Ever wonder what it’s like to swim among one of the world’s largest creatures? Each Spring, in the Central American country of Belize, whale sharks – weighing in as much as 20 tons and measuring up to 65 feet in length – emerge from the depths of the Caribbean Sea off the southern coast of Belize where Scuba divers and snorkelers relish in the rare opportunity to swim alongside these gentle giants.

“We are fortunate that these magnificent creatures seasonally return to Belize’s warm waters,” said Director of Tourism Tracy Panton. “Visitors to the beautiful country of Belize have the unique opportunity to get up close to the curious whale sharks and experience this incredible natural phenomenon.”

Whale sharks are characterized by their white, spotted back, two dorsal fins and of course, gigantic size. Although their enormity may be daunting, these docile fish are docile and feed on plankton. In fact, it is the annual spawning of the cubera snapper during the months of March, April, May and June that brings the whale sharks to the Gladden Spit Marine Reserve just beyond Belize’s barrier reef.

Numerous resorts and dive operators in the Stann Creek District of Belize offer special packages and excursions for guests looking to dive or snorkel with whale sharks in their natural environment. Whale shark encounters must be timed accordingly with the full moon phases to coincidence with the aggregating snapper.

Hamanasi Dive & Adventure Resort’s PADI operated dive shop located in Hopkins, Belize offers a two-tank whale shark dive for $190 per person. In Placencia, the PADI operated Seahorse Dive Shop’s Brian Young is the founder of the Whale Shark Expeditions and boasts over 24 years of diving experience for optimal sightings. A two-tank dive with Young and his dive masters costs $150 per person. For more information visit www.hamanasi.com or www.belizescuba.com

Rajinder Dogra