It is the reason that many of our guests come to Utila – to swim with whale sharks! The gentle whale shark is a filter feeder and can grow to be over 12 meters in length – the largest fish in the ocean!
Utila is one of the very few places worldwide where whale sharks can be reliably found year round. With years of experience at finding the elusive sharks, our captains will do their best to make sure you get a (or several) good looks at these magnificent animals. Most mornings, weather permitting, our dive boat ventures to the north side of the island which borders the Cayman trench. It is thought that the up-welling currents from the deep may provide nutrients that attract the small ocean creatures upon which whale sharks feed. Once a whale shark is found, our guests get the chance of a lifetime to jump in and snorkel with a whale shark!
Utila Lodge is also the Caribbean field station for the Shark Research Institute. Our staff help SRI with tagging whale sharks, reporting sightings, and the collection of other data to better understand these gentle giants.
Whale Shark Research
The Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Center WSORC, founded in 2003, operates one of the few, year-round whale shark monitoring and research centers in the world.
Utila has long been known as a “hot-spot” for Whale Shark activity due to it’s proximity to the Continental Shelf and strong upwelling currents, however up until now serious research has been sporadic at best. Eight years ago, the Shark Research Institute (SRI) affiliated themselves with Utila Lodge and its owners/proprietors Jim & Kisty Engel who had already been working with the sharks for 4 years. The idea of building a field research station seemed the next logical step.