Located just offshore from Cancun in the Mexican Caribbean Sea,Isla Mujeres is getting ready to host the 8th Annual Whale Shark Festival,from Saturday,July 18 through Friday,July 24. This yearly family-friendly event was created to raise awareness about the whale sharks and the need to preserve the region’s marine ecosystem,which is part of the world’s second largest barrier reef.
The Caribbean Sea in the areas immediately surrounding Isla Mujeres,including offshore from Cancun,Playa del Carmen,Cozumel and Tulum in Mexico’s Riviera Maya,serves as a nursery of sorts for the entire region. As such,it also happens to be in the migratory path of whale sharks,as well as sea turtles,a wide variety of water fowl and big game fishes,to name only a few of the many species that call this region home throughout the year.
According to a press release,last year more than 5,000 people attended the family-friendly Whale Shark Festival,where attendees can also expect to witness traditional dances,sample many different types of local cuisine and browse a variety of artwork produced by local artisans. Guests can also opt to participate in sport fishing,diving and snorkeling tours,but the main attraction is still swimming with the whale sharks themselves. As the world’s largest fish and an endangered species,entering the water with the whale sharks of Isla Mujeres promises to be a magical and unforgettable experience.
“Isla Mujeres is home to countless marine species,and the whale shark is king among them,” stated Lic. Agapito Magaña Sánchez,President Municipal of Isla Mujeres. “We welcome the world to join us to celebrate the week-long festival.”
Despite their large size,it is quite safe to swim with the whale sharks,because they are very slow moving and gentle. Yet in spite of their easy accessibility,many facts about whale sharks remain a mystery to scientists who have been studying them for decades. For example,its still unknown exactly why these large fish travel such far distances and how they are able to disappear so far deep down below the ocean’s surface. One female was tracked recently and found to have traveled at least 4,500 miles in just 150 days.
Today,whale sharks face a number of dangers worldwide and are still highly prized for their fins in Asia,with a single fin bringing more than $20,000. Also,whale sharks are often caught in fishing nets and struck by outboard motors on boats,while the B.P. oil spill is feared by many marine conservation organizations to have contaminated important feeding grounds for whale sharks in the Gulf of Mexico,posing a serious danger to the animals,who reply upon plankton for food.
Each summer,visitors to Cancun and the Riviera Maya have the opportunity to meet these amazing gentle giants in person and the Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Festival is the perfect place to do it. An estimated 1,400 whale sharks come to the waters of the Mexican Caribbean every year to take advantage of the blue,plankton-rich waters offshore from the Yucatan Peninsula.