Whale Shark Sightings 2021??

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Has anyone seen or know of anyone who has seen whale sharks in 2021. I am headed on a dive trip at the end of May 2021 and would love to know if I can expect to see whale sharks or not while there. I have been chasing them for a number of years now and would really love to dive with them.
 

Downing

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I don't think you can ever expect to see Whale Sharks when you go to Belize but your best chances are in April and May. Having said that, I know they've also been spotted in June (but not by me). Their migration past Belize is tied to the full moon but not necessarily on the full moon. The sightings occur usually just three to five days each month so timing is everything in terms of increasing your chances.

I suggest contacting Ralph Capeling, a member here who co-operates Splash Dive Center. He usually posts Whale Shark sightings on this board but I haven't seen any posts on the subject by him or anyone else here this year. I don't know if that's due to the virus, lack of sightings, both or neither.

Good luck!
 

Ralph Capeling

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At Splash we are scheduling whale shark tours April 27 to May 9, May 26 to June 7 and June 24 to July 6 but I need to caution you. In 2019 there were no whale shark sightings and in 2020 we did not do any whale shark tours due covid-19, although there were sightings by fishermen at Gladden Spit. In 2018 we saw whale sharks on less than 1/2 the days we went out.
We expect to do our first whale shark trip tomorrow. Hoping for success!
 

renpirate

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Hi Ralph,

I am coming down to Palencia from June 5th-12th. I was thinking about doing the dive on the 7th. I have never dove Belize before, what is the dive like even if we don't see whale sharks?
 

Ralph Capeling

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It is a blue water dive - you cannot see the reef or the bottom. Maximum depth is 60 feet (and better to go shallower if possible but if there are other dive boats around then some dive shops go to 60 feet and that tends to push the snapper down).

We use two methods to look for whale sharks – looking for the snapper or looking for the birds.
  • We use fish finders to find the snapper as the whale sharks come to feed on the spawning aggregation and put the divers in the water above the snapper and the snorkelers stay above the divers following their bubbles. The divers try to stay with but well above the snapper and try to stay in a tight group so that the bubbles are concentrated. The idea is that the whale shark will see the bubbles, think that is the spawn and come directly to the divers. As the bubbles go to surface, often the whale sharks do too, so the snorkelers get a close encounter. We have had some situations where the whale sharks came from the side rather than from the deep, so the snorkelers saw them but the divers who were looking down, did not see them. Other times, the whale sharks have come close to the divers and then gone back down without tasting the bubbles.

  • We watch for birds circling as when they flock over the sea, it is usually because they are feeding on bait fish. Whale sharks also feed on bait fish and they do that on surface. When we see the birds, we head for the spot. Usually in this situation, the divers tend to stay at snorkel depths.

If there are no whale sharks around there can still be lots of activity as bull sharks and dolphins also come to feed on the snapper. One of our guests, after a dive with no whale shark sightings, said it was the best dive of her life. Dolphins were repeatedly diving down right next to our dive boat to catch a snapper and return to the surface to eat it. We also often see turtles and of course we see lots of snapper and jacks.
 

Hank49

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There is also a big cubera spawn at the Elbow of Turneffe during the full moons of July, August and September. And as Ralph mentioned, this stimulates a lot of other activity in the area. Seeing massive schools of snappers, jacks and even permit, to me, is not disappointing.
 

Downing

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Blue water diving is an attraction in and of itself. Since you can't reference the bottom, you really have to pay attention to your computer (and of course your dive guide). It's a good skill to work on.

On one of my whale shark dives, even though we didn't see a whale shark I did have a dolphin swim right up to me, give me a long look and then go on his/her way. One of my favorite diving memories.
 

renpirate

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Sounds worth it regardless!
 
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