Discover the gentle giants of the Maldives

30th August 2022

Today we celebrate the majestic gentle giant of the ocean – the whale shark. International Whale Shark Day highlights the incredible wonder, beauty and vital role that the whale shark holds in keeping our ocean ecosystems healthy and balanced.

The Maldives archipelago is renowned for thriving biodiversity, colorful coral reefs and unique marine protected areas such as the world heritage UNESCO Biosphere Reserve of Baa Atoll and the South Ari Marine Protected Atoll (SAMPA) which is home to the largest congregation of whale sharks which frequent the warm waters throughout the year. Sun Island Resort & Spa is set on one of the largest Maldives islands located in South Ari Atoll close by to several whale shark hotspots. Guests at Sun Island can explore the incredible underwater world and swim alongside the gentle giants at these snorkeling spots via a short boat journey from the resort. The opportunity to swim alongside them is a memorable experience to cherish forever.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and can be identified by their unique pattern of white spots on their thick grey skin. Each whale shark can be identified by the markings on the area just behind their gill slits and just above their pectoral fin where their markings are completely unique, almost like a human finger print. Though they can weigh up to 20 tons and measure up to 14 meters long, these pelagic animals do not evoke the same fearful reaction as sharks, instead they are graceful and gentle as they glide through tropical waters feeding on tiny plankton. With their enormous size they can feed on more than 20 kilograms of plankton a day, capturing their meal in gulps near the water’s surface where the plankton congregates to energize from the sunlight.

While celebrating the whale shark, it is important to acknowledge the threats they encounter and raise awareness to help protect and conserve the whale shark and its natural habitat. Over the last 75 years, whale shark populations have declined by more than half of the population. Illegal fishing, habitat loss, climate change, slow reproduction and even injury by boat collisions pose threats to their population. Moreover, the whale shark has been classified as vulnerable under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and due to the increase in threats this classification has since changed to endangered.

In a commitment to raise awareness and help conserve the whale shark, Villa Hotels & Resorts enforces careful procedures to ensure a healthy habitat for the whale shark and to promote conservation. These include advising guests to keep a distance on snorkeling trips and never touch the whale sharks, as well as be mindful when swimming in their habitat. Sun Island Resort offers glass water bottles on all boat trips and invites guests to adopt the sustainable way of living by saving energy on island and recycling where possible.