Roatan Diving: Have You Seen a Whale Shark?

When it comes to diving, everyone has their bucket list desires.  Maybe it’s spotting a hammerhead.  Maybe it’s finding sunken treasure.  When it comes to Roatan diving:  Have you seen a whale shark?  Whale sharks aren’t actually whales or sharks. However, they are distinguished as the largest fish on the planet.  And it just so happens that this gentle giant makes its home around Roatan and the other Bay Islands.  And while it can be sometime in between sightings, when we do get the opportunity to see a whale shark on a Roatan dive, it is something truly special.

When Is the Best Time To See Whale Sharks Around Roatan?

Although whale sharks inhabit the waters of the Bay Islands all year round, it’s generally accepted that the high seasons run through March and April and from October to December.  Whale sharks are most common around the island of Utila, about an hour or two boat ride from Roatan, but they have also been known to ply the waters off the north coast of Roatan.  That said, you’re never guaranteed to find a whale shark, so luck definitely plays a factor in whether or not you’ll be able to observe this incredible being firsthand. 

Whale Shark Facts

The whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) spotted around Roatan typically span about 20 to 35 feet in length.  That said, the largest accurately measured whale shark, found off the coast of India, came in at close to 62 feet in length.  Whale sharks are filter feeders and lack the kinds of teeth that make Great White sharks so fearsome.  Whale sharks feed on plankton and small fish, and although they have very large mouths, they don’t pose any danger to humans.  They’re usually gray or brown in color and feature lines of white or yellow spots.  These spots are why the fish is called marokintana in Madagascar, which means, “many stars.”

How To Find a Whale Shark

There are a few clues to keep in mind when searching for whale sharks.  It’s best to keep an eye out for flocks of birds circling above the water.  They typically hover above the whale shark to benefit from its feeding technique.  Whale sharks often turn up around bait balls or boils created by schools of tuna which corral smaller fish towards the ocean’s surface.  You may be able to see the water bubbling and “boiling” because of this type of feeding activity.  As you get closer to a whale shark you may be able to see its shadow beneath the surface of the water.  The whale shark’s spots are often the most visible feature from above the water’s surface.

Roatan Diving: Have You Seen A Whale Shark?

If you’ve already been lucky enough to see a whale shark on a Roatan diving trip, why not share your experience with us by using the comment section?  Let everyone know where you saw it, the time of day and year, its size and the feeling you got from being in such close proximity to this majestic creature.  We look forward to your stories!

Octopus Dive School has been operating on Roatan since 2005. We take pride in offering an exceptional personalized service and diver safety is our top priority.