The best places to swim with whale sharks

Whale Sharks

By: Sarah Reid

Swimming alongside the largest fish in the sea is one of the ultimate bucket-list experiences. Lucky, then, that there are a few destinations around the world where in-
season sightings of whale sharks are almost guaranteed. 

Remember: keep a respectful distance from the gentle giants, and resist the urge to touch them or use flash photography.

Isla Holbox, Mexico
Isla Holbox is a 25-minute boat ride from the mainland. As Quintana Roo’s sleepy northernmost island, it is the antithesis of crazy Cancun, which is 150km to the south.
  • When to go: tours depart daily from late May to September, when the whale sharks arrive to feed and mate. July to August is peak season.
  • Where to stay: some tour companies offer speedboat pick-up from Cancun and Playa del Carmen, but relaxed Holbox is a great alternative to the main tourist centres (and closer to the sharks). Lodging ranges from cheap hostels (try Tribu Hostel) to mid-range guesthouses (Holbox Apartments and Suites) and a smattering of plush hotels.
  • Operators: Willy’s ( is among the most reputable.

Utila, Honduras

One of the world’s cheapest destinations to get your dive ticket, the backpacker hub of Utila off Honduras’ Caribbean coast also boasts one of the world’s few year-round whale shark research centres.
  • When to go: the highest concentration of sharks arrives between March and April, then in fewer numbers from September to December.
  • Where to stay: accommodation is mostly limited to dive hostels (try Underwater Vision). For more comfort, all-inclusive Deep Blue Utilaoffers dedicated whale shark trips in season.
  • Operators: check in with the Whale Shark and Oceanic Research Centre, or jump on one of the daily dive boats headed to the north side of the island, where most sharks are spotted.

Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Australia’s largest and most accessible fringing coral reef, Ningaloo lies around 1200km north of west coast capital Perth. Declared a Unesco World Heritage site in 2011, the 300km stretch is home to over 500 fish species.
  • When to go: whale sharks arrive to feed between April and July following a mass coral spawning.
  • Where to stay: most tours depart from Exmouth, with pick-ups from local caravan parks and hotels.
  • Operators: Ningaloo Whalesharks has its own spotter plane, upping your chances of spotting sharks and spending more time swimming with them than you would on other tours.

Gladden Spit, Belize

A mass fish-spawning period between March and June draws whale sharks to Gladden Spit and Silk Cayes Marine Reserve (GSSCMR), around 40km off the southeastern coastal town of Placencia.
  • When to go: April and May are the most consistent months for sightings; most are spotted a few days after the full moon.
  • Where to stay: the sandy streets of Placencia, which loosely – and fittingly – translates to ‘Pleasant Point’, offer a handful of affordable cabana-style accommodation, such as Julia’s. The more upscale Turtle Inn, also in Placencia, has its own dive school.
  • Operators: Placencia’s Sea Horse Dive Shop runs diving and snorkelling tours to GSSCMR in season.

Donsol Bay, Philippines

When whale sharks were ‘discovered’ at the fishing village of Donsol in 1998, it became one of the nation’s premier tourist destinations. Sightings are less frequent these days, but whale shark tourism is reportedly more ethical here than in Oslob, Cebu (where the sharks are fed).

Tofo Beach, Mozambique

Tofo is a traveller’s haven – and scuba diver's dream – 400km north of the capital Maputo. It's home to one of the largest concentrations of whale sharks in Africa thanks to a seemingly never-ending supply of plankton.
  • When to go: sightings of 50-strong congregations are not uncommon from October to March.
  • Where to stay: choose from backpacker lodges to more comfortable B&Bs such as Baia Sonambula Guest House.
  • Operators: dive centres, including Tofo Scuba and Diversity Scuba, organise daily snorkelling trips in season.

Ko Tao, Thailand
Just north of legendary party island Ko Phangan in the Gulf of Thailand, Ko Tao is famous for its cheap diving. Whale sharks are often spotted around Chumphon Pinnacle, just a 15-minute boat ride from the island.
  • When to go: whale shark encounters are a pot-luck affair in these parts, but they’ve been spotted year-round, especially from April to June.
  • Where to stay: prices drop if you sign up for a scuba course at comfortable dive lodges such as Big Blue.
  • Operators: dedicated snorkelling trips aren’t the norm, so if you’re not a diver, ask if you can tag along with a dive boat headed to a whale shark hotspot.

