Every year between June and September the largest concentration of whale sharks in the world travel thousands of miles to reach the warm waters around Isla Mujeres,Mexico,to feed on the abundance of plankton that is found in the region. These enormous creatures are the biggest fish in the world,reaching lengths of up to 50 feet and with mouths spanning up to four feet wide.
Although these giants can weigh as much as 20 tons,they are completely harmless and have no interest in consuming humans. This provides visitors to the Riviera Maya during this exciting time with the opportunity to swim alongside these magnificent animals – an experience that is sure to be unforgettable.
Isla Mujeres lies just 20 minutes by sea from Cancun and the small island’s beautiful white sand beaches are home to around 70 hotels and resorts,as well as a variety of dining and shopping opportunities. Due to its prime location,Isla Mujeres is also an easy day trip away from Playa del Carmen or Tulum and provides a variety of sightseeing options in addition to the many activities surrounding the annual whale shark migration.
This year,Isla Mujeres will host the third annual Whale Shark Festival from July 11 through the 14,which is dedicated to education and to furthering preservation efforts in the region. The festivities will include the opportunity to swim with whale sharks,as well as traditional dancing and a variety of educational opportunities that are designed to champion ecotourism and promote the need to protect the Riviera Maya’s fragile marine ecosystem.
In addition,the Guy Harvey Research Institute from Nova Southeastern University will lead an expedition to deploy state of the art satellite SPOT tags that will provide researchers with the ability to monitor daily movement of the whale sharks via high resolution imaging of their migration patterns. Whale sharks are currently a threatened species and have been listed as “Vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature due to declining population trends resulting from over fishing. 2013 marks the second year for the Guy Harvey Expedition,which has already tracked movement of certain animals spanning more than 9,500 miles and moving at a pace of around 60 miles per day.
Other attractions in the region include a variety of ancient Mayan ruins,such as Chichen Itza and the seaside pyramid at Tulum,which is the only one of its kind in Mexico. Regardless of where you opt to stay,any visit to Mexico’s Riviera Maya will provide plenty of adventure and once in a lifetime experiences that can’t be enjoyed anywhere else on earth.