2017 – WhaleShark Central!

Happy International Whale Shark Day!

In light of today being about celebrating and raising awareness of the whale shark,  the majestic gentle giant of the ocean, we wanted to share some of our exceptional encounters with you and answer some frequently asked questions we get about whale sharks. This year we obtained some amazing footage with these gentle giants, not only whilst diving in Koh Tao, Thailand, but also on snorkeling trips and just from relaxing on our own dive boat!

Scuba Diving in Koh Tao with a whale sharkWhale Shark selfie from the Master Divers scuba diving boat

The dive sites they frequent are usually the deeper dive sites such as Chumphon Pinnacle, South West and Sail Rock. The main time to see a whale shark in Koh Tao is March / April / May and then November / December, however this is not guaranteed and sightings can be rare. This year, however we have experienced heavy whale shark traffic, with dive trips seeing whale sharks, at multiple dive sites – even at sites closer to the island, such as, Twins and White Rock.  It’s amazing to see people’s reactions, under the water, and when getting back from the dive, if they’ve had a lucky encounter with this graceful animal and 2017 in Koh Tao, has certainly been ‘Whale Shark Central!’

Here are the regular questions we receive about whale sharks?

Where can you find whale sharks?
Whale sharks are found in tropical oceans in areas like the Maldives, Thailand, Philippines and Mexico.

What do they feed on?
They feed mainly on plankton, schooling fish, and squid, which they strain from the water as they swim, with their mouths and specialized teeth. They are the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate and pose absolutely no threat to people, but they are still being hunted for their highly prized fins and meat.

Whale Shark Cruising in Koh Tao Thailand Whale Shark in the shallows with diver in Koh Tao Thailan

What kind of species is the whale shark? 
It’s actually the largest living species of shark! They can grow to approx 12 meters in length, on average but their teeth are only 6 millimeters long.

Are they unique to one another? 
Yes, each individual whale shark, has their own unique pattern, a bit like a zebra with it’s stripes or a human with our fingerprints. This allows conservation experts to identify and track them in order for us to learn more about how they live.

Whale ahark and cleaner fish, Koh Tao, Thailand Whale shark with divers

Are they a threatened species?
Yes! Whale sharks are currently considered endangered, by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to over fishing and serious ocean pollution. They are a slow swimming fish, due their size and prefer shallow water of around 50 metres, which of course also puts them under threat of boat collisions and fishing nets. They also breed slowly which makes them extremely vulnerable to over fishing and the shark fin industry.

Can I do something to help? 
Yes! Shark Guardian, a conservation charity who dedicate themselves full time to shark conservation projects and Deepblu, an online community for scuba divers and freedivers, are looking for people to help, join them as Whale Shark Guardians, in order to help spread awareness and protect this amazing fish! You can find out more by visiting the ‘Whale Shark Guardian’ page here. Just think how cool that would be on your Facebook profile… Occupation: ‘Whale Shark Guardian!’

Happy International Whale Shark Day!

 

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