South Ari Atoll, Maldives
Whale sharks are year-round residents of the Maldives, tending to favour the western side of the Indian Ocean archipelago from May to December, then heading to the east until April. South Ari Atoll is a Marine Protected Area.
  • When to go: operators in the area run weekly, year-round snorkelling trips to South Ari. You can track whale shark sightings as they happen by downloading the local Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme's Whale Shark Network Maldives app.
  • Where to stay: many island resorts and guesthouses offer their own tours.
  • Operators: contact the MWSRP for more information.

Bay of Ghoubbet, Djibouti

This discreet bay, tucked neatly at the western end of the Gulf of Tadjoura, is one of the most dependable places in the world to swim with whale sharks. It’s not uncommon for several of the giants to be cruising so close to shore that it’s possible to snorkel out to see them. For diving in more remote locales, take a trip on a liveaboard boat.

  • When to go: whale sharks generally start arriving in late October, and remain in the bay until February. Peak season is November to January.
  • Where to stay: base yourself in Djibouti City and try the Atlantic Hotel.
  • Operators: Dolphin and Siyyan Travel & Leisure both operate liveaboard dive expeditions and day-long snorkelling trips.



(P.S. – This post has nothing to do with the Quokka, the happiest animal alive.  But how can you not smile and overcome travel blues after seeing this cutie pie?)

You saved, planned your trip, embarked on your destination, discovered, ate different foods, had no one to report to and no real responsibilities. Sadly, there will be a time when a vacation has to end and reality starts to knock loudly at your doorsteps.  As your return date gets closer, suddenly, the comfort of your home and bed, the day to day routine and familiar faces no longer seems appealing. Travel blues is REAL. It can leave you feeling as if you no longer want to live your ‘normal’ life, judging it as mundane, stressful and unfulfilling. Almost everyone who travels will experience some form of travel blues, it can last from a couple of days to several weeks.

While unpleasant and sometimes unavoidable, you can overcome travel blues. The trick is to accept that there is a time for everything: a time to vacation and a time to handle responsibilities.  Coupled with this understanding, these tips below will help your transition to ‘real’ life easier.

Keep the memories alive – whether it is through pictures or recounting your experience to your friends, keeping these memories at the forefront will help with your transition.  When the melancholy of my previous trip hits me, I pull out my phone or camera and go through pictures of my recent trip.  Reliving the experience all over again fills me up with joy: I can remember the feeling, thoughts and experience – just by looking at one photograph!

Plan your next trip – If you enjoyed yourself, there will most likely be many more trips in your future.  One sure way of fighting travel blues is fantasizing about your next vacation.  Ask yourself: Where would I like to go? What would I like to experience? How long would I like to stay?  Start your research, read articles and reviews from other travelers who have gone before you.  This is a sure way to keep you anticipating and excited about your next adventure and make your day to day more bearable!

Be grateful – Many, due to financial or time constraints, are unable to afford a vacation.  But here you are with the ability to financially afford it and have time to explore and relax.  That in itself is a blessing!  So instead of looking at your ‘reality’, think of how grateful you are to even be able to get away and take time to yourself.  This is a luxury not everyone can afford.

If it all fails, look at the Quokka smile and be inspired to smile and be happy no matter what!


