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14 idyllic places to swim with Whale Sharks

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It’s International Whale Shark Day today, 30th August – a day dedicated to celebrating the biggest fish in the ocean. These much-loved gentle giants are amazing to swim with and you can find them at top diving and snorkeling destinations around the world. Here is our round up of 14 idyllic places to swim with whale sharks.

1) Cenderawasih Bay, Indonesia

This famous dive destination in Raja Ampat is renowned for the unique relationship between the whale sharks and fishermen that live there. The fishermen give fish to the whale sharks to bring luck and there are numerous resident whale sharks there year-round. The sharks are used to people in the water, meaning you can swim alongside them to your heart’s content.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Both.

Experience needed: Intermediate if you plan to enjoy the other scuba diving highlights of Cenderawasih Bay.

When to go: July to September

2) Djibouti

This little-known dive destination at the southwestern tip of the Red Sea is crowd-free and offers the chance to dive with juvenile whale sharks. Djibouti’s rich waters attract whale sharks in numbers to the coastline each year, where divers and snorkelers commonly see them.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Both, though mostly snorkeling excursions.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: Whale sharks can be seen all year, though September, October and February offer the best conditions for peak numbers.

3) Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Isla Mujeres, a picture-perfect island in the Caribbean Sea, is Mexico’s best-known whale shark diving hotspot and has one of the highest concentrations of whale sharks in the world. Various locals operators will take you snorkeling with the sharks, and you can enjoy some of Mexico’s best diving and snorkeling at nearby Cancun and Cozumel.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: May to September. July and August are peak whale shark season.

4) Socorro Islands, Mexico

The remote Socorro Islands off the coast of Mexico take time to get to, but they host more ocean giants than you could ever hope to see, including whale sharks, humpback whales, giant Pacific manta rays and bottlenose dolphins. This is Mexico’s premier liveaboard diving destination and doesn’t disappoint for marine megafauna and whale shark fans.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Scuba dive.

Experience needed: Intermediate and experienced divers.

When to go: November and December for whale sharks.

5) The Maldives

Diving in the Maldives is synonymous with whale sharks and they are found at this idyllic destination all year. South Ari Atoll’s waters are busy with juvenile whale sharks, though Huvadhoo and Thaa atolls are also great places to snorkel and dive with these spotty giants.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Both.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: All year.

6) Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Hundreds of whale sharks gather at Ningaloo Reef each year, making it Australia’s prime destination for snorkeling with whale sharks. As well as being a UNESCO World Heritage area with stunning dive sites and zero crowds, the Ningaloo Coast also has seasonal sharks, humpback whales, mantas and sea turtles in abundance.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: March to June for whale sharks.

7) Thailand

If you want an affordable dive destination with the chance to see whale sharks, go diving in Thailand. Whether you dive at world-famous Richelieu Rock in the Andaman Sea or explore around the Gulf of Thailand’s many islands, there are numerous world-class dive sites and a good chance you will see whale sharks.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Scuba dive.

Experience needed: There are dives for all experience levels in Thailand.

When to go: February to April for whale shark season at Richelieu Rock.

8) Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Known as the ‘Little Galapagos’, Cocos Island in Costa Rica has fantastic shark diving with huge schools of hammerheads. This incredible island’s rich waters also host whale sharks, abundant manta rays, reef sharks and dolphins.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Scuba dive.

Experience needed: Intermediate and experienced divers.

When to go: June to November for whale sharks.

9) Mafia, Tanzania

Mafia Island in Tanzania has one of the longest whale shark seasons globally and is home to more than 180 resident whale sharks. The whale sharks are seen year-round and feed in the shallow waters off the western side of Mafia Island, making it easy to go swimming with them.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: October to March for whale sharks.

10) Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Whale sharks roam the plankton-rich waters off Tofo Beach in Mozambique all year long. As many as 50 whale sharks can be seen at any one time and there are numerous mantas, dolphins and sea turtles to find at this picture-perfect beach destination. Way off the beaten track, this is a hidden whale shark hotspot.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: October to March for whale sharks.

11) The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Galapagos diving is paradise for nature fans and offers endless highlights above and below the water line, including encounters with whale sharks. Wolf and Darwin Islands are the best places to dive with whale sharks, where you will find them at the surface and at depth.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Scuba dive.

Experience needed: Intermediate and experienced divers.

When to go: June to October for whale sharks.

12) Seychelles

If you want to combine whale sharks encounters with sailing calm seas, coral reef diving and water sports, visit the Seychelles. These stunning islands are perfect for families, honeymooners and adventurous souls alike, and have plenty of whale sharks off Mahé Island.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: October for whale sharks.

13) Utila, Honduras

Sitting within the expansive Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, Utila’s waters are teeming with tropical fish life and host whale sharks all year. This tiny island is famous as the Whale Shark Capital of the Caribbean and offers a range of whale shark swimming safaris.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: Year-round, with peak whale shark season from March to April.

