Not many people know that you can have an amazing ocean adventure just one hour out of Cancun, Mexico. In July, August & September you can experience the amazing joy of swimming with hundreds of whale sharks, weather depending of course. I have been lucky on each occasion that I got to have the please of being in the water with hundreds of these gentle giants.
Don't be frightened by the term "shark" these creatures are filter feeders and have no teeth. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea that mostly feed on plankton. They can be found in warmer waters around the world. The average size of an adult whale shark is around 32 ft and can weigh around 9 tones.
Most operators leave out of Cancun and take you out into the middle of the ocean to find them. Every time I have gone I go with Deep Life Divers, who work with one of my favorite shops in Cozumel, Dive Cooperative. If you are prone to sea sickness then I would make sure to take something before this trip, the boat ride can be rocky and sometimes even the seas.
The ride out is usually around one hour depending on if you are the first boat out to find them or not. Some days it can be easy, some days it can be a bit harder. The good news is that boat operators usually work together to help find them. Once you arrive to the area where the whale sharks are, you are briefed by your boat and sorted into teams. You must wear a flotation device or wet suit as you are in hundreds of feet of water. You then drop into the ocean with your group and group leader and are free to snorkel with the whale sharks. Of coure there are many rules, the most important one being to not touch the animals.
When you are in the water, adrenaline gets going as these massive fish swim by you. You might be staring at one then turn around and see another. They literally are all around you, at least these are the experiences I and several others have had. I have noticed that most people last around an hour and then are good to go. If you are with media makers you can be out there for a little bit longer, as the photo and video opportunities are just phenomenal. There is nothing cooler than having one of your vacation photos be you and a whale shark.
After everyone is ready to go, most tour operators will take you to the island of Isla Murjes, which is about a half hour boat ride. You can have lunch there and snorkel around a little bit more in the crystal clear aqua water that surrounds the island. The boat ride home back to Cancun is usually around another 30 minutes.
It's great to have an industry that values the animals instead of the opposite. More and more fisherman around the world are being educated on the value of a live whale shark vs a dead one. Which in the end is a better things for our ocean, especially since we kill over 70 million sharks a year.
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