Rio de Janeiro is the second largest city in Brazil, and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Although no longer the capital of Brazil, it remains the leading commercial and tourist center in these parts attracting hundreds of investors and tourists from across the globe every year. 
Rio for short lies on the southwestern shore of Guanabara Bay and is equally the main focus of Brazil’s social and cultural life. At the entrance of the bay stands one of the city’s illustrious leading lights, the SugarLoaf Mountain. The summit of the sugar loaf can be reached by a cable car and this commands a magnificent view of the city. Additionally, there are numerous parks, museums, zoological gardens, churches, schools, and many skyscrapers. To the Cariocas, as the occupants are fondly called, Rio de Janeiro is passionately called ‘the Cidade Marvilhosa’ (marvelous city). 
In sharp contrast to the city’s luxurious palaces and modern buildings, are its several slum pockets called favelas. A Favela is a low middle-income neighborhood located in the outskirts of Brazil. The first favela found in Rio de Janeiro was found by a group of soldiers who had nowhere to live following the Canopus war in the late 19thCentury. As a result of urbanization, many people began to move from the rural areas of Brazil into Rio de Janeiro. Unable to find employment and due to the housing crises, these migrants could not cope with the high standards of living that existed at that time, they had no choice but to settle in favelas.
The list of favelas in Rio de Janeiro is inexhaustible, but it is important to note that these favelas are all unique in their own way. They are mostly box-shaped and flat-roofed houses clustered on top of each other on a hillside with very beautiful colors. These houses comprise of 3 to 4 story linked by alleyways and hundreds of small steps. Many people had tagged the favelas as slums, but recently these favelas have become attraction sites to many tourists. 
Favelas are now a safe haven following the massive pacification project that was started in Rio de Janeiro in 2008. Pacifying Police Units have been implemented in about 107 favelas, and therefore there is no cause for alarms when it comes to security in these favelas.  (Stay out of the alleyways, stick to the main roads)
Though there are several favelas in Rio de Janeiro, it is safer to visit the ones that have been pacified. Some of them include;
-               Rocinha. 
This the largest favela in the city and is considered to be one of the safest. It has a population of about 100,000 people making the most populated in the city. It is more of an urban ghetto, with houses made of concrete and it has access to electricity, banking, and medical services, etc. You don’t want to miss the Rio Carnival Samba which is a dance performed by the inhabitants themselves.
-               Santa Marta.  
Santa Marta is home to more than 5,000 inhabitants. This is no doubt the most famous favela all thanks to the Michael Jackson statue which was erected after he shot his music video ‘they don’t care about us’ there. It is one of the pioneer favelas to undergo pacification rendering the favela safe for tourists. Its blue skies are just breathtaking. It has football pitches, a samba school, and the houses are painted in rainbow colors. The people of Santa Marta are very welcoming and the community life is awesome.
-               Cantagalo.  
This favela is made up of about 20,000 residents. It has a popular bar known as ‘Gilda No Cantalago where live jazz music is performed on Sunday nights. You can also enjoy great views of Ipanema and Copacabana since it is situated on the hill in between these two cities.  There is also a museum known as ‘Museu de Favela’. This is a community initiative group whose goal is to value the favela’s life and to support local cultural life. This one is peculiar in that it is not a building, but a territorial museum in context. That is, every house, person or street becomes part of the archive. Isn’t it interesting?

 -               Vidigal. 
It is considered one as one of the favelas to have undergone pacification successfully. One of its hallmarks is the Favela Experience which is a popular hostel in the place. If you feel hungry, make your way to ‘Bar Lacubaco’ where you will enjoy rice and beans and meat. Feel like taking a sip? ‘Bar de Laje’ will serve you cocktails. Alto Vidigal hostel offers all night parties with reggae music, it also offers a lovely sunrise, while sunsets are glorious in Vidigal.
Visiting the favela is a marvelous experience. It is important to witness the rich culture and strong sense of community. 

Rio is popular among its visitors as an unforgettable place for both business and pleasure.

Meet - Play - Travel

How to Walk an Entire Continent

Walking is something that humans have done since we descended from the trees of Africa, from there we decided to explore the globe. Our ancestors had to overcome unimaginable terrain, traversing incredible distances with little to no food or water, crossing the arctic, jungles and climbing the tallest peaks in the Himalayas. My two year voyage was commemorating the struggles and sacrifices our ancestors had to endure in order for us to read this blog.  

Before embarking on Crossing Africa, a 12,000km walk across the African continent from Cape Town to Cairo, I begin my training with more humble distances. A 550 kilometre / 342 mile walk from Toronto to Montreal. It was a massive undertaking guided by a good friend of mine Donna Foster. She convinced me to train and learn the art of endurance power walking. I am most grateful for her teachings and enthusiasm for life in general. I averaged ten-plus hours a day, sometimes surpassing fifteen hours in a single day. Incurring severe chafing between my thighs, feeling unimaginable pains and experienced boredom that eventually turned to torment, it was a rough start. To most of you reading this, you will probably never experience walking ultra long distances in such terrain. The tips I'm providing will help with anyone's walking needs, whether you're going for a casual day hike or setting up a two year expedition across a continent. Through my experiences and training I will share with you the basics in successfully walking short and ultra long distances.

This part, though the most important, is different for every person. Distance is a good form of motivation and measurement to keep track of your progress. Time can be used primarily to determine pace. Time can be perceived as relatively longer or shorter depending on your state of mind for that day. That's not good if you have hundreds of hours left to complete your journey. Distance however can be used consistently as goal setting marks.

Everyone's motivation comes from different places, some are motivated by nature, the outdoors and feel that walking is the best way to experience it. Others want to push the boundaries of distance and conquer terrain, or perhaps experience cultures and wildlife in unique ways. Whatever reason you decided with, always stay focused on what got you there in the first place. Losing focus typically happens during challenging times, there can be times when it's easier to die than to continue going on.

Enjoy your surroundings, seemingly blank farm fields can spark deep philosophical thoughts. Use this time to comb through your mind, become your own best friend and therapist. Allow yourself to poke fun at yourself and laugh out-loud to your own silliness. Presence is also important, enjoy the luxuries of Earth's oxygen, the wind and the sun's rays.

For more of Mario journey

Walking A Continent