A Quick Guide to Swimming with Whale Sharks
Whale Sharks are the largest fish on this planet, some growing to forty-feet or longer. They’re bus length. These gentle giants migrate around the world in enormous packs, camping out in dozens of tropical feeding grounds — from Australia to Belize to Indonesia. But one of the best spots is the waters of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico where nearly three to five hundred have been reported in one season.
Lucky for us, whale sharks are harmless to humans, making it possible to swim with them! Don’t worry, they eat plankton. Focus on the whale part of their name, not so much the shark, and your nerves will settle. Get ready for an adventure!
Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of Cancun, is the closest land you’ll find to the whale shark feeding ground. After flying into Cancun, the island is easily accessibly by 20-minute ferry ride.
I chose WildAid for my guide, and was very happy with the experience. A shuttle picked us up directly from the airport and drove us thirty minutes to the harbor where we boarded our ferry to Isla Mujeres.
Whale Sharks migrate every year traveling to warm waters, so you have to catch them before they leave! Whale season off the Yucatan Peninsula usually lasts from June 1 to September 15. Tours run throughout this season, but the third week of July, during the full moon, attracts the most whale sharks at one time.
Our WildAid package set us up at Privilege Aluxes hotel located on the northern tip of the island. The luxury resort is extremely clean and comfortable with a beautiful location, overlooking the ocean and close to nearby shops and restaurants. Equipped with three restaurants and a spa, the hotel has a lot to offer. A great oasis to rest up for all your whale shark swimming adventures!
Although I loved my stay, Isla Mujeres is well-equipped with several other great hotels from the luxurious to the very affordable.
Luxury —Zoëtry Villa Rolandi is a picturesque oceanfront resort complete with spa, fine dining and an assortment of activities including snorkeling, golf and even culinary classes. With only 35 suites, Zoëtry has an intimate retreat vibe.
Mid-Range — Ixchel Beach Hotel, as suggested by the name, is located right on the beach just a few miles away from Cancun. The hotel has everything you’d need — relaxing pool, comfortable and sleek rooms, a close proximity to the island’s main drag, and a wonderful staff.
Steal — Hotel Rocamar starts at $80 a night, though rates increase during high season. The hotel is located oceanfront with a patio overlooking a reef. The decor is all wood and ceramic combined with hoop chairs and open white rooms. It creates a fusion between the authentic and the modern. Very close to shops and dining, the hotel is great place to crash if you plan to be on-the-go throughout your stay.
We embarked on our journey at 6 AM and set sail for about two hours out to sea before reaching the perfect location.
Rules and regulations need to be followed while swimming with whale sharks. Make sure your tour is licensed, led by a guide, and will provide all the proper gear. Only three people are allowed in the water at a time and you cannot touch the animals. Following this code of conduct protects the animals and allows thousands of visitors to experience the magic every year.
The guides at WildAid are incredibly helpful and informative. Not only did they calm my nerves on the dive, but they educated the whole group on wildlife conservation during our stay. Back at the hotel, WildAid provided dinner and discussion, informing us on the horrible transgressions facing wild life today and the great work they do to combat these crimes.
The Earth is overflowing with unbelievable creatures and magnificent mysteries. Take the opportunity to marvel at their beauty! Fears and jitters are expected, but the experience is worth it all. Great for couples, families and friends, swimming with the world’s largest fish is definitely another check off the bucket list!
Have you ever swam with whale sharks? If so.. I would love to hear about your experience! Please leave a comment below!