One of the most amazing experiences I have ever had is swimming with whale sharks in Mexico. I look back on it now and still can’t believe we did it! Although this visit to Mexico was probably overall, the worst holiday I have ever had, this experience made it worthwhile.
How did we end up swimming with whale sharks?
It wasn’t on the agenda when we visited Mexico in June 2018. We had booked as a group for a family wedding, so we hadn’t had a choice of the hotel or dates. And to be honest we didn’t do half as much research on things to do as I usually would. On checking out the excursions we realised it was the time of the year when Whale sharks are found off the coast of Mexico. It was a chance of a lifetime as far as we were concerned. The perfect scenario, the right time of year, we had the funds and family on hand to look after our two year old!
Whale sharks search for plankton as this is their food source. Between June and September, they make their way to the area where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean sea. Here they feed and mate and are visited by many people wanting to see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. The boats, crews, and number of people visiting daily are closely regulated and monitored. You must keep your distance and only two persons and the guide are allowed in the water at one time.
We booked with Ocean Tours and having no affiliation I can honestly recommend them as a tour company to use.
The journey to the whale shark area
From Riviera Maya where we were staying to off the coast of Cancun took around 3 hours. Driving from our resort to the harbour at Cancun then over an hour on the boat to find the sharks. There are many boats out trying to find where the whale sharks are feeding and the captains are in contact with each other directing everyone to the right location. I’m not the best on boats, to be honest. I’m fine when we are moving quickly but the rocking motion made me feel a bit more than queasy. But I managed and we got there!
We had a choice of wearing a wetsuit or a life jacket to help you float. I really didn’t trust myself to swim in the middle of the sea without some buoyancy aid, and no one wants to see me in a wetsuit either! We got ready in pairs, put on our masks, flippers and get ready to jump in on the word go. My first jump was horrendous, although I got to see a whale shark up close and personal. I was a bit disorientated, forgot to blow the water out of my snorkel and swallowed a mouthful of seawater.
The next jump
This time I was ready! I knew what to do, I was ready for the water and this time swimming with whale sharks was the best it could be. Ok, so at this point, I must admit I fell off the boat! I was sat on the side ready to go, holding on and then the next moment I was in the water. Rocking around I slid off and had to swim around and climb back up the steps onto the boat. It was a bit scary, very embarrassing and quite funny. When I think about it, I realise I was in the water in the middle of the ocean without knowing what was beneath me. That feeling is both amazing and frightening. But I managed to get back on the boat and take that all important second dive.
Wow! Jumping in blew I out the air from my snorkel, and held on tight to my guide as she led me to the side of the magnificent whale sharks. I was inches away swimming with whale sharks. I could have touched them (but you are not allowed to for the shark’s health and safety) that was how close we were.
Then we saw two! Two whale sharks together, one on one side, then on the other. How amazing is that!
After the amazing experience and still feeling a little queasy we headed back to Isla Mujeres to stop off and relax in the shallow waters. I felt much better once I had a rest and waded in the crystal clear sea and fine sand. This beach was much better than back at the resort and was a pretty place to relax. We enjoyed a drink and food, using our life jackets as a floating table, cool stuff!
Once back in Cancun harbour, we had refreshments and waited for our footage to be downloaded. We were given a USB with all of our photos for a fee as part of our group. It cost us $70 for all the photos from our group of six on one USB. We took our own photos but the footage from the guides was well worth it. Lastly, we went back to our resort in Riviera Maya.
Would I recommend swimming with whale sharks?
Yes, I would! Even after being sick, feeling awful, falling off the boat and generally having a terrible time in the resort I would still recommend this excursion. Swimming with these beautiful creatures is something I will never forget. And on reflection, it is even better than I realised at the time.