6 Must-See Marine Migrations
One of the most wonderful underwater sights for us divers is watching marine animals travel in large groups. We have put up a list of 6 migratory marine animals and the greatest places in the globe to see them, including spider crabs, whale sharks, and sardines (to mention a few).
1. Australian Spider Crab
The Australian Spider Crab is well named since it resembles the enormous sea spiders. Tens of thousands of these Australian Spider Crabs litter the shallow seafloor in Port Philip Bay in Victoria, Australia, for a few weeks in May or June. They emerge from the ocean's depths. When they "molt," or shed their old, outgrown shells, they come up.
Since their new shells are relatively delicate, it is believed that they group together to provide protection in numbers during the molting process (making them easy prey for other marine life).
If you are fortunate enough to come here, you will not only be astounded by the sheer quantity of crabs and get to see them molt, but you will also be privy to a feeding frenzy. The crabs are cannibals, which is the most shocking aspect, and they frequently eat one another!
Best places to see the migration of the Australian spider crab:
- May to June: Blairgowrie and Rye Piers, Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia. suitable for freedivers, scuba divers, and snorkelers.
You should schedule a sardine run dive if swimming with tens of thousands of fish seems like fun. There are a few locations where you can view sardines in enormous numbers, but the sardine run in South Africa—one of the biggest animal migrations in the world—from Agulhas Bank up to Mozambique is the most stunning.
It's unclear why the animals migrate; some say it's for reproduction, while others say it's because of ocean currents. Whatever the reason, swimming next to a massive bait ball that may be up to 7 km long, 1.5 km broad, and 30 m deep will astound you! You'll be astounded by the fish's synchronicity and sheer size, but you'll also get to watch sharks, dolphins, seals, and whales since the sardines cause a feeding frenzy!
The best places to see sardine migration are:
- South Africa's Agulhas Bank, from May to August. is appropriate for scuba divers. To enhance your chances of observing the migration, reserve a multi-day dive tour. appropriate for free divers, scuba divers, and snorkelers.
- Year-round access to Panagsama Beach in Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines (but best viewed November to April). Despite the fact that this isn't a true migration, you can virtually always spot sardines all year long! appropriate for free divers, scuba divers, and snorkelers.
3. Whale Sharks
Embark on a whale shark snorkeling excursion if you want to swim among the largest fish and sharks in the water. Whale sharks travel for food and reproduction in warm tropical waters. Despite being filter feeders, they can grow to be between 4 and 12 meters long, with over 300 teeth, and live up to 100 years. However, don't worry—they are really calm.
The distinctive marks on the back of whale sharks, which are just like a person's fingerprint, allow you to identify them. If you want to learn more about how to swim with whale sharks, see our post on the definitive guide to snorkeling with whale sharks. Snorkeling is the finest method to interact with these wonderful creatures.
The best places to see whale shark migration are:
The following areas are all appropriate for snorkelers.
- December to May at Donsol Bay, South Luzon, Philippines. The best times to see them are from February to April.
- Western Australia's Ningaloo Reef is open from March to July. The best times to see them are from April to July.
- Island Sun, South Ari Atoll, Maldives -Year-round. Best sightings are between August and November.
- Tofo Beach, Mozambique – October to March.
- Utila, Honduras – Year-round. Best sightings are between March and April and October to December.
4. Green Sea Turtles
If you're a fan of green sea turtles, Raine Island in Australia, where up to 64,000 turtles migrate to lay their eggs, is one of the best spots in the world to witness them in large numbers.
The nesting habits of green sea turtles are highly fascinating; each turtle lays 100 eggs, the females return to the birthplace to lay their eggs, and the hatchling turtle's gender is determined by the temperature of the nest (hot = female, cool = male). If you dive in or around these waters, be warned that Tiger Sharks are drawn to turtle hatching grounds.
Best locations to encounter Green Sea Turtle migration:
- Raine Island, Great Barrier Reef, Australia – November. The island itself is off-limits to the public, but you are able to scuba dive in the surrounding waters from a liveaboard.
- Tortuguero National Park, Costa Rica – July to October. Suitable for snorkelers, scuba divers, and freedivers.
5. Hammerhead Sharks
Make arrangements to go on a Hammerhead Shark dive if you want to view one of the strangest-looking fish in the water. They got their name because of the hammer-like shape of their heads, and they have the special advantage of having eyes on the side of their heads, which offers them a fantastic field of view for spotting food.
A really amazing sight is to observe Hammerhead Sharks migrate in large groups in search of cooler water. They can grow to be about 4 meters long. Along with having a distinctive appearance, Hammerhead Sharks are also quite noteworthy since they may give birth to between 6 and 50 live pups and are one of the aquatic species that can tan (because they like to swim close to the surface).
Best locations to encounter Hammerhead Shark migration:
These locations are suitable for experienced scuba divers only.
- Cocos Island, Costa Rica – May to November.
- Layang Layang, Malaysia – March to May.
- Protea Banks, South Africa – November to January.
6. Humpback Whales
In order to feed and reproduce, humpback whales travel one of the largest distances of any mammal in the world, up to 5000 kilometers. These whales, which may grow to a maximum length of 18 meters, are not the biggest in the water, but their sheer size—particularly when they are cruising in a pod—can be a little frightening.
All of the world's oceans are home to humpback whales, which get their name from the unique hump on their backs. Similar to the whale shark, each individual humpback whale may be recognized, but you'll need to look at their tail instead of the patterns on their back.
Additionally, they enjoy singing, which aids in their ability to detect other whales, and they engage in bubble net feeding. They surround their prey in a pod, blow bubbles to enclose them, and then attack them. The greatest method to contact with these majestic animals is through snorkeling because these whales often pose no threat to people.
Best locations to encounter Humpback Whale migration:
All of the below locations are suitable for snorkelers.
- Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia, Australia – June to August.
- Vava’u Islands, Tonga – July to October.
- Silverbank, Dominican Republic – January to April.
About the Author
Amanda and her husband Dean have been certified divers since 2009. Amanda has her advanced open water and Dean is a dive master. They have travelled the world and dived many sites in Australia, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean.
Amanda and Dean have a travel blog called Scatabout which details the fun and unique experiences they have had on their world travels. You can find them doing something adventurous like scuba diving, hiking or something strange like running down the side of a building.
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