It is always a great experience when we encounter this massive and yet gentle fish, the whale shark. We had some great encounters with it over the years and we are all very excited for next season for some more sightings.
We would like to write some facts about whale sharks and some places we have been seeing them last season.
The whale shark normally lives in all tropical and warm-temperate seas. The fish is primarily pelagic, living in the open sea but not in the greater depths of the ocean. When seasonal feeding aggregations occurs it’s when we, divers, can come across this beautiful creature. Thailand is a great place for whale shark sightings, especially at Similan and Surin National Parks.
Sightings in Thailand
You can see whale sharks pretty much everywhere in Thailand but there are some unique spots where you are more likely to see them. Similan and Surin National park have great spots such as Koh Bon, Tachai pinnacle and Richelieu rock.
Whale sharks have a mouth that can be up to 1.5 m wide, containing around 300 rows of tiny teeth and 10 filter pads which it uses to filter feed. Whale sharks have five large pairs of gills.
The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. The average size of adult whale sharks is estimated to be around 9 metres and weighting over 8 tones. Several specimens over 15 m in length have been reported.
What do they eat?
The whale shark is a filter feeder – one of only three known filter feeding shark species (along with the basking shark and the megamouth shark). It feeds on plankton and small nektonic life, such as small squid or fish. It also feeds on clouds of eggs during mass spawning of fish and corals.
Whale sharks are docile fish and sometimes they may even allow people to catch a ride, although this practice is discouraged by shark scientists and conservationists because of the disturbance to the sharks. If you ever dream of doing so, don’t do it in Thailand. Topped by the fact that such an interaction could be harmful for the whale shark, you would be likely expelled from the national park and the diving company would be heavily fined.
Some fun facts
Whale Shark Fact #1 – Whale sharks are in no way related to whales. Although they are sharks, they are very docile and pose no real threats to humans.
Whale Shark Fact #2 – Whale sharks aren’t the fastest swimmers, reaching speeds no higher than 5 km/h. They swim by moving their bodies from side to side, unlike other sharks like the great white, who just use their tails to swim.
Whale Shark Fact #3 – A whale shark can filter through more than 1500 gallons (5678 liters) of water per hour.
Whale Shark Fact #4 – Each whale shark has its own unique pattern of spots and stripes just like we have our own fingerprints, so you can tell an individual whale shark by looking at the arrangement of its spots and stripes.
Whale Shark Fact #5 – Like some other species of shark, whale sharks ram water through their gills, which in turn means that they have to keep swimming in order to keep breathing.