Qatar is home to one of the largest whale shark aggregations in the ocean. Dubbed the “gentle giant,” more than 600 gigantic, white-spotted whale sharks have been identified and recorded off the northeast coast of Qatar.
Many of these majestic creatures return each year between April and September due to the biodiverse feeding habitat the coast offers. Hundreds swim across Qatari waters, which are believed to have become a whale shark hotspot due to their abundance of mackerel and tuna eggs, which are a delicacy to the filter-feeding sharks.
Historically, the Gulf waters were presumed to be too warm for whale sharks, and therefore populations were mostly restricted to along Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, the waters surrounding the Galápagos Islands, the coast nearby Djibouti, and surrounding the island of Taiwan.
Marine biologists now believe that recent lower-than-average temperatures are why whale sharks have become attracted to seeking out the diverse fauna just 56 miles off the coast of Qatar. Reaching up to 40 feet long, they are known to be solitary animals which have fueled marine biologists’ curiosity to learn more about them and their sanctuary in the Al Shaheen region.
With minimal boat traffic, what was once a restricted marine zone is now open to the public for the first time. In partnership with Qatar Tourism, Discover Qatar is set to launch whale shark viewing experiences for locals, residents and tourists. A truly unique experience, including tours, interactive lectures, whale shark watching, and onboard dining options, can be found here.