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Whale Sharks in Belize

Despite their large size, these sharks are harmless to humans

Every spring, a large number of whale sharks flocks to Gladden Spit Marine Reserve, about 30 mi (48 km) off the coast of Placencia peninsula. A unique spawning and breeding area for over 20 fish species attracts whale sharks because they feed on fish eggs. Whale sharks are especially abundant in Belize during March, April, May, and June.

Reaching a length of 62 ft (19 m), whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) prefer warm tropical ocean waters. This slow-moving fish has a large mouth with over 300 rows of teeth, but it is a filter feeder, eating plankton and small fish. The shark's head is quite flat, with eyes positioned on the corners. The body is dark grey with a white belly as well as spots and stripes unique to each individual. The whale shark has two dorsal fins and a pair of pectoral fins.

Swimming and diving with whale sharks in Belize

Several operators offer snorkeling and diving experiences with whale sharks from Placencia. It's possible to dive up to 60 ft (18 m) in the Gladden Spit area. The experience takes a full day and costs anywhere from $195 to $250. Whale sharks are usually quite playful and friendly with swimmers. A licensed whale shark guide ensures divers and snorkelers have the best experience while all regulations are followed.

Practical info

When can you see these sharks the most in Belize?

The best time to observe whale sharks in Belize is during March, April, May, and June. These months are known for an immense aggregation of whale sharks gathering up at Gladden Spit Marine Reserve. Tour operators organize different activities for the visitors such as snorkeling and diving to ensure they can capture the best possible experience with these gentle sharks. Show more

Where exactly is the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve located?

The marine reserve known as Gladden Spit is located approximately 30 miles (48 km) off the coast of the Peninsula of Placencia in Belize. The Gladden Spit Marine Reserve is famous for the unique breeding and spawning area it offers to its visitors, where over 20 different species of fish are found, including the gentle giant, the whale shark. Visitors can enjoy snorkeling or diving with licensed whale shark guides for an unforgettable experience. Show more

What is the range in length for a whale shark in Belize?

Whale sharks usually can grow to a whopping length of around 62 feet (19 meters) and can weigh around 34 tons in their adulthood. Whale sharks in Belize, however, are generally between 18 and 30 feet long. These docile giants have enormous mouths with over 300 rows of teeth; however, they primarily feed on small fish and plankton and pose no threat to humans. Show more

Is swimming near a whale shark or diving with them allowed for everyone in Belize?

Yes, anyone who is comfortable being in the water can dive or snorkel with whale sharks in Belize. The visitors are required to dive at a depth of 60 feet and will spend a full day with licensed tour operators. The whale shark guides ensure everyone follows the environmental guidelines to make the experience not only enjoyable but also safe. Show more

How much does it cost to snorkel or dive with the whale sharks?

The cost of spending time with whale sharks by snorkeling or diving in Belize depends on the tour operator the visitor chooses. The price of some reputable tour operators can range up to $250, while others charge around $195. The licensed whale shark guides provided by each operator make sure that visitors have a professional and safe experience with the friendly whale sharks. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen