During the summer months, mid May to mid September, the Whale Shark is a welcome visitor to the waters surrounding Cancun Mexico and provides a fantastic opportunity to be at one with nature as you swim and snorkel alongside these majestic underwater giants.
The Whale Shark (Rhincodon typus) is the largest fish in the ocean measuring up to 40 feet in length with the largest individuals weighing over 75,000 lbs. Despite its name and size the Whale Shark is not a Whale at all, it is a filter feeding shark which consumes algae and plankton. In fact, it is the migrating plankton it feeds upon that brings this magnificent creature to the beautiful blue waters of the Mexican Caribbean.
In the Yucatan Peninsula area of Mexico, Whale Sharks gather off the coast of Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy and Isla Holbox and provide an excellent day trip diversion for those vacationing in Cancun and the Riviera Maya.
The boats that take you to see the Whale Sharks are small craft with capacity for around 10 persons plus crew, and the numbers of boats are strictly controlled by licence. It’s generally an early start (7am) returning early afternoon (2pm). During your trip soft drinks and a light lunch is provided, and many offer an open bar on the return journey.
The whale sharks are usually easily located and once they are found clients enter the water two at a time to swim and snorkel alongside them. This ensures that the animals are not spooked and also provides maximum opportunity for some great unobstructed underwater photography. Whale Sharks swim at a speed of just 3mph so it is not difficult to keep up with them. Each session lasts around 10-15 minutes per couple, and during the tour there will be 3 or 4 opportunities for a total swim time of up to an hour per person. All participants must wear lifejackets and no feeding or touching of the whale sharks is permitted. Non eco-friendly sunscreen is also prohibited.
Most whale shark tour operators, including the ones below, also include a second stop to snorkel at a nearby reef to enjoy the colorful and varied underwater flora and fauna that this area of the Caribbean is famous for.