Whale Shark Encounters
People from all over the world travel to Utila with the hopes of swimming with a Whale Shark. While its no guarantee that you’ll see these magnificent creatures during your visit, we will do our best to give you the opportunity to do so. Utila is lucky enough to be one of the only places on the planet where Whale Sharks are documented year round so no matter when you travel to Utila, there’s a chance you’ll be lucky enough to swim with one.
Captain Albert and Divemaster Willie have always been in tune with Utila’s waters and with Whale Shark movements around the island. If the sea conditions are flat and favorable for Whale Shark encounters, they will do their best to put you in the water with one. On the way out to dive sites and during surface intervals, they keep their eyes peeled for disturbances on the ocean’s surface known as “boils” and the birds that fly around them. These “boils” are caused by Utila’s sport fish feeding on small schools of fish near the surface.The small schools of fish are normally grouped together because they are feeding on scores of plankton, a staple of the Whale Shark’s diet. Known to join the feeding frenzy, this is how we find the elusive Whale Shark.
Information about Whale Sharks
Even though Whale Sharks are the largest species of fish, we still know very little about them. The largest Whale Shark ever recorded was 41.5 feet (13.65m) long and weighed roughly 47,000 pounds (21.5 tons). They can live to be up to 70 years old and are found in warm oceans across the planet. Their migratory patters are largely unknown but one Whale Shark was satellite tracked from Mexico to Polynesia covering a distance of over 8,000 miles (13,000km).
Whale Sharks feed on plankton, clouds of eggs produced by coral and fish, and krill. They filter feed using their 5 foot (1.5m) wide mouths lined with 300 to 350 rows of tiny teeth 10 filter pads. Despite their massive size and huge mouths, they do not pose any significant threat to humans.
Individuals are identified by the pattern of the white spots on their skin. Specifically, people are asked to photograph the section of white spots by the gills on their left side and upload the photos to the Wildbook for Whale Sharks website which uses these photos to ID Whale Sharks from all over the world.
Take a look at the kind of incredible experience that could be awaiting you during your visit to Utila!