Beyond Ordinary

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Searching for Whale Sharks | Maldives

Searching for Whale Sharks | Maldives

Walking on the Whale Shark Excursion Boat

At 9:30am we departed on a 60 foot wooden yacht with four other tourists in addition to our crew and headed southeast.  The whale sharks hang out about an hour and 15 minutes from MIrihi Island Resort in the South Ari Atoll.  Of the 26 atolls that make up the Maldives, the South Ari Atoll is the best place for a whale shark sighting.  

I had envisioned our whale shark excursion taking us to a remote location, far from human contact.  On the contrary, the plankton rich waters that the whale sharks love happen to flow along a domestic Maldivian airport.  It seems the whale sharks either can’t hear or don’t mind the sound of jets taking off and landing all day.  By the time we arrived to the whale shark destination, half a dozen other whale shark seeking boats were patrolling the area.  Our three man crew took us back and forth along the coast looking for a dark spot in the sea that would signal to us that a whale shark was swimming just below the surface.  After a couple of loops (and hours) with no whale shark sighting we switched gears when a pod of around twenty dolphins appeared.  The captain asked if we wanted to swim them.  Of course we did!  When our boat got within 50 yards of the pod we jumped off the side and did our best to swim towards the fun, frolicking creatures.  Unfortunately, they had no interest in playing with us and by the time our little human legs puttered us over to where they had been when we jumped in, they were 300 yards away.  Our skills in the water were of course no match for the dolphins.  The only way we could have swam with them is if they had wanted us to.

Dolphins in the Maldives
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Rejected by the dolphins, we treaded water in the middle of the deep sea.  When I put my snorkel mask on to swim back to the boat, I could only I see blue.  Baby blue towards the surface faded to royal blue directly below me, rays of light piercing through from above.  I surprised myself that I wasn’t afraid.  The warm water helped, and that there didn’t seem to be anything menacing about the potential creatures I would see.  In fact, I squinted my eyes to look into the deep hoping, praying, that a dark gray mass would come rising from below, a whale shark treating my husband and I to our own private viewing experience.  

However, it wasn’t meant to be.  We didn’t see a whale shark that day.  An eagle ray, a sea turtle, and the antisocial dolphin pod would be the extent of our wildlife sightings for the day.  We convinced ourselves not to be too disappointed - we were heading back to our overwater bungalow in the pristine Maldives afterall.  The whale shark would remain elusive, at least until our next vacation.

Next Possible Vacations

Isla Holbox, Isla Mujeres, Mexico | June to September

Donsol Bay, Philippines | February to April

Belize Barrier Reef, Belize | April to May

Mahe, Seychelles | October

For more information on where and when to see whale sharks around the world, check out Lonely Planet and Matador Network.

Star Gazing | Maldives

Star Gazing | Maldives

Virgin Gorda | British Virgin Islands

Virgin Gorda | British Virgin Islands