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Close encounters with gentle whale sharks at Thanda Island, Tanzania

Snorkelling and diving off your private island with the largest living fish from October to March

There is plenty of fish in the sea off the coast of Thanda Island in the Shungimbili Island Marine Reserve of Tanzania, but none as impressive to behold as the biggest fish of all: whale sharks. The gentle, slow-moving giants of the deep will soon be feeding just south of Thanda Island, offering guests the memorable opportunity to swim up close with the largest living non-mammalian vertebrates on the planet in the waters of the Indian Ocean.

The seas surrounding Thanda Island are filled with plentiful marine life, including a colourful array of reef fish, dolphins and sea turtles. Indeed, depending upon the season, guests may be able to watch turtles nesting and their eggs hatching. Five species of marine turtles can be found off Tanzania including green, hawksbill, loggerhead, olive ridley and leatherback, two of which – green and hawksbill – have recently returned to nest on Thanda Island.

Meanwhile, the season to spot whale sharks is just about to begin. From October to March, the chances for up-close encounters with the gentlest giant of the ocean will be extremely high. Their sheer size, calm nature and tendency to swim at the surface at known sites make whale sharks a focal species for marine tourism in the area: They can be observed while snorkelling, scuba diving or viewed from Thanda’s luxury adventure vessel, ably commandeered by a trusted captain.

Depending on guests’ vantage point of choice, whale shark photographs are uploaded to and, two photo identification sites that study the unique pattern or ‘fingerprint’ of each whale shark. The information is used to learn more about their little-known feeding, migratory and breeding patterns. To retain memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, Thanda Island marine guides are equipped with GoPro cameras to record guests’ time with the whale sharks.

Exclusive use of Thanda Island is offered at US$25,000 per night for up to 10 adults plus 9 additional children sharing. The all-inclusive experience is recommended for 7 nights (minimum 5 nights applies). The rate includes the team of dedicated staff, all meals and drinks including a hand-picked selection of wines and champagnes, all diving, spa treatments, sandbank picnics, sunset cruises on the Island Princess vessel as well as roundtrip helicopter flights from Dar Es Salaam for up to 8 guests.

Villa outside, Thanda Island

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