For about 3 months, a rare opportunity presents itself to the visitors of Madagascar. Certified divers or simple lovers of the sea and nature, swim with a friendly shark for an unforgettable experience in Madagascar.
A giant fish
It is indeed the whale shark, the largest fish on the planet. It is easily recognizable by the small white dots on the dark gray background of its skin, streaked checkerboard. Like the blue whale, its mammalian counterpart, the whale shark uses a water filtering system to keep its mouth open. A big mouth that can measure up to 2 m wide and filter 2,000 tons of water per hour. Its diet consists mainly of plankton, small fish, crustaceans, and seaweed. Which makes it completely harmless for the man. If by chance you find a way to make you swallow, all you risk is it spits you out.
Its size can reach on average 12 to 18 m long for about 30 tons. Exceptionally, it was reported that the largest whale shark sighted reached 20 m. Those you observe along the coast of Malagasy are generally juveniles, with sizes between 4 to 10 m. You will already feel very small next to this giant of the seas. To get an idea, only megalodons, the terror of horror films about sharks, now missing, would have exceeded. Despite its imposing size, it is a very calm and calm animal with which you can swim freely.
A fascinating fish
The attraction of men for the whale shark has earned him many stories around the world. Indeed, the grounds of his skin have inspired much popular culture and science. For example, he is known in Madagascar under the name of "marokintana", meaning "very starred" in reference to the white dots on his skin. Besides, did you know that the positioning of these consisted of a kind of fingerprint, unique from one animal to another? In Japan, the whale shark is nicknamed "shark-jinbei" because of the greyish stripes of its skin evoking those of traditional jinbei for men. In addition, on a darker note, the taste and texture of its flesh earned it the name of "tofu shark" in Taiwan where it is among the dishes particularly appreciated. In contrast, the whale shark is considered a deity in Vietnam, earning it the honorary title of "Sir Fish". Finally, his pacifism has elevated him to the world status of "Ambassador of Sharks", thus restoring the reputation of these fish. All this justifies a trip for a nautical audience to this representative of the seas.
At the right time in the right place
The best spot to observe whale sharks is in northwestern Madagascar, in the turquoise waters of the Nosy-Be archipelago. Vanilla Island is rich in marine life thanks to the surrounding coral reefs and the warm tropical waters of the Mozambique Channel. A true paradise for diving enthusiasts and nautical activity. Schedule your stay between late September and mid-December to ensure the observation of whale sharks. Indeed, at this time of the year, there is a large production of plankton in the Bay of Ampasindava and whale sharks come to feed. There are about 110 transients in the region, which is one of the highest densities in the world.
Many service providers offer trips to sea to observe whale sharks in Nosy Be. Rates are around 50 euros, depending on the program and the inclusives of their offer. The excursion is open to swimmers and divers of all levels. In mask, palm, snorkel, or equipped with diving bottle for the lucky ones, you have the choice to immerse yourself with this nice giant. However, do not hope to prolong the pleasure, because if it is true that the whale shark is conciliatory enough to let you approach it, it never stays very long on the surface. It would be futile to try to follow him. You would have had enough time to rinse your eyes and agree that it was worth the effort! After three months of enjoying your company on the surface of the water, the whale shark disappears into the ocean at more than 2,000 meters deep. Nosy-Be is definitely one of the few places in the world where you can see it in the greatest respect for its environment.
A fish in danger
The whale shark is eagerly hunted in Asia for its meat and its wing worth nearly 650 euros on the black market. To date, it is estimated that more than 50% of the world's population is in such a state of decline that it is currently classified as a vulnerable species. What's more, it takes him 30 years to reach adulthood in order to reproduce. With conservation becoming paramount, international initiatives on whale shark protection standards have increased, especially in ecotourism. In Madagascar, the guides explain to you during the excursions the behaviors to adopt so that your experience is the least disturbing for the animal. The safety guidelines for whale shark sightings are first and foremost established to protect them. It is therefore recommended that you first find out about good practices and the best guides. Thus, you would value your experience with a little more: the safeguard of this fascinating being.