Whale Sharks in the Maldives
One of the most common questions that we get asked is, where can I swim with the Whale Sharks in the Maldives? It can be a complicated question if you don't understand the split between resorts and local islands, along with local transport in the Maldives works, so we are here to break it all down and spill the beans. After spending a number of years working and living in this beautiful patch of paradise, we are here to let everyone know, where the best locations in the Maldives are to Swim with the Whale Sharks. To begin with, let's talk about these amazing creatures! Whale sharks are the world's largest fish. And you truly will not realize how large they are unless you are in the ocean with one! Whale sharks can reach up to a length of 18 meters - roughly the length of a school bus. They're enormous, weighing thousands of kilograms when fully grown!
However, fear not; these monstrous beings pose no threat. They are colossal friendly giants and the most peaceful sharks on the planet. Swimming with these big polka dotty dudes is an experience you will never forget. That is why they are on the bucket lists of every scuba diver, freediver, and snorkeler!
Whale sharks are one of the ocean's most enigmatical creatures. They are usually always on the move, can live over 100 years old and they spend a significant amount of time at tremendous depths of almost 2km deep. There is an overall shortage of information about their life cycles and breeding practices and that's why we team up with the Maldives Whale Shark Research Centre when we are in town. The Not for Profit organization plays a big part in not only learning more about the gentle giants but also helping protect the animals and their environment.
Overall, the three options to swim with the Whale Sharks in the Maldives are by staying on a local island or a resort in the South Ari Atoll, or alternatively joining a liveaboard from Malé that will make a pit stop along the way.
Whale Sharks in South Ari Atoll
Ari Atoll, known as Alifu Atoll to the locals, is around 90km long and made up of over 105 different islands, of which includes around 20 being tourist resorts. Although geographically, the Atoll is one, is so big that for administrative purposes, it has been broken down into two separate Atolls, one known as the North Ari Atoll and another known as the South Ari Atoll.
Whale sharks are the highlight of South Ari Atoll and a massive drawcard to the area. The South Ari Atoll is one of the best places in the world to see the Whale Sharks because it offers viewing opportunities available year-round, whereas most other places in the world, such as Mexico, Mozambique, Australia, it can be seasonal. Because the Whale Sharks are full-time residents of the area, the South Ari Marine Protected Area is renowned for virtually daily sightings, so almost any time of year is an excellent time to come. They are more visible to the west during the Northeast monsoon, which runs from December to April, and then migrate to the east during the Southwest monsoon, which runs from May to November. Wherever these magnificent creatures are sighted, you'll be able to swim alongside them as they feed and cruise along the reef.
Below are the best ways to see the Whale Sharks in the South Ari Atoll.
Whale Sharks from Dhigurah
Dhigurah is one of the most beautiful local islands in the Maldives. Located in the rim of the South Ari Atoll, this is a long, narrow island that is oriented roughly southwest to northeast. The east side of the island is exposed to the open ocean and has a stunning reef full of coral, fish, and turtles, along with offering an opportunity to swim with the Whale Sharks in Dhigurah. A massive lagoon protects the island's west side and is one of the more consistent locations in this area to watch manta rays, particularly during the southwest monsoon.
Dhigurah is a local island with a population of just over 500 people. Being a local island means that you won't be able to drink alcohol whilst staying there but you will be able to join a local tour and swim with the Whale Sharks from Dhigurah for a fraction of the cost of staying at a resort.
Whale Sharks from Maamagili
Whilst, Dhigurah is centrally the prettiest island in the area, Maamigili has a lot more infrastructure. Being the capital of the South Ari Atoll, Maamigili has a population of over 2,000 people and linkages to the Coutrnies Capital City, Malè through its Domestic Airport and Deep Sea Harbour.
Although the island is a lot more accessible to the rest of the country and does have a lot more hustle and bustle than its neighboring islands, it is not as aesthetically pleasing. With more people, buildings, and vehicles, there is less room for palm trees and hammocks, therefore the main reason that people come to Maamigili to swim with the Whale Sharks is that it is convenient!
We don't want to talk you out of heading to the Maamigili, because with over 80 unique whale sharks calling this protected zone home, you are sure to be able to tick swimming with the Whale Sharks off your Bucket List whilst here, but if we had the option between the two neighboring islands, we would choose beautiful Dhigurah.
Whale Sharks from Sun Island Resort
The Sun Island Resort & Spa is one of the nearest resorts to the Maldives' most popular whale shark locations. The Resort is one of the countries oldest and biggest, with multiple pools, bars, restaurants, mini-golf courses,s and over 462 villas available on the island. There are daily Whale Shark excursions from Sun Island Resort where you can swim alongside these magnetic creatures or alternatively you could join a diving trip and spend a little more time below taking it all in. Their diving site tours are ideal for all levels of divers, from beginners to advanced. There are also a number of other resorts in the area which you can organize a whale shark experience, but Sun Island is our pick!
Whale Sharks from Fuvahmulah
Fuvahmulah is one of the most beautiful and historically significant islands in the Maldives. As a one-island atoll, it has several distinguishing characteristics that distinguish it from other atolls. One of these features is that is segregated from all other atolls except for Addu Atoll which has an irregular speed boat service that connects the islands. The second feature is that there is a large unprotected plateau to the south of the island which brings colder currents. Thirdly, those colder currents bring an abundance of marine life, both in themselves and in their predators. Indy Escapes founder, Lucas Chesterton has been diving in Fuvahmulah, and in one day, he saw multiple Tiger Sharks, a thresher shark, a whale shark, and an oceanic manta ray - this place is incredible!
Whale Sharks from Dharavandhoo
Dharavandhoo, home to one of several domestic airports situated across the Maldives, is often regarded as the center of local tourism in the Baa Atoll. Like most islands in the Maldives, Dharavandhoo's economy is based mainly on tourism-related activities. The island provides a variety of guesthouses and excursions to ensure that you get the most out of your time in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of the Maldives, where you can swim with schools of Manta Ray, and if you are lucky, even Whale Shark too!
Whale Sharks on a Liveaboard
Liveaboards are the hotels on wheels for scuba divers! Essentially, a multi-day diving excursion that allows you to venture further from the coast, jump between sites and link up islands, without packing your bags each night, and move from hotel to hotel - What a way to see the world!
In the Maldives there are so many options for liveaboards that you will spend more time researching it than you do on the boat! We recommend having a look at the mapped itinerary and checking if it stops near any of the previously mentioned locations. By doing this you will likely eliminate any of the tours that do not give you an option to swim with the Whale Sharks, or in your case dive with the Whale Sharks. Obviously, once you have shortlisted the options that head to South Ari Atoll just reach out to the operators and make sure that they do in fact offer a swim with these majestic mammals.
We hope that this helps give some clarity on where you can swim with Whale Sharks in the Maldives. Don't forget to check out our Travel Guide to uncover other Fun Things to do in the Maldives.
Also Read: Maldives: Ultimate Travel Guide