Diving with Whale Sharks : Whale Shark Diving in Thailand

July 11, 2011

If you want to go diving with Whale Sharks, you’re going to need some degree of luck. Just let us point out, that at Whale Shark hotspots like Ningaloo Reef in Australia, and Donsol in the Philippines, it’s only permitted to snorkel with Whale Sharks, and not dive with Whale Sharks. Whale Shark diving in Thailand has always been a hit or miss affair, but after seeing a massive decline in the number of Whale Shark sightings in Thailand, we are extremely happy to report that sightings are increasing every year.

Whale shark numbers are increasing

In the early 1990s it was possible to take Whale Shark snorkeling tours in Patong Bay, to snorkel with up to two-dozen Whale Sharks. Unfortunately those days are long gone. Whale Sharks are migratory fish, and cover huge distances seasonally, which places them in direct danger from commercial and local fisheries. In 1998, the Philippines banned all fishing of Whale Sharks in their waters, closely followed by India in 2001, and even Taiwan in 2007. Other nations continue to follow and ban the practice of hunting Whale Sharks in their waters. Not only do they understand that Whale Shark numbers have reduced so much that they have become an endangered species, but governments have started to realize that Whale Sharks can become an important factor in encouraging tourists to visit their countries, bringing their foreign currency with them. Of course, illegal hunting still goes on, and Whale Sharks being migratory, still play a game of Russian Roulette passing through international waters or the waters of nations like Bangladesh, where they are still not protected and ruthlessly hunted.

The good news is that it’s evident that Whale Shark numbers are recovering. Sadly, the Manta Ray population continues to decline all over the world. Manta Rays only give birth to a single pup, whereas Whale Sharks, can give birth to more than three hundred live young, also called pups. This, it seems, makes a huge difference.

In Thailand, in the late nineties and early two thousands, there were still occasional Whale Shark sightings, especially at their favorite locations like Richelieu Rock and Hin

Whale Sharks are gentle giants.

Daeng. Since then, there has been a slow but encouraging rise of Whale Shark sightings in Thailand, and not only in those areas, but throughout Thai waters. These days it’s possible to have a Whale Shark encounter just about anywhere off the coast of Thailand. Of course, you still need to be in the right place at the right time, but they are there, and the sightings are continuing to increase. In July 2011, one dive boat stopped off half way to Phi Phi from Phuket, and the guests had the chance to snorkel with up to seven different Whale Sharks at the same time. This would have been unheard of just a few years ago. A Whale Shark has even been spotted in Bungalow Bay at Racha Yai.

Typically, the Whale Sharks we’re seeing now in Thai waters are juveniles. They range from around three metres to up to around six metres. Occasionally we’ll hear reports of a monster one reaching up to around ten meters, but these are quite rare. Although Whale Sharks are migratory, there doesn’t seem to be a best time to see them in Thailand. We used to say the best time to spot Whale Sharks was in January, then we changed it to March and April. Now there doesn’t seem to be any logic or pattern to when is the best time to see Whale Sharks in Thailand, they seems to be here the whole year round. There are sightings every month.

Please visit our PADI Super Divers website here, for all the information you’ll need if your planning to do some scuba diving while you’re in Thailand.

We are hoping that in the future, we’ll once again be able to run Whale Shark snorkeling tours in Thailand.

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