(Rhincodon typus)

WHALE SHARK (Rhincodon typus)


The Whale Shark is one of the most iconic species of Tofo, bringing in lots of people each year to experience the magical feeling of being face to face with this amazing creature! The Whale Shark is the largest fish in the ocean and the biggest smile on the planet; its mouth can be up to 1.5 meters wide! The Whale Shark’s skeleton is made of cartilage instead of bone, which makes this fish much lighter and more flexible than bony fish. For this reason, the Whale Shark (like all sharks), does not need the swim bladder typical of bony fish. 

The name "Whale Shark" comes from its large size (as big as some whales) and the fact that it filter-feeds like baleen whales. Their primary food source is zooplankton, which availability is highly dependent on currents. Upwelling mechanisms caused by year-round eddies along the coastal waters near Praia do Tofo lead to a constant availability of zooplankton, making Tofo one of the very few spots in the world where Whale Sharks are seen feeding

throughout the whole year!

The Whale Shark can grow  up to 19 meters in length and weight over  34  tonnes,  but the

average lengths in the Tofo  area are  8-9  meters.  Despite  their  huge  size, these giants

are  extremely  gentle  and  docile,  posing  no  danger   to  humans.  However,  it  is very

important  not  to  touch  or  ride  the  Whale Sharks  as  human touch  removes  protective

mucus from their skin which  can lead to serious infection. They can be easily recognised

by a distinctive pattern of white spots and stripes on a dark bluish-grey background which

helps blend  with  the  environment  and is unique to each individual! Researchers rely on

this unique  pattern  to  identify  and  distinguish individual Whale Sharks in order to count

populations. The Whale Sharks cruise along at,  or  just  below,  the  surface so it's best to

simply  snorkel  with  them.  We offer a 2 hour snorkel safari, with a 3 meter high chair on

the boat for easy spotting. If you  are  interested  in  knowing  more about the biology and

ecology of Whale Sharks and the other large marine species  that  inhabit  the  Tofo  area,

we  also  offer  an  Ocean  Bio Safari  which  adds  in a  35 min  talk given  by  our  marine

biologist, who will accompany you  throughout  the safari  and will teach you how you can

become a citizen scientist!






PLEASE NOTE THAT WHALE SHARK ENCOUNTERS CAN NEVER BE GUARANTEED ON A PARTICULAR OCEAN SAFARI!! This is what makes the wild so special; every day is just unique! However, the chances are high!




Species Distribution


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