14) Nosy Be, Madagascar

Madagascar is a relatively new whale shark hotspot that came to the world’s attention in 2018, when researchers discovered juvenile whale sharks swim to Madagascar to feed. These charming sharks are seen primarily around the small island of Nosy Be, in northwest Madagascar.

Snorkel or scuba dive? Snorkel.

Experience needed: All experience levels.

When to go: September and December for whale sharks.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

Scuba Schools International (SSI) is the largest professional business-based training agency in the world. For over 50 years now, SSI has provided the ultimate training experience for millions of certified divers, not only in Recreational Scuba, but in every training category; Freediving, Extended Range, Rebreather Diving, Mermaid, Swim and Lifeguard.

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There’s nothing quite like a Snorkeling holiday in the Maldives!

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A Guest Blog by Ruth Franklin of Secret Paradise Maldives

1200 islands of 26 different atolls make up the island paradise of the Maldives. Once prehistoric underwater volcanoes, the coral reefs and ecosystems that surround these picture perfect islands offer some of the world’s very best snorkeling locations. There’s no better destination than the pristine tropical waters of the Maldives for first time snorkelers or veteran underwater lovers. With an average of 200+ sunny days per year, the Maldives really is second to none when it comes to choosing an idyllic snorkeling escape.

What is Snorkeling in the Maldives Like?

You’ve probably seen the picture perfect images of the Maldives floating around the internet, popping up on your Instagram feed or plastered across what it seems like, pages of every other travel magazine. Thoughts of ‘there’s no way that ocean water can be real’ or something along the lines of ‘that’s definitely photo shopped’ may have crossed your mind more than once. Take our word for it from us here at Secret Paradise, as we can assure you that yes – the water is really the colour depicted by the magazines. In fact, the island waters here reflect a spectrum of blue tones that seem to change façade with every spec of light. This island paradise is just waiting for you to dive beneath the surface to discover its abundance of incredible reef life and the spectacular coloured corals.

If you’re privileged enough to delved into the underwater world of the Maldives, you can expect nothing but excellent clarity and visibility, combined with blissful year round ocean temperatures of 26 – 29 degrees Celsius. You may also be thinking that a snorkeling holiday in the Maldives is probably out of your budget … Again, let us reassure you that there has never been a more affordable time to travel to the Maldives. A snorkeling vacation is very reasonable and can begin from as little as USD$50 per night … let us show you how.

What Are the Options for Maldives Snorkeling Holidays?

Here at Secret Paradise, we offer quality and value for money snorkeling day trips and bespoke Multi-day Island hopping itineraries. On our tours, expect to explore the uncharted local islands of the Maldives, an alternative to an expensive resort style vacation.

Staying on a local island in a guesthouse allows for exploration of some of the Maldives’ very best snorkeling sites and marine life, whilst experiencing the local tradition and culture of the Maldives. Think palm trees, white sandy beaches, sun bathing and of course snorkeling, all combined with wandering locally inhabited islands, tasting Maldivian foods and seeing local traditions first hand. Enjoy being transferred from your local island via a traditional wooden dhoani boat, to stunning nearby snorkeling sites – the very same sites that resort guests snorkel at, all for a fraction of the cost! Our affordable snorkeling holidays and day trips will leave you with long lasting Maldives memories.

Is The Maldives Best For First Time or Experienced Snorkelers?

The answer to this question is both. The Maldives is spread across a thousand small islands scattered throughout the Indian Ocean, meaning it offers vast ocean environments, perfect for both beginner and experienced snorkelers and everyone in between.

The islands here in the Maldives consist of both shallow and deep-water lagoons. Beginners can simply choose to snorkel the reefs adjacent to the shoreline, in the safety of still water. Intermediate snorkelers can explore reefs a little further off shore whilst advanced snorkelers who are more daring have opportunities to try the local ‘drift-snorkeling’ method, using the aide of the ocean currents to explore the underwater terrain. As the ocean currents here in the Maldives are extremely tidal, our local guides will accompany you to ensure that you experience a safe yet ‘bucket-list’ type of underwater snorkeling experience.

What Is The Best Time of Year For Snorkeling In The Maldives?

The snorkeling season of the Maldives runs yearlong. As the Maldives is located near the equator, it is susceptible to two monsoon seasons, better known as the wet and dry seasons. From May to November (the wet season), the abundance of reef life is more varied and the visibility levels are better on the western side of each island. December to April is generally known as the ‘dry’ period, where the eastern side of each atoll is best for snorkeling.

Buy or Rent Snorkeling Equipment?

When it comes to packing for your Maldives snorkeling vacation, deciding upon whether to buy or rent your snorkeling gear is certainly a great question and one that needs to be given substantial consideration, as everyone’s snorkeling needs are different.

Firstly, decide how often you think you may snorkel on your Maldives trip. Do you think that number is worthy of purchasing your very own snorkeling gear? Let us help you make a wise travel decision.

Let’s face it, there’s nothing quite like owning your own snorkeling equipment – being assured that your own mask, fins and snorkel fit your face and body perfectly, not to mention they haven’t been worn by the many tourists before you. It’s a great little luxury if you believe you will be snorkeling frequently throughout your Maldives stay. It will also save you the hassle of searching for the snorkeling equipment that is right for you.

However, remember transporting and carrying your own snorkeling gear can often be bulky and heavy, and the last thing you want is for your equipment to be damaged in transit. Renting your snorkeling equipment is essentially easier, as your gear you won’t need to be transported from place to place. Fins especially take up a substantial amount of room in your luggage.

Another alternative is to purchase your own face mask and snorkel before your trip and hire your fins whilst on holidays. A mask and snorkel combination is small and lightweight – it takes up minimal space in your luggage. This way you will be assured that your mask will fit you comfortably, it won’t leak and it is sanitary, plus you won’t have to awkwardly lug fins around in your luggage.

Our Secret Paradise Packing Tip:

Cushion your mask between clothes to ensure the lens won’t be damaged in transit. As fins are durable, pack them on the outer edge of your luggage to prevent your other belongings from being damaged.


Discover more of The Maldives with www.secretparadise.mv

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Turtles of the Riviera Maya & Cozumel

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A blog by Pro Dive International

Plenty of empty shells of recently hatched turtle eggs were spotted by our divers at Sabalos. They had been washed off shore onto the reef after the baby turtles had dug out of their nest at night and swam off into the sea.

The turtle nesting season on the Riviera Maya and in Cozumel happens between May and October, which means that you may be lucky to see some nests or even hatchlings during your stay with us.

Six out of the seven sea turtle species worldwide visit Mexico every year. We are lucky enough to get to see Green Turtles and Loggerhead Turtles regularly during our dives, as they are in search of food and a good clean.

The reefs and ecosystems here provide a great number of tasty snacks for a turtle, for example seagrass, sponges, crustaceans and many more. And while the turtles pass through the reef, they receive a top-notch cleaning service from many of the local fishes who feed on their parasites and algae growth.

6 Turtle Fun Facts

  1. Green turtles are so named because of their green colored fat caused by their rich diet of seagrass.
  2. Green Turtles are the largest hard-shell turtles in the world. The largest known green turtle weighed 395 kg/ 871 lbs, with a shell that measured more than 152 cm/ 5 ft.
  3. Loggerhead Turtles are so named for their massive broad muscular heads.
  4. Adult males are normally easy to distinguish from females because of their long tails visible extending past their shell.
  5. Female turtles normally return to the exact same location where they were born to lay their eggs.
  6. The sex of a baby turtle is determined by the temperature at which the egg is kept.

Turtles are regular visitors to many of our dive sites, but they are most commonly found at Tortuga – this dive site is even named turtle in Spanish! It’s located just off shore from our dive center at the Occidental Xcaret and easily accessible by boat from any of our Playa Del Carmen locations.

Moreover, for those of you who are not divers, we are lucky enough to have some extensive seagrass beds where green turtles love to hang out and eat, which is an easy snorkel off shore during one of our tours with a guide who is licensed to enter those protected areas.

Turtle Locations

Besides observing them underwater, you may be lucky to find some turtle nests in front of your resort on the Riviera Maya or in Cozumel. Hotel employees usually rope them off to ensure their protection.

Turtle conservation projects are a great alternative to learn more about their behaviors, importance for the marine environment, how you can help protect them, and to observe nests or turtles first hand:

Turtle Protection

Every sea turtle species on earth nests on Mexico’s beaches (save one that is only found in Australia). Consequently, Mexico is known as the sea turtle capital of the world and its turtle protection laws are so important on a global scale.

Current Mexican law classifies all sea turtle species as endangered.

Regulations

  • Turtles can’t be killed for their meat, skin, shell or eggs.
  • Native vegetation can’t be removed in nesting habitats, to stop erosion.
  • New regulations call for moving, changing or eliminating any light sources that illuminate a nesting beach, as baby turtles can become disoriented from finding their way to the ocean.
  • Vehicles can have a maximum weight of 300 kg on nesting beaches and only be used for patrolling and management of the nesting site.
  • Recently outlawed were turtle release events, as many places kept the hatchlings in confinement for several days until a sufficient number of participants had signed up for this activity. Upon release, they were too weak to handle the surf and avoid predators.

All of these and many more regulations help protect beaches, nests, female sea turtles, their eggs and hatchlings to make it a safer place for them.

How to start your Turtle Adventure

Let’s discover some turtles together during our dives! If you are not a diver, why not sign up for a PADI course; or join our Mexican Snorkeling Adventure at 15% OFF starting from Playa del Carmen or Tulum, if booked online until 16/09 & redeemed until Dec 22, with reference to this blog!

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