Ethical Whale Shark Experiences Offered at Africa’s Most Exclusive Off-Grid Private Island
Thanda Island provides Exceptional Encounters with the Gentle Giants between October and March
Thanda Island, located off the Southern Coast of Tanzania, provides one of the best locations in the Indian Ocean to observe and swim with whale sharks responsibly. Between October and March, guests may enjoy the unusual opportunity of seeing as many as 8-10 whale sharks at any one time. Normally solitary animals, the waters near Thanda Island are one of the few places in the world where aggregations of the world’s largest fish can be found. The whale sharks are predominantly male juveniles ranging from 10-30 feet in length and are found feeding on tiny shrimp particular to this region. The area is also exceptional in that seven years ago it was discovered that the whale sharks were not migrating away, as is customary once the food source has been depleted, but just moving further offshore to deeper and less accessible waters. The whale shark population is small, with less than 200 individuals being identified, but highly resident and with many being re-sighted over the years.
Ensuring stress-free viewing for whale sharks is paramount to the Thanda Island team and guests are requested to adhere to a strict code of conduct. For snorkelers this includes no touching, staying 6 feet (2m) away from the head and 9 feet (3m) from the tail of the shark, not blocking the shark’s path, to stop free-diving if the shark rolls over to show its back, no flash photography, entering the water slowly and quietly and listening to the skipper at all times. Boats will maintain a 65-feet (20m) distance from the whale sharks, will not sit in their path and will naturally reduce speed when approaching. There is an agreement that there will be no more than one boat per whale shark sighting should others be present at the same time. Resident Marine Biologist Rianne Laan accompanies all trips and provides further awareness and insight into these non-predatory and generally little-known gentle giants.
It is not just whale sharks which the Thanda Island team have huge respect for. Within its own private Shungimbili Island Marine Reservea ban on all fishing activities has been enforced to encourage the ocean life to flourish. Rianne and her assistant carry out regular fish surveys and monitor the coral and benthic status to track changes in the health of the reef. Seven nursery structures have been created to stimulate coral growth and promote reef recovery in areas that had been damaged. Providing a real-time illustration of conservation at work, guests are invited to witness these on snorkeling trips with Rianne who provides further insight into the rehabilitation process of corals and reef.
Off-grid and solar-powered, Thanda Island offers guests an environmentally sensitive, fun and restorative Indian Ocean experience infused with the Swahili influence of passing Arab Dhows on the horizon and a spectacular Arabian Night experience. The island harvests rain and grey water for vegetation irrigation and has its own desalination system which, combined with sea water, is also used in the rim-flow swimming pool.
Aside from its commitment to the conservation of the region’s marine life, as well as the preservation and rehabilitation of the Shungimbili coral reef, Thanda Island participates in a range of social, educational and economic upliftment programs on the only nearby inhabited Mafia Island. It also introduces guests to its Swahili sea-faring culture and offers the opportunity to explore its ruins, coconut plantations, lakes as well as the underwater sights of Chole Bay in the Mafia Island Marine Park.
Exclusive use of Thanda Island is offered at US$45,000 per night for up to 10 adults plus nine additional children sharing. The all-inclusive experience is recommended for a minimum 5- stay. The rate includes the team of dedicated staff, all meals and drinks including a handpicked selection of wines and champagnes, all diving, spa treatments, sandbank picnics, sunset cruises as well as roundtrip helicopter flights from Dar Es Salaam for up to 8 guests.