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Whale  Sharks

Whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), are the largest fish in the sea. They can grow up to a length of 20m and are thought to live up to 100 years. They feed mainly on zooplankton and tiny fish that they filters out the water.

Reproduction wise, whale sharks mature at 30 years old, when they get around 9m long.

They are generally solitary animals, however, aggregations are found in several locations around the world, including Mafia Island, due to seasonally abundant food source.

Since 2012, a whale shark research programme has been funded by the WWF on Mafia in the hope of learning more about population structure, the sharks movement around the island, the impact of human disturbance regarding whale shark sighting and to come up with a tourist management programme.

A code of conduct has since been put in place to assure the being of the sharks, and to minimise our impact on their behaviour.

  • Swimmers must not touch the shark or block its path.
  • They must stay 2m from the head and 3m from the tail.
  • The boats have to maintain a 20m distance from the shark and reduce their speed (10kts within 1km and 2kts within 50m).
  • One boat per shark at a time and no more than 10 people snorkelling with the sharks at any one time.

We were lucky enough to experience a swim with these gentle giants, it helped remind us of the respect we must show these beautiful creatures of the ocean.

By Camille Pépin - Tanzania Marine Volunteer

Find out more about Frontier's volunteering projects in Tanzania.

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