out to see the whale sharks, which I was grateful for because we had the chance to go out and see the whale sharks at our own pace, and had 2 guides, a watcher and a captain to create an epic experience tailored to us. The moment we saw fins swimming around a giant buoy about 45 minutes from shore, adrenaline kicked in and we immediately jumped into the water. The whale sharks are fast! But they loved swimming around this buoy, and so all we had to do was float in the same spot and they would swim right by us! The water was not too deep, about 30 feet, and the visibility was incredible.
As the world’s largest fish, whale sharks can grow up to 40 feet long and weigh up to 15 tons. They are filter feeders and cruise around eating plankton. They are perfectly safe to swim with, and they are absolutely beautiful. A whale shark’s spots are like a finger-print, unique to each shark. And yes, they are sharks, not whales! Swimming with a fish that dwarfs you in size is so humbling. We went swimming with the whale sharks 3 days in a row, and the feeling of doing so is one I’ll never forget. If you’re an adventure traveler, swimming with whale sharks should definitely on your bucket list. It’s one of the most unique and exhilarating experiences you can have!
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