Honduras is host to whale sharks year round. These incredible creatures are unpredictable,yet frequent visitors off the northern coast around the Bay Islands. Most encounters are off the deep northern waters of Utila. When conditions are good, and timing is right, you may have the opportunity to actually snorkel with these amazing creatures. Travelers come from all over the world with the hopes of seeing, and getting in the water, with one of these Gentle Giants. Scuba Diving the Bay Islands of Honduras provides some of the best opportunities in the world to get up close and personal diving right along side the elusive Whale Shark.Be prepared to dive along side using our Whale Shark Encounter Guidelines Tips.
What is a whale shark?
A whale shark is a shark, or a fish, that is as large as a whale, hence the name. It breathes with gills and does not need to surface for air. Whale sharks do, however, surface for feeding. These sharks feed on plankton, nekton, and krill. They migrate to areas where these foods are plentiful. Utila is in a unique position being situated close to a large, deep trench that creates upwelling of nutrients into the sunlit zone of the ocean. These large creatures then locate these concentrations.
Many times they are found in large boils, or bait balls. Bonito, or a small tuna, are also attracted to plankton. They gather up the microscopic feed and flap around on the surface feeding frantically. The water seems as if it is “boiling” with small, intense splashes sometimes covering an area the size of a soccer field. The whale sharks will usually be found in the middle of one of these feeding frenzies gulping large amounts of sea water, and then forcing it out of it’s gills. Gill rakers line the sharks gills and trap the nutrients from the water which are then swallowed.
With an experienced captain and crew, abiding by local regulations, whale sharks are located by sight and snorkelers are placed in the water near the dark spot. If successful, the heart beats of each viewer will increase as they watch this amazing creature feed and glide through the water. Many people list this experience as the most amazing animal encounter, ever.
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