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!