Swim with whale sharks in South Ari Atoll

Have you ever dreamed of swimming with sharks but are way too afraid of it? Why not start with the whale shark, the biggest fish in the world. This species is absolutely harmless, as it only eats plankton but no fish or other creatures. Whale sharks are seen most often in South Ari Atoll in the Maldives, close to the local island Dhigurah, where you can relax on one of the most beautiful beaches, after your snorkelling trip. Swim with the whale shark in South Ari Atoll and experience an encounter you will never forget.

Enjoy the local island life at Dhigurah

© Sonja_Weinand

Whale shark trips are offered by various tour providers on nearly every local island in the Maldives. However, unlike most other local animals such as turtles or dolphins, whale sharks only live in certain areas, so the price of the trip depends on the distance of your local island to the next whale shark area. If you want to connect your whale shark experience with staying on a close local island, Dhigurah Island is the perfect option. It has a beautiful bikini beach, diving and snorkelling schools, some nice guesthouses, souvenir shops and restaurants and even a sandbank on one end of the island. You can get there with a local ferry (up to eight hours), a speed boat (about two hours) or a domestic flight (less than one hour including the boat from the airport island). The faster the transport, the more expensive, so the means of transportation depends on your budget.

Book a diving or snorkelling tour

Generally, whale sharks can be encountered through diving and snorkelling trips. You can live this experience no matter how experienced you are in diving or snorkelling. A typical tour provider offers a full day package. It normally includes diving or snorkelling gear, fins, a beach towel, a life vest (if needed), free drinking water on the boat and a basic lunch like tuna noodles and soft drinks on a nearby beach or sandbank. If this is your first time snorkelling, just tell the tour guides. They will be happy to assist and support you. Additionally, a full-day tour normally not only includes seeing the whale shark but also other creatures in the area like manta rays, dolphins, sea turtles and coral reefs full of colourful fish. Another plus is that many tour guides have underwater cameras. They will try to take pictures and videos of you with all encountered sea animals, and they are able to dive down very quickly and deeply, ensuring to get the best pictures of the whale shark and all other creatures. You will be able to pick up all the pictures in the evening after returning from your tour.

Swim with the whale shark

© iStock/crisod

Snorkelling or diving in the Maldives means visiting animals in their natural habitat. Therefore, an encounter with whale sharks can never be guaranteed. There are many different reasons for not finding any whale sharks like bad weather or visibility. However, especially in South Ari Atoll, the chances to swim with the biggest fish in the world are very high, particularly from August to November. The tour guides are very experienced, and as soon as you have reached the area, they will get on the roof of your boat and search for the whale shark. This can take some time, but if you are lucky you won’t have to wait too long and swimming with this giant shark will definitely be worth waiting. When they find a whale shark, everybody is allowed to get off the boat, and the adventure begins. 

© iStock/mychadre77

With a bit of luck, the whale shark is swimming in shallow water here in South Ari Atoll, and also snorkellers will have a unique and close encounter from above or dive down a bit to swim next to it for some seconds and get a souvenir picture. After this unique and breath-taking experience, you will have the chance to rest on a sandbank or local island such as Dhigurah in the shadow of a palm tree, enjoy your lunch on the beach and take a swim in the shallow turquoise water typical for the Maldives. While on the boat, before and after encountering the whale shark, the guides will always look out for other animals like manta rays and sea turtles. So, be ready to jump in the water at any time and, with some luck, complete your day with swimming in the middle of a school of dolphins.

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