Summertime in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula means more than just warm weather,which is the norm all year round. Starting in June and lasting until September,visitors can enjoy whale shark sightings all along Mexico’s Caribbean coast in the stunning Riviera Maya.
According to scientists from the Smithsonian Institution,in 2011 a pod of 420 whale sharks,which is the largest ever recorded,was spotted off the Yucatan coast,and a second,smaller pod was also found swimming nearby. This bodes well for the whale sharks and for tourism throughout the region,which profits greatly from taking visitors out to view and swim with the whale sharks. Mexico’s Riviera Maya is one of the few places in the world where whale sharks are known to gather consistently,year after year.
Unlike many other species of shark,whale sharks are mostly harmless,eating plankton,fish eggs and other small sea creatures with their giant mouths,which can be wider than a double door. The main threat they pose to humans involves getting smacked accidentally by their enormous tails,since they can grow up to 60 feet in length.
Scientists still don’t know much about the migration patterns of whale sharks,but they do know that every summer they meet in large pods along the Yucatan Peninsula’s northern tip where the Caribbean meets the Gulf of Mexico real estate. Most whale-watching trips start early and last until mid-day,with a snack,lunch and beverages included. It can take up to an hour or more to reach the area where the animals are congregating,which means spending several hours out to sea.
Whale sharks typically don’t stick around too long once people get in the water with them,but just a few minutes will be enough to provide an unforgettable once in a lifetime experience. Typically,a guide joins a few people at a time in the water,in order to ensure that regulations minimizing human contact – including touching – are followed.
The best part? Half-day excursions to swim with whale sharks are affordable,starting at around $100 and up,depending on what other goodies are included.