Visit St Helena during Whale Shark Season
St Helena offers a rare one in 16 chance to swim with the largest fish in the sea: whale sharks. Our annual visitors frequent St Helena’s waters (roughly) from November, of any given year, and generally disappear April/June, peaking in January/February.
It has become apparent that a number of the females seen during a recent large gathering appeared to be pregnant. Combining international research theories with local anecdotal and data records from the island marine sightings database, the presence of whale sharks from St Helena could be more interesting than we think.
Migrating close to the island’s shallow waters as the whale sharks do, St Helena offers its locals and tourists a chance to swim in the ocean with these amazing creatures, and snorkel alongside them in their natural habitat!
In January 2017 some lucky swimmers entered James Bay waters with no less than eight whale sharks swimming around them.
Reaching lengths of up to 40 feet (12 meters) or more, they scoop up plankton, along with any small fish that happen to be around, with their colossal gaping mouths while swimming close to the water’s surface. They are currently listed as a vulnerable species; however, they continue to be hunted in parts of Asia, such as the Philippines.
Because of the large number of whale sharks that pass through St Helena waters, the Environment and Natural Resources Directorate (ENRD) on the island has been setting environment practice guidelines to protect the whale sharks.
Those who dare to swim with them (groups of no more than eight people) are urged to stay three meters away (and four from the tail), to not swim behind or in front of them, and spend no more than 45 minutes in the water with them. Flash photography and touching them is also forbidden.