It’s International Whale Shark Day But What Do We Know About Them?

It’s International Whale Shark Day But What Do We Know About Them?

Whale Shark Sightings Always Cause A Buzz Around Phuket But What Facts have We Got

Well we know they’re big and spotty but not a great deal else to be honest…It’s a challenging animal for scientists to study but they’re trying and we’re slowly gaining an insight into the biggest fish on the planets life and there is a way that you can help (more on that later)

Just How Big Do Whale Sharks Grow?

There’s much debate about the size to which they can grow, 18m is a common figure that’s mentioned but the largest verified measurement is around 12m. In Thailand we rarely see whale sharks larger than 6m but this seems to be a global trend and apart from the Galapagos Islands, large whale sharks are becoming increasingly rare. The most studied group of whale sharks (Ningaloo Reef, Australia) now average around 6m, at this size whale sharks are not thought to be sexually mature – a very worrying trend.

Where Do They Go?

Whale sharks live in warm – temperate tropical seas all around the globe, preferring temperatures of 22c or above. There’s thought to be two large populations, one in the Atlantic and one in the Indo Pacific. They travel huge distances within there ranges, one tagged female recently logged a journey of 7,800km and was still going when the tag dropped off. Where the large females go to give birth is the holy grail of whale shark research and probably the key to keeping the species from extinction

Whale Sharks In Phuket

We can’t with all honestly say that we’re inundated with whale shark sightings but they’re regular enough visitors to get a mention in dive briefs. Of the local dive sites – Shark Point probably gets the most sightings and if you venture a little further afield then Richelieu Rock gives you a chance but probably Hin Daeng and Hin Muang gives you the best chance of an encounter with these magnificent animals.

The Entourage

Whale sharks are very often accompanied by large numbers of remora, slender suckerfish and large cobia. Much like the entourage that accompanies celebrities they’re a fairly useless bunch to the ‘star’ and basically freeload a ride off the shirt tails of the main attraction. The accompaniment of spongers get a certain degree of protection from their 20 ton friend and feed of it’s left overs and pooh but give little if anything in return.

Whale Shark And it's Entourage

Whale Shark And it’s Entourage

Dining Preferences

Whale sharks are plankton feeders but will also feed on fish eggs, krill, small fish and squid. They mostly swim around with there mouths open but they can also use suction to engulf vast quantities of water and filter out the good stuff with a unique sieve like structure that is thought to be modified gill rakers. They have an uncanny ability to appear just at the right time for mass spawning events of coral and fish and gorge themselves on the rich fair.

Reproduction

Pretty much a blank here, whale sharks mating behaviour has never been witnessed. Most of the large gatherings around the globe seem to be immature animals and 70% male so it’s unlikely that any naughtiness is going on here. We do know that they give birth to live young (ovoviviparous) after a dead female was dissected and found to have 300 pups inside her.

The pups are born 40 – 60cm long and will have a long wait before they can breed themselves. It’s thought that they can breed only when they reach about 30 years of age but it’s estimated that they live as long as 100 years.

Dangerous

Not at all, unless somebody dropped one on you, that would probably leave a few bruises. Even though they do have 300 rows of tiny teeth, curiously they aren’t used for feeding in any way. Getting to close could get you whacked by the tail but that’s your own fault and you’ll get no sympathy here.

What Can You Do?

You’ve probably noticed that there’s a lot of: possibly, it’s thought, suggested etc in this blog which shows regardless of a lot of people’s hard work we still know very little about these magnificent animals. Studying a creature with such a long life span that travels so far and dives so deep is an immensely difficult task.

You can report your sightings on the Wildbook for whale sharks website. Cameras seem to be as important as regulators to divers nowadays and taking a photo can help identify individual animals and help understand their movements but the photo has to be of a specific area of the animal which Wildbook clearly outline on their website. I know we all get a little excited when we see one but try to calm down and get a shot which can help.

So catch your breath start clicking the camera and help save an animal that simply must always be in our oceans.

Posted in Rare & Peculiar Critters on .

Popular Services

Thailand Liveaboard MV Pawara At The Similan Islands

MV Pawara

MV Pawara is one of the most popular liveaboard boats cruising the Similan and Surin Island National Parks. The spacious and comfortable saloon, sundeck and shaded dining area ensure that guests always have plenty of space to relax between dives. The air-conditioned saloon has free wi-fi, TV/DVD player and an extensive library to help you log the names of all the species you can encounter on the fabulous dive sites such as Richelieu Rock, [...]

Read More
Non divers on Local Dive Thailand tours

Non Divers

Local Dive Thailand also caters for non divers on our Phuket day trip tours, sometimes a spouse or friend might want to accompany you or your divers, there are many reasons why we have non divers from time to time, but rest assured non divers will be looked after no different from our scuba diving customers. You get all the same things as the divers, including, breakfast, lunch, pancakes, tea, coffee and water, plus you are always welcome to [...]

Read More

Daily Schedules

M/V Kepsub Schedule

Jobs @ Local Dive Thailand

Local Dive Thailand is one of Phuket's fatest growing & most vibrant scuba diving operations, we are always looking for quality staff to join us, so feel free to have a look at our jobs listing page.

Job Listings

Contact LDT

Local Guides, Local Knowledge, Local Experiences

Don't trust your diving to amateurs or freshly minted dive guides, dive with local experienced experts from Local Dive Thailand. Our Scuba Diving Phuket Tours will take you to see the rarest of the rare critters, you will be amazed by the macro life our guides can find, in the secret places only they know. To put it in perspective, if you were going to climb Mount Everest you would certainly hire a local sherpa to lead the way & keep you safe. Diving is similar because there is absolutely no substitute for local experience & local knowledge, Local Dive Thailand's guides are Phuket's Sherpa's of the Andaman Sea!

Learn More About Us

Scuba Diving Phuket, Phi Phi & Thailand

When talking about Scuba Diving in Phuket, you should believe the hype, many seasons we have had Whale Sharks grace us on our regular and easy to reach dive sites and on a good day you can add Sea Horses, Sea Moths, Snake Eels, Frog Fish & Octopus to what you can see on any given dive and so much more. If we are heading to Phi Phi Island for the day, you can possibly see Hawksbill Sea Turtles and Black Tip Reef Sharks, also don't forget the King Cruiser, 84 meters of beautiful wreck and the most amazing reef nursery for fish and nudibranch. Local Dive Thailand day trip tours to these locations are not to be missed when you are scuba diving Phuket, get in touch with us and book an 'awesome' day of diving.

Book Your Day Trip

Related News From Local Dive Thailand

See why we are Thailand's leading scuba diving Phuket tour provider, stay up to date & watch out for news & special liveaboard offers!

Seahorse-On-A-Phuket-Diving-Site The Archives

Thailand Suspends Export of Seahorses

CITES has announced the Thai governments decision to suspend the export of seahorses after not being able to meet the CITES obligations for the trade in seahorses, Thailand decided to stop issuing export permits earlier this year in lieu of obtaining a sustainable solution and protecting the wild population. It's a welcome move and hopefully a chance for one of diving's most loved animals to increase in numbers. Thailand is the worlds largest [...]

Read Full Story
False Clown Anemone Fish (Amphiprion ocellaris) At Anemone Reef Rare & Peculiar Critters

Clownfish And Their Dirty Secrets

Finding clownfish/anemonefish in Phuket is not a difficult task for our diving guides, we have four different species of the 28 known that we regularly find, all colourful and all have the quirky clownfish attitude that makes them a favourite with divers but behind the cute colours are some very strange facts. I'm sure you're aware that they have a symbiotic relationship with anemone's but this doesn't come as easy to the clownfish as you [...]

Read Full Story
Similan Island Liveaboards With Discounts Diving Discounts & Special Offers

Great Early Booking Discounts On Similan Island Liveaboards

There'll be plenty of options for a Similan Island liveaboard if I book at short notice right? - Nope, that's very very wrong! The most popular liveaboards are already fully booked for the peak periods in 2017/2018, if you're planning a Xmas, New Year or Chinese New Year Similan Island safari, well good luck with that... we'll try our best to find you a space but your choices will be very limited. There are lots of Similan Island liveaboar [...]

Read Full Story

Local Dive Thailand Office In Phuket


Find Us On Google Maps