How to swim with whale sharks from Cancun

In CANCUN, MEXICO, QUINTANA ROOby Isabella BiavaLeave a Comment

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The whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean and also the tamest.  If you encounter them they either ignore you or play with you. They have a white big belly and yellow spots all along their head and back, each one with its own unit pattern.

I know the name can be deceiving but there really is NOTHING to fear when swimming with them, it’s just overwhelming and fascinating.

The next, but most wonderful thing is that you can play and swim with them without their being kept in captivity; they are free in the ocean and you can find them within Mexican territory, between Holbox and Isla Mujeres, during the summer (normally from June through September), while they are migrating towards a new home.

While if you happen to be in Baja California around January through March you can see them there. You can check this essential guide that I have written about it.


Tours are organized by experienced fishermen who know where to go and how to approach them with respect. Unfortunately, the huge demand for these tours is making it a little unsustainable, although they have been trying to control it in some way. When I went a couple of years ago there were about 20 boats grouped together so that the visitors could jump into the water and meet the friendly animal.

I remember the smell of gasoline was not nice, and it made me think a lot about how good or bad it was for the poor creatures. Were they affected? Annoyed? As soon as I could, I immediately jumped into the water and started swimming; there were about 4 or 5 of them, coming towards me and also beside me, harmless and beautiful. They would open their mouths to let water in, or to ingest it, and after filtering out the plankton and small fish (their food) they would let it out again, through their gills. That is what and how they eat, so mankind is by no means appetizing for them.


The width of their flat mouth can reach up to 1.5m, and when they open it in front of you it can be a bit intimidating; although nothing bad will happen. They are playful, majestic creatures and can measure up to 12m long. Impressive indeed!


If you decide to go and look for them, you will need to do it by organized tours. Even if I am an advocate for “do-it-yourself”, this is something you cannot do on your own, for two main reasons:

  • first of all, the port authorities and conservationist organizations are trying to preserve this endangered creature, hence the visits are controlled and limited to specifically authorized tours.
  • Secondly, whale sharks are not in a specific place because they are free, thus they move around. The fishermen communicate with one another and will know where to take you.

There are many companies or private fishermen that do the tours. I am sure that if you ask the concierge where you are staying they will certainly channel you to a proper tour provider. The boats leave either from Cancun, Isla Mujeres or Holbox, normally around 9 am, and stay out all day, offering a delicious lunch consumed on the sea.

I am partnering with this company now that have amazing reviews about the great organization and excellent service. Therefore I would like to suggest it to you as well.



  • Take sunscreen
  • Take a wetsuit if you don’t want to wear a life jacket.
  • If you have your own snorkel and mask, take it with you
  • BE RESPECTFUL, do not touch the creatures. Although it is not dangerous, you can hurt them.


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