Whale Shark Season: June – November

While you may see whale sharks during any cruise on M/V Galapagos Sky, the number of encounters goes up dramatically during WHALE SHARK SEASON – JUNE THROUGH NOVEMBER of every year.

Whale Shark - Galapagagos - Philip Hamilton

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) are the largest fish in the sea, and large adults may reach 40 ft. (12.2 m) in length, and mature adults are typically 30+ ft (10 m) in length.  They may weigh 40,000 lbs or more. Only a few of the great whales (mammals) are larger.

There’s really nothing like the thrill of finding and seeing a whale shark in their natural habitat.  Their size alone delivers an unforgettable impression.  They are also often accompanied by a host of other sea denizens: remoras, cleaner fish, tuna, mackerel…  Large whale sharks bring a mini-ecosystem along for the ride.

Tips on Finding Whale Sharks

The Galapagos Islands are located at the confluence of three great oceanic currents: the cold South Equatorial Current (source is the Humboldt Current), the warm Panama Current, and the cold, deep Cromwell Current.  Every June, the tradewinds freshen and the South Equatorial Current lowers land and water temperatures, providing a perfect environment for whale sharks.

Whale sharks are filter feeders, extracting plankton from the water, and often small fish as well.  They are migratory, and travel the oceans in regular routes to feed.   The islands of the Galapagos provide numerous areas of natural upwelling during Whale Shark season – and the plankton love this.  And Whale Sharks love plankton!

Our underwater guides are the best sources for finding whale sharks.  They know how to watch the wind, current, and water temperature to determine the best spots to find the whale sharks.  While this is often at an underwater point facing the upwelling (but sometimes not the current – the upwelling and current may be different) it is often not real close to the reef.

Whale Shark - Peter Lange

If you venture out into the blue with your guide, you’ll be surprised at how many times it results in a high-quality encounter with one of nature’s most fascinating animals.  So – watch your guide, stay with your guide.  And when you find one…

Diving Do’s and Don’ts

There’s really nothing different about diving with a whale shark or a giant manta – there’s just a lot more whale shark!  As they are often slow moving, there’s a tremendous urge to swim right up to them, immediately get close and take a pic, or even touch / ride them.  Please resist any of these urges – as they’ll only cut your (and other divers) encounters short!

  1. DO Approach Slowly – you can spook them and you will never catch them
  2. DO Maintain Your Distance At First – let the whale shark know you pose no threat, and give your dive buddies a chance to see it as well
  3. For PHOTOS/VIDEOSDO take your full frame, full whale shark photos/video first, then if you want to get closer, great!
  4. DON’T CHASE THE WHALE SHARK – no one has ever won this race, so don’t even try
  5. DON’T Touch the Whale Shark – goes without saying but we’ll say it anyway
  6. DO BE PATIENT – The best advice to give, the hardest to follow, AND we learned it the hard way by experience.  The best encounters and the best photos/video result from slow interactions with the gentle giants.  When you first see one, you’ll want to rush up and get close, and you want to try to fight that urge (and we KNOW how strong it is!!!).  You’ll have a better encounter.  ZEN works with whale sharks.

The last bit of advice?  DO enjoy your whale shark encounters.  Many divers go a 1,000 dives or a lifetime of diving without seeing one, but not in Galapagos during Whale Shark season (and other times of the year as well).

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