Swimming with whale sharks is a bucket list experience for adventure travelers around the world. For several months each year, Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is one of the best places to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures.
Here’s what you need to know about planning your whale shark adventure in Mexico and the Isla Mujeres Whale Shark season.
Swim With a Shark the Size of a School Bus
The whale shark is a slow-moving, filter feeding shark. Weighing in at more than 21.5 metric tons (47,000 pounds), they are the largest extant fish species as well as the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, on par with many of the dinosaurs in weight.
The whale shark is found in tropical, warm bodies of water and feeds mainly on plankton, which are microscopic plants and animals. But what attracts them to the waters off Isla Mujeres, Mexico is in fact mass spawning of nutrient-rich fish shoals so they can feed on the resultant clouds of eggs and sperm.
Stay in Isla Mujeres for Best Access
The whale sharks congregate in the area of this mass spawning of fish shoals, as mentioned above, so it’s important to stay as close to this as possible for multiple viewing opportunities. The island of Isla Mujeres is the closest point to where the whale sharks congregate. This charming island is located a short ferry ride away from Cancun, Mexico. Here you’ll find a few hotels, condos, vacation rentals, beach clubs and an overall sleepy, laid-back vibe.
Expect to board a small boat, holding a max of 10 people, led by certified and professional guides who are naturalists and well-educated about the whale sharks and their migration. The boat ride can be anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on ocean conditions and the location of the whale sharks.
The experience is simply amazing. Have a look at some of our personal whale shark encounters here.
When is the Whale Shark Season in Mexico?
The whale shark season in Mexico is from May through to September, with peak viewing opportunities from mid-July to mid-August.
In order to protect the sharks, the Mexican government in coordination with local biologists has set up specific viewing regulations. This year the season runs from June 1 to September 15. Any tours outside these dates are illegal. The number of boats and passengers allowed to visit the whale sharks is closely regulated and monitored.