Each year from May through mid-September travelers can experience one of the most memorable Riviera Maya excursions by swimming with whale sharks off the Yucatan coast in the Caribbean Sea! These gentle giants come to the warm turquoise waters of the Mexican Caribbean each year during their annual migration to feed on plankton and other tiny sea plants that grow where there is an up-swell of cold, nutritious water.
“These gentle giants can be as large as school busses, the biggest ones measuring 30 or so feet”, writes Forbes Travel contributor Brittany Anas. “Whale sharks are actually fish; not mammals - but at 20 tons, they earn the superlative of being the biggest fish of the sea”.
Despite their enormous size, whale sharks pose no threat to humans, which has made the sensational experience of swimming alongside these enormous animals one of the most popular summertime activities in the Riviera Maya.
Where Can You See Whale Sharks in Mexico?
Large populations of whale sharks can easily be found off the coast of the greater Cancun region, with concentrations near Isla Mujeres, in the clear blue waters off the coast of Isla Contoy, and a bit farther north at Holbox.
“The experience of swimming with whale sharks will leave you speechless”, wrote Lonely Planet. “This is a family-friendly excursion for those that are ready to enjoy and learn about these wild marine animals in order to become part of their conservation”.
A typical whale shark tour day begins with a morning pick up at your hotel, followed by a drive to the marina. From here, you will take a boat ride with a small group and guides will give you all the equipment and information required for the trip. The duration of the boat ride will depend on a variety of factors, including the weather and the location of the whale sharks. After you find them, you will be allowed to enter the water two at a time with a local guide to swim with the whale sharks in the warm, clear waters of the Caribbean Sea, wearing a life vest, fins, a mask and snorkel tube.
Is It Safe to Swim With Whale Sharks?
Yes, despite their huge mouths, whale sharks pose no risk to humans. These gentle giants are very docile, so it is perfectly fine.
“While it’s A-OK to swim alongside the whale sharks, or swim nearby, it’s best to keep about 10 feet away”, writes Anas in Forbes. “Of course, don’t touch the sea creatures!”
In addition to their astounding size, whale sharks are incredibly beautiful. Their silvery grey skin is covered with a symmetrical grid of white dots that look like a work of abstract art, and are unique to each and every one of the gigantic fish, kind of like a human fingerprint! This is definitely one of the Mexican Caribbean’s most exciting “Must Do” experiences and one of the best Riviera Maya excursions available. In summary, swimming with whale sharks feels akin to a moving meditation, but it also serves as a poignant reminder that we must be good stewards of our environment.
Do you have any questions about swimming with the whale shark in Mexico? Post them in the comments!
Want to see more of the best things to do in the Riviera Maya? Check out our blog, 5 Unforgettable Riviera Maya Activities, From Cancun to Tulum!