Swimming with whale sharks is a once in a lifetime experience and the best destination to do so happens to be here!
To begin with, let us answer one frequently asked question once and for all: Are they whales or are they sharks? Despite having the face and size of a whale, whale sharks are sharks. But before you run away screaming, picturing gory scenes from the movie Jaws, keep reading. These giants are one of the most docile sharks that exist and are no threat to humans. Actually, they don’t even have teeth, since they are filter feeders. But they sure are impressive, growing up to 16 meters (52 feet) in length! This makes whale sharks the biggest fish in the ocean.
Swimming with whale sharks is a life changing experience. And the best destination to snorkel with them is here! 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.
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.