Destinations Belize


Whale Sharks in Belize

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world, and one of the largest creatures alive today, with the largest accurately measured whale shark coming in at 40 feet, 7 inches in length, with a 4.5 foot wide mouth, a 4.5 foot high dorsal fin, and 6.5 foot long pectoral fins.

This "whale" of a shark was caught in a gill net thrown over the side of a 20 foot long boat in Bombay, India!


Best Time for Whale
Shark Snorkeling and Diving

Whale sharks aggregate to feed on jack and snapper spawn during the full moons in April and May at Gladden Spit off the Placencia coast.  Four to six days after these full moons is the best time for a chance to interact with whale sharks at Gladden Spit.

Note:  the April and May full moons for 2013 are on the 25th of each month.


Whale Shark Snorkeling
and Diving Regulations

  • Dive and snorkel boats will be limited to 1.5 hour time slots, reduced from 2 hours
  • Dive and snorkel boats must be out of the whale shark zone by 5:00 PM
  • Only 6 dive and/or snorkel boats will be permitted inside the whale shark interaction area.
  • Time slots for dive and snorkel boats are determined by a public lottery
  • Boat captains must attend whale shark certification courses as well as guides and dive masters
  • Dive and snorkel guides must brief tourists on regulations before entering the whale shark zone
  • Each boat in the whale shark interaction area may carry a maximum of 12 divers and/or snorkelers
  • The whale shark conservation fee is US$15 per person for non-Belizean nationals.
  • Whale shark boats must have ratio of at least 1 dive master for every 8 scuba divers and 1 snorkel guide for every 8 snorkelers.  If a boat carries a mix of snorkelers and divers, the tour operator must have a dive master AND a snorkeling guide on-board.  The captain may NOT count as a guide/dive master.



Belize Whale Shark
Conservation and Research

During the last 12 years, the Belize barrier reef near Placencia (Gladden Spit) has been the focus of whale shark research, primarily by Rachel Graham, the 2011 recipient of the prestigious Whitley Gold Award.

Rachel's work has assessed how marine reserves could be better designed and managed to protect the whale shark and has provided much-needed new information on the population, ecology, movements and behaviour of whale sharks, including the large seasonal grouping of whale sharks on the southern Belize Barrier Reef.

In large part based on Rachel's work, Belize has undertaken to protect whale sharks from the threats of irresponsible tourism by establishing the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve off the Placencia coast, and enacting community-based Whale Shark Interaction Regulations.

The Gladden Spit Marine Reserve was officially established on Thursday, 18 May 2000, with opening ceremonies on the Silk Cayes, and the Reserve consists of a General Use Zone and a Conservation Zone.


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