We leapt into the water, dragging our fins on as we went, each following the person in front like lemmings plummeting off a cliff. A cursory look below the surface and already we could see that nonchalant smile approaching. The rest of the paddle shaped head came into view so peppered with white polka dots that it was nearly impossible to make out the tiny eyes. We wondered if it could see us or even knew we were there. As we hung mesmerised and motionless, the whale shark approached, effortlessly gliding through the water.
The Race Is On
Its body was sleek and muscular, perfectly streamlined for optimal performance. The pointed dorsal fin sliced through the water as the powerful tail gently beat its silent rhythm. As it was passing, the sudden desire not to be left behind kicked in and the race was on. We swam as fast as we could, breathing as hard as our snorkels would allow and cursing our lack of fitness. The whale shark continued unperturbed. At 6 metres long it was merely a baby, slowly cruising along the shallow reef that was its nursery.
Concentrating hard, we barely noticed the second boat arrive until the water around us became a thick soup of flailing limbs. People swam over us and we were pushed, shoved and kicked in the face as everyone tried to escape the melee. Eventually we broke free from the pack.
Nearing The Finish Line
As the space before us opened up, once again we found ourselves alongside the whale shark. Beams of sunlight sparkled through the water and rippled across its back. The magical moment was short lived as we began to run out of steam. After a last ditch attempt at a final burst of speed, which fell flat, we were spent. The whale shark gradually pulled further and further ahead until all we could see were a few spots glowing like a constellation of stars in the distance.
The outcome? Whale Shark 1 : Adventure O'Clock 0
Looking For Whale Shark Footprints
Finding a whale shark was a time consuming process. We trawled the reef on several occasions before the spotters on the roof struck lucky. They were looking for the whale shark's footprint, the dark shadow of a shark near the surface. On a sunny day this works well but the wind and rain made it more difficult.
Maldives Whale Shark Snorkelling Tips
Whale sharks don't hang around for long so be ready to jump in the water as soon as one is spotted.
If the whale shark is disturbed, it will likely dive deep and disappear. Don't get directly in front of the whale shark and be careful not to touch it.
Stay clear of the whale shark's powerful tail.
Where To Snorkel With Whale Sharks
We snorkelled with whale sharks while on a dive liveaboard in the Maldives. Most liveaboards will offer whale shark snorkelling but check their itinerary to be sure.
Whales sharks are only found in certain areas of the Maldives. Some resorts will be able to organise whale shark snorkelling but others will be too far away. Ask before you book if this is something you really want to do.
In theory you can see whale sharks year round in the Maldives. However, the one we saw in October was the first sighting for several months. There is always an element of luck involved and the weather makes a difference too.