Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico’s Mayan Riviera in the tiny island town of Holbox has been one of my favourite travel experiences. Isla Holbox is slowly earning its place on the map as one of Mexico’s up-and-coming uber-chill beach towns, known for its sandy streets and pristine wildlife. It’s also one of the few places in the world where you can snorkel alongside giant yet gentle whale sharks.
A Relaxing Boat Ride
We instantly felt like we were a world away from the chaotic bustling resort of Cancun as we arrived to the simple dock in Isla Holbox. A calm atmosphere and hushed sounds of nature welcomed us as our boat floated up alongside the dock. Excited for the big trip ahead, we checked into our hotel and made last minute preparations for the following day.
After a quick briefing, our tour departed at dawn from the Holbox marina and our boat sped across the calm turquoise Caribbean waters towards the area where the Whale Sharks feed. It is one of the world’s largest congregations of the planet’s largest fish. As we cruised along our guide pointed out a giant manta ray in the distance. Not 10 minutes later, we spotted a family of dolphins jumping playfully in the surf. Finally, we reached the Whale Sharks so our captain slowed the boat and glided silently towards them.
Whale Shark Diving Rules
Whale sharks are strictly filter-feeders and allow swimmers to accompany them as they calmly cruise the warm Caribbean waters. They feed primarily on plankton, fish eggs and small sea life that cross their path as they