Swimming with Whale Sharks – 2013 Edition

Between the months of May and September, whale sharks (Tiburon ballena) congregate off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The biggest fish on the planet, a whale shark can weigh several tons and can grow to more than 45 feet in length. Seeing masses of dorsal fins in the water can invoke an adrenaline rush in even the most intrepid traveler.

Whale shark swimming off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.
Whale shark swimming off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.

We return each summer to Isla Mujeres, Mexico, home base during this multi-day itinerary. Over the years, we’ve seen the number of boats carrying up to 10 passengers each steadily increase in the swimming area. As the numbers of visitors increases, we worry that the quality of the experience will decrease due to increased pressure on the sharks. This year was the first time we saw several patrol boats in the area enforcing viewing guidelines. That’s a good sign.

What made us even happier was the quality of this year’s experience. This was by far the best whale shark trip we’ve had to date! In addition to large numbers of whale sharks on both days, we were treated with great swims with manta rays one morning.

Below are some of our favorite images and a video from Reefs to Rockies’ 2013 Whale Shark Adventure in Mexico.

Whale shark swimming off the coast of Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.
Whale shark swimming off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.
Swimming alongside a whale shark, the largest fish on the planet.
Swimming alongside a whale shark, the largest fish on the planet.
Manta ray off Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.
Manta ray off Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula near Isla Mujeres.
Manta ray.
Manta ray.
Happy adventurers!
Happy adventurers!
Whale shark swimming area.
Whale shark swimming area.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTRYRuhfieg&feature=c4-overview&list=UUxVYezF3TUICzDeJyHJDiEw]

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