Swimming with whale sharks is a once in a lifetime experience and the best destination to do so happens to be close to Playa del Carmen!
Let’s begin with one existential question: Are they whales or are they sharks? Whale sharks are sharks, even though they resemble whales. But before you run away screaming, picturing gory scenes from the movie Jaws, keep reading. These giants are just as peaceful as whales and are among the most docile sharks that exist. So keep calm, even though their size is impressive with 16 meters (52 feet) in length, they are no threat to humans. Actually, they don’t even have teeth, since they are filter feeders. Another interesting fact: whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean.
Swimming with whale sharks is a life-changing experience. And the best destination to snorkel with them happens to be in Isla Mujeres! Because the Caribbean Sea around Isla Mujeres hosts the world’s largest aggregation of whale sharks. In the summer months of June until September, hundreds of whale sharks migrate here to feed. The waters here are very rich in plankton, krill and fish eggs – a snack no self-respecting whale shark could decline.
Since there are so many of them, during peak season in July and August a sighting is guaranteed. Expect to see around 20 whale sharks on a “bad” day, and up to hundreds on a very good day. Plus, there is a high chance you will also see dolphins, mobula, and manta rays, turtles, and sailfish. Also Holbox, the peninsula’s sleepy northernmost island, is a great spot to swim with whale sharks.
As before mentioned, whale sharks are not a threat to humans. We, on the other hand, pose a certain threat to them. Therefore, it is very important to follow a few simple rules when you go on a date with a whale shark:
- Even though it might be tempting, please don’t touch them! Our bacteria can seriously hurt their skin or cause them infections. For the same reason, it’s forbidden to use sunscreen (ask for a wetsuit if you have sensitive skin).
- Keep a minimum of 5 meters distance to the animal.
- Only go with an experienced guide.
- Wear a life vest.