Whale sharks are the largest non-mammalian marine animals in the world, and yet they can be surprisingly elusive. Often submerging to depths inaccessible to human divers, whale sharks circumnavigate the tropical seas of the globe every year in search of food.
Despite the fact that they are sharks, whale sharks pose almost no danger to humans. Whale sharks use special pads lined with thousands of tiny teeth to strain their food out of the water. Whale sharks can weigh up to 47,000 pounds (21 tons) and grow to 40 feet (12 meters) long, but they subsist entirely on microscopic plankton and fish spawn.
One of the only ways to interact with these gentle giants is by visiting Belize. Every year during the spring months, whale sharks arrive in the waters of the outer reef near Gladden Spit. And during the phases of the full moon, whale sharks rise to the surface to feast on freshly laid fish spawn and gigantic swarms of tiny plankton.
Despite their huge size, the whale shark population has been facing a number of challenges, including accidental damage caused by cargo ships. As such, scuba diving with and interacting with whale sharks is tightly regulated in Belize, and only authorized guides with a limited number of divers are allowed to visit the area where whale sharks feed. Therefore, spots are limited, so interested divers should book their whale shark adventure now.
Fortunately, getting to Belize to enjoy some diving is now easier than ever. The five biggest airlines in America and Canada’s two biggest airlines now fly non-stop to Belize from dozens of major cities, including Calgary, Denver, Minneapolis, Ft. Lauderdale, Chicago, Houston, and Miami. And regional airlines in Central America offer visitors to the region additional options for including Belize in their itinerary, including a brand-new Aeromexico flight from Mexico City to Belize.
Belize is rapidly becoming a hot visitor destination. In the past few months, National Geographic, the New York Times, and Lonely Planet have all included Belize on their “must-visit” list for the upcoming year.
If you’re interested in diving on the famous Belize Barrier Reef, there’s no better resort to stay at than Laru Beya. A member of TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame, Laru Beya is an all-inclusive boutique located on the Placencia Peninsula just steps from the beach. Laru Beya has lovely suites and rooms and is home to the only miniature golf course in the country.