You may remember the loveable whale shark called Destiny from the Disney/Pixar film Finding Dory. If you are planning to visit Cancun or the Riviera Maya this summer, you will have the chance to see whale sharks up close and swim with them. This is a great activity for the whole family to connect with nature and take a boat trip on the beautiful ocean.
Whale sharks are the largest surviving species of fish found in the ocean. They live in open waters of tropical oceans with warm temperatures of at least 21 °C (70 °F). The average length of adult whale sharks is estimated at 9.8 m (32 ft) and the average weight is approximately 9 tons (20,000 lbs.). Despite their enormous size and the fact that they are called ‘sharks’, they are gentle giants and not to be feared.
They feed exclusively on a diet of plankton, microscopic plants and small fish. They normally swim close to the surface of the ocean as they feed, which allows for close-up encounters. They are one of three shark species that filter-feed, which means they swim around with their mouth wide open ( their mouth is 1.5 meters wide!) and they filter their food through their gills. This makes them harmless to larger species such as humans because we are too big for them to eat.
They are slow-moving and peaceful, which makes swimming alongside them a popular activity for ecological adventurers from around the world.
Scientists believe that whale sharks have been in existence for 60 million years. They have an estimated life span anywhere from 70 to 130 years. Although at one time plenty of whale sharks could be found in the world’s oceans, sadly, they are now classified as an endangered species. They are protected under international and Mexican laws.
Make sure that you book your tour with a reputable company that has a license to take tourists to swim with whale sharks. Ask concierge for help choosing the best tour company.
Once your tour is booked, you will head out to sea on a boat excursion that will take you to search for known feeding spots. When you find the whale sharks, just close your eyes and jump in the water for an unforgettable experience.
Whale shark season in Cancun and the Riviera Maya starts in mid-May and lasts through to mid-September. June and July are the peak months for seeing whale sharks.
Whale shark season in Los Cabos lasts from October through till March.
If you plan to go on a whale shark tour, we recommend that you book your tour for the first couple days of your vacation because if you encounter unsafe weather or water conditions, you will still have time to reschedule your tour for another day. The conditions are very good most of the time, but occasionally the water is too rough to go out. If your tour does get cancelled and rebooked, but for any reason you can’t do the excursion on the new date, most companies will refund 100% of your payment. Make sure you check this in advance.
We also recommend that you take some motion sickness tablets an hour before your tour’s scheduled departure if you tend to get seasick.
Ever since the WHO declared COVID-19 as a pandemic, most tour companies have made updates to their practices and policies. These may include temperature screenings, limited capacity, the use of face masks, social distancing practices, and the addition of hand washing stations and hand sanitizer in key areas. If you have concerns about this, it is best to check with your tour provider prior to booking.
Swimming with whale sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and you are sure to have a thrilling encounter.