Where the Whale Sharks Are: Placencia, Belize

For many divers and snorkelers, the Holy Grail is to encounter a whale shark in its natural environment. As big as a school bus, whale sharks are not whales but sharks. Unlike other sharks, however, whale sharks have no teeth, which is why they are simultaneously the largest creatures in the oceans as well as some of the gentlest.

In order to protect whale sharks, contact is strictly limited, but lucky divers can sometimes get the chance to touch and interact with the massive creatures. Whale sharks only exist in tropical waters and follow plankton blooms seasonally across the lower latitudes. The largest whale shark ever recorded was 41 feet (12.5 meters) long and weighed 47,000 pounds (21 tons).

One of the best places to see whale sharks is in the waters of the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve. Located on the outer reaches of the Belize Barrier Reef just a few miles from Placencia, the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve is one of the most diverse environments in the ocean. The shallow waters, mangrove forests, and tides bringing in a rich stream of nutrients make for a perfect breeding site for fish and other marine creatures.

Whale sharks consume several tons of plankton and fish spawn per day, which is why they are drawn to the food-rich waters of the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve. Arriving every spring from their annual circumnavigation of the globe, whale sharks can be seen around Gladden Spit for a few months. Normally feeding at depths unavailable to divers, whale sharks rise to the shallower waters during the 10 days following a full moon in order to feed.

Recently, Afar Magazine profiled whale sharks and encouraged its readers to avail themselves of this truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity at Gladden Spit Marine Reserve. One of Afar Magazine’s top recommended resorts to stay in Placencia Belize is the luxurious Chabil Mar Resort. With elegantly appointed villas and its own gourmet restaurant and two infinity swimming pools, Chabil Mar is an award winning resort renowned for providing world-class service.

Located in southeastern Belize, Placencia is the gateway to the Belize Barrier Reef, including the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve where whale sharks visit every spring. Chabil Mar operates diving and snorkeling tours to Gladden Spit as well as other top destinations on the reef.

If you’d like to snorkel or dive with whale sharks, be sure to book your vacation with Chabil Mar Resort.

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