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Swimming with whale sharks
October to March is whale shark season on Mafia Island, and heading out in search of these majestic creatures is one of the most popular activities on the island at this time of year.
You’ll set off early in the morning when the seas are calmest, full of excitement and anticipation – chances of spotting these elusive animals are high but not guaranteed, and you wonder if your luck will be in. Climbing aboard the boat, with fins, masks and snorkels at the ready, the waiting game begins. Your guide will be keeping a watchful eye on the surrounding sea for any signs of life, while also communicating with other boats for any news on recent sightings. Time will pass and doubts will fill your mind, but if you’re lucky enough to catch a glimpse of one of these gentle giants it’ll all be worth it.
When the moment comes and your guide catches sight of the unmistakable spotted back of a whale shark soaring beneath you, you’ll quickly don your fins and mask and jump into the water. Swimming beside these giants of the sea is nothing like you would imagine. Despite being the world’s largest fish and measuring up to 10m in length, whale sharks are harmless to humans on account of the fact they feed almost exclusively on plankton. They are immense, graceful and calming creatures and often swim right alongside humans – their slow movements allowing you time to observe their intricate markings.
Whale sharks are recognised as a vulnerable species, but thanks to successful conservation work and the protection provided by the Mafia Island Marine Park, they are present off the coast of Mafia in healthy groups. Accompanied by a licensed guide, humans are able to engage with Mafia’s whale sharks in a responsible and regulated manner, and enjoy the mesmerising moment that one of these majestic giants glides by.