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Swimming with whale sharks is one sure way to feel dwarfed by nature.

I was snorkeling off the Pacific Coast of Mexico with my friend and former dive instructor, Ceci, when I saw what looked like a spiny tetherball with a beak spiraling from the depths towards the surface. I lifted my mask and Ceci lifted hers, preempting my question.

“It’s a blowfish,” she said, matter-of-factly. Then, “All fish are weird.”

To wit: the whale shark. Not a whale at all, and only technically a shark (with a cartilaginous skeleton, gill slits, and pectoral fins it belongs to the shark family of fish), the whale shark has an enormous mouth with up to 350 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads. Like baleen whales, they’re filter-feeders and eat by straining algae, plankton, and krill from the seawater, but their name more likely derives from the fact that at sizes of up to 40 feet long and 47,000 pounds, they are the largest fish on the planet, and can live for up to 80 years. Weird, right?

Whale sharks live in all tropical and warm temperate seas, so the regions where you can swim with them — they’re known to be gentle with divers — are numerous. Whale shark numbers, however, are dwindling; the animal is on the endangered species list.

The migration patterns of whale sharks aren’t fully understood, but there are ways to increase your chances of a sighting. Where you catch up with the whale sharks will depend on the time of year and the region you’re in.

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About The Author

Keph Senett

Keph Senett is a Canadian writer who's currently in transit. She’s a blogger who writes about travel, soccer/football, human rights, LGBT and gender issues, world politics, community, culture and her own folly.

  • Scott Hartman

    Cool stuff! I’ll add #11 – Bahia de los Angeles, Baja, California. They come into the shallow southern part of the bay in the early fall to feed. Take your sea kayak too, lots of islands in the bay to explore. Nice photos too, Keph.

  • Maddie Gressel

    Amazing. I saw one at Ari Atoll, but I’d like to cross off every other place on this list :)

  • Macky Fäh

    Diving is more fun in the Philippines… Donsol Bay number 7 diver is my Brother Marcel Crespo!

  • Traveling 9 to 5

    This is definitely on my “to do soon” list! Great photos!

    • Hannah Price

      It’s awesome! Isla holbox is near isla mujeres in Mexico and there they reportedly observe better standards for swimming with the sharks. we were there in August and it was out of this world. Snorkel only but the sharks swim at the surface to feed, so it makes sense.

  • Oslob Whale Shark Watching

    Great photos! You should include Oslob Cebu Philippines, its been a year now since they do the whale shark interaction.

  • Nicky Classen

    Going to Mozambique in January, really hoping to swim with them then.
    Thanks, great article.

  • James Abbott

    Great article, for more Whale Shark location listings (currently over 20) check out

  • Becky Hutner

    great list! does anyone have info on whale sharks in Pulau Weh, Indonesia?

  • Becky Hutner

    great list! does anyone have info on whale sharks in Pulau Weh, Indonesia?

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