Many travelers to the Mexican Caribbean (Yucatan Peninsula including Cancun and Riviera Maya region) are attracted to snorkeling in the area. There are several regions that offer a great experience including MUSA (the underwater museum) Punta Nizuc, Isla Mujeres, and off the coast of Cozumel. And many visitors are anxious to swim with the turtles in Akumal. However, the most popular underwater attraction undoubtedly has become the opportunity to swim with whale sharks and the manta rays that sometimes accompany them.
The annual whale shark migration lasts from June 1st to mid-September when these gentle giants can be found in the nutrient-rich waters around Isla Mujeres, Holbox, and Contoy where plankton is plentiful. Normally, the whale sharks feed on the surface of the water, or just slightly below so they are easy to see. As such, several tour operators in Cancun and throughout Riviera Maya offer excursions so tourists can witness this spectacular sight and swim alongside the massive yet docile creatures.
Although tour operators cannot guarantee sightings, disappointment does not happen often during migration. Most tourists get to see between 5 and 20 whale sharks at a time. On a good day, they’ve been known to see upwards of 100 with manta rays swimming alongside. On occasion, dolphins and sea turtles can also be seen. However, it should be noted that this tour comes with warnings as well as federal rules and regulations:
- the excursion is not recommended for children under the age of 5
- the water can get rough so many participants have been known to suffer from seasickness. It is recommended to take motion sickness medication before boarding the boat
- if the water is too rough, authorities will close the port so the tour will be rescheduled
- participants are NOT permitted to wear sunscreen or hair products in the water — only biodegradable sunscreen is allowed so it does not interfere with the animals and their environment. Many tour operators have “safe sunscreen” available for purchase
- participants MUST wear the lifejackets that are provided
- participants are NOT allowed to touch the whale sharks, rays, or any other creature in the water so keep your hands to yourself
- for safety reasons, not all participants on the boat can swim at once. Each participant will be given a designated amount of time in the water.
- short wait times might occur if another tour in the area is already in the midst of their swim
⦿ To watch our whale shark experience, visit our YouTube video HERE and be sure to use the highest quality playback settings.