Whale sharks are some of the most beautiful creatures on the planet, so it should come as no surprise that people travel all over the globe to see these magnificent sharks.
But where are whale sharks found? And are they hard to find?
These are all questions that many people seeking whale sharks ask, and it makes complete sense. After all, if you’re going in search of a whale shark you’ll need to know where to find them.
In this post we go through exactly that, helping you understand more about the rarity of these sharks and the best countries to find them in.
Let’s get into it…
Are Whale Sharks Rare To See?
Due to the rise in illegal fishing, the whale shark population has decreased rapidly over the last 100 years. This means that they are becoming rarer to see and harder to find in their natural habitats.
Thousands of whale sharks are killed every year ILLEGALLY in China for their fins, skin, and oil. In fact, according to the IUCN, the indo-pacific whale shark population has decreased 63% over the last 75 years.
Whilst the population in the Atlantic is thought to have decreased by more than 30%, which makes whale sharks rare, and difficult to find.
And given the fact that only around 10% of whale sharks that are born make it to adulthood, it can be a real challenge to find these majestic sharks.
What Countries Can Whale Sharks Be Found?
Despite the rise in illegal fishing and the rapid decline of the whale shark population, there are some places left in the world where you can find them.
These gentle giants have quite a broad distribution in tropical and warm waters, and they are known to inhabit both deep and shallow waters.
Below are some of the best places on earth to find whale sharks:
If you’re heading down under any time soon, be sure to pack your goggles and snorkel with you as you may just be lucky enough to come across a whale shark.
Ningaloo Reef is one of the best places to find whale sharks thanks to the crystal clear waters and feeding opportunities provided by the spawning of coral.
The months between March and July are the perfect time to spot whale sharks in the reef, and given that the Ningaloo Marine Park does a great job of conserving the marine ecosystem in this area, there is a good chance you may spot a whale shark.
The tropical islands of Indonesia are the perfect place to spot whale sharks in the wild. The unique geography of Indonesia and warm waters make it a preferred habitat for whale sharks.
Specifically, East Indonesia, such as the water of West Papau is a great place to see these sharks.
Another fantastic place to see whale sharks in Indonesia is Cendrawasih Bay. Not only is it Indonesia’s most extensive marine park but it is also a place where scientists go to research whale sharks.
Kwantisore village in Indonesia is a place where whale sharks are often spotted dozens at a time, making it a once-in-a-lifetime experience to swim with the whale sharks there.
However, Botubarani Village is considered the easiest place to find whale sharks in Indonesia and because of this attracts tourists in their hundreds to get the chance to see these rare sharks.
East Coast Of Africa
The East Coast of Africa in countries such as Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania is widely considered one of the best places to find whale sharks in the wild.
These warm tropical waters are the perfect temperature for whale sharks to thrive and they can often be spotted here between November and February.
The Bazaruto Archipelago National Marine Park is a great place for visitors to see whale sharks as they are often feeding on krill here.
Tofo beach is another amazing spot to see whale sharks in Africa, but there are also several diving centers that offer visitors the opportunity to swim alongside the sharks.
If you’re ever lucky enough to visit Mexico then paying a visit to Holbox Island and Isla Mujeres could be worthwhile.
The warm waters around these islands are perfect for whale sharks and they can often be seen feeding on plankton.
The best months to spot whale sharks in Mexico are between June to September.
Another great place to find whale sharks is in Honduras, to be specific the island of Utila.
Whale sharks can be spotted all throughout the year near Utila which makes it unique from any of the other countries on this list.
The presence of whale sharks is so abundant here that The Whale Shark And Oceanic Research Centre was situated here because of their constant presence.
This makes Honduras one of the best and most reliable places to find whale sharks in the wild.
How Many Whale Sharks Are Left?
As mentioned earlier in this post, over the last 100 years the whale shark population has declined rapidly due to illegal fishing, trash pollution, propeller strikes, and by-catch losses.
The actual population of wild whale sharks is incredibly hard to estimate, but it’s said to be in the hundreds of thousands, which is frightening.
The statistics are alarming and show that the overall population of whale sharks has decreased 50% in the last 75 years, and if nothing is done will keep decreasing.
Are Whale Sharks Endangered?
Due to the constant decrease in the whale shark population, whale sharks are endangered.
This means that whale sharks are at risk of extinction, and are in fact only three steps away from being extinct.
The sad reality is that if nothing is done, whale sharks will be extinct soon and this majestic shark will no longer be with us.
However, this is where whale shark conservation comes in, and there are some amazing organizations doing everything they can to prevent whale sharks from becoming extinct.
Whale Shark Conservation
The whale shark is endangered on the IUCN Red List Of Endangered Species, which means whale shark conservation is more important than ever.
The global population of whale sharks is facing significant challenges, particularly in China and Oman where they are killed in large quantities for shark fin soup.
However, this isn’t the only reason the whale shark population is declining.
Oil spillages, pollution, and by-catch all play a significant part in the decline of the whale shark population. This is why we can all play a part in helping restore the population of whale sharks by taking some simple actions.
Below are some ways to positively contribute to whale shark conservation:
- Learn more about Sharks as a whole – they aren’t the man-eating monsters the media portray them to be
- Respect the ocean
- Do NOT buy Shark fin soup or any other shark products
- Visit whale sharks in their natural habitats to spread awareness and help the tourist economy
- Reduce your seafood consumption
These simple steps all play a big role in spreading awareness and helping whale shark conservation.
Hopefully, this post has answered your question about where to find whale sharks?
These beautiful sharks can be found in many different places, but they prefer warm tropical waters where they can feed and live in abundance.
Although whale sharks are endangered, the places listed above are the best places to find whale sharks in the wild and if you visit them you have a strong chance of seeing a whale shark.
By visiting these places you are actively contributing to the whale shark contribution by spreading awareness and helping to boost tourism in the areas they are spotted.
Whale sharks are docile by nature and are more than happy for you to swim alongside them which makes for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I will never forget the first time I witnessed and swam with a whale shark, it’s an experience that will say with me forever!
Thanks for taking the time to read this post, again I hope it has been helpful and if you have found it useful I would appreciate it if you would consider sharing it with a friend who may also find it of value.
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Hi, I’m George – the founder of MarinePatch. I created this blog as marine wildlife has been my passion for many years and I’ve spent decades learning and dedicating myself to documenting all I can about the topic.