Snorkeling with whale sharks in Djibouti

The main reason we visited Djibouti was for the chance to snorkel with whale sharks. Exploring Lac Abbe’s plain of limestone chimneys and floating at Africa’s lowest point in Lac Assal were other reasons, but it was really the chance to swim with the biggest fish in the world that brought us to town.

Whale sharks are one of only three known filter-feeding shark species and they eat pretty much only plankton. They’re called a ‘whale’ because of their size; the largest recorded sighting is just under 13 m, but they’re a shark!

We headed out with the Dolphin dive shop and it was a really fun and well organised day. It took us around two hours to get to the reef and I went on a lovely dive while Catherine snorkeled.

I don’t dive very often but whenever I do, I love it. There were loads of fish; including multi-coloured parrot fish, clown fish, the poisonous lion fish and many more, and some beautiful coral.

As I was climbing back into the boat, I noticed Catherine grinning from ear to ear – a young whale shark had popped by to say hi! We hopped in to a small skiff and headed out to hopefully meet a few of its friends.

It didn’t take us long before we saw a fin popping out of the water and we were all soon jumping in. We were in and out of the skiff a few times as we’d snorkel with them for a little while before they’d swim off with an all-too-easy flick of their tail fins.

One encounter in particular was absolutely incredible as we watched a massive adult shark eating just below the surface. It must have been around 8 m and it didn’t seem fussed with us at all. I  think because you often see front-on pictures of their huge mouths I hadn’t quite appreciated how big they are. And how shark looking they are!

We were so close that accidentally being slapped by its tail fin, or somehow being swallowed, were real concerns.  It was definitely a little terrifying but absolutely incredible to be so close to this beautiful fish.

Definitely a shark!

Djibouti used to be in the top 10 places in the world to see whale sharks but sadly that’s no longer the case. The number heading to the bay of Tadjoura continues to decrease each year on the back of an ever busier port. We also learned that plans to create a third port at the entrance to the bay have also been approved, which would likely be the end of whale sharks coming to Djibouti. We felt very lucky to have had the chance to snorkel with them.

We headed back to the boat for a delicious lunch, snorkeled a little more in the afternoon sunshine and were back in the city as the sun was going down both still with the biggest smiles after an unforgettable day.

Who we went with

We went out with Dolphin Excursions ( and they were brilliant – a super comfy boat, good dive briefing and a delicious lunch, plenty of water and really nice staff.

Costs (1 US$ = 177 Djibouti Francs)

Dolphin have a weekly public Saturday tour and it cost me $160 to dive and snorkel and $110 for Catherine to snorkel.


  • Photo Credit to Marco who was snorkeling with us and who kindly allowed me to use his pictures in my blog. Marco – thank you again.







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