Whale sharks, often measure 10 meters in length and getting an opportunity to snorkel alongside one of them can be a humbling experience that you may not want to forget for a long time. Despite their enormous size, whale sharks present no threat to humans and feed on plankton. When seen from a distance, they’re incredibly beautiful with a navy blue skin that is plastered with multiple white spots.
Unfortunately, they’re one of the most sought after sport fishing targets and are highly endangered with trawlers spanning the Norwegian and Japanese seas hunting for them. To encounter one in its natural habitat is, therefore, near-magic privilege, and in this piece, we scout the best spots in Africa you can snorkel with whale sharks.
Bordering Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia, the Gulf of Tadjoura in Djibouti is one of Africa’s lesser-known tourist destinations. However, between February and November, it comes to life as one of the continent’s premier whale shark destinations, thanks to the abundant quantities of plankton in the gulf. At this time, large schools of nomadic whale sharks arrive to feast on the seasonal bounty. With warm waters all around the gulf, there is no limit to the amount of time you can snorkel in the waters.
If you’re visiting Mafia Island for the first time, a mere 35-minute flight south east of Dar es Salaam, you may find this remote island a laid-back alternative to the bustling touristy Zanzibar’s Stone Town. But what the island lacks in buzz and hype is handsomely compensated by its ocean glory as this is the only spot where snorkeling with whale sharks is guaranteed in the season of October to January.
Located on the northern coast of Madagascar, Nosy Be is one of Madagascar’s most exclusive spots. Between October and January, visitors come to its beaches, whale sharks, paradise for spectacular diving, deep sea fishing, and snorkeling. Although not much is known about the whale shark population, studies suggest that large numbers visit their waters each year. The Madagascar Whale Shark project already estimates that snorkeling with the whales is expected to be one of the largest revenue earners.
The Central Atoll area comprises Felidhoo, Male, Faafu and Ari Tolls, as well as the smaller Rasdhoo. All these spots have exceptional whale shark sightings and diving opportunities. The South Ari Atoll is also one of the most visited locations by divers throughout the year as you can snorkel with whale sharks uninterrupted. Jump into the crystal waters of this Indian Ocean paradise teeming with marine life and enjoy a snorkeling experience.
Tofu beach, located in Inhambane province, Mozambique hosts the largest population of whale sharks in Africa. This makes snorkeling possible throughout the year. The best time to go snorkeling is between October and March when the whale sharks are attracted by plankton blooms and groups numbering more than 50 can be seen in one sighting. The beach is also home to several diving schools, and novice snorkelers can be seen at play with the whale sharks. The plentiful food also attracts other species like a manta ray and humpback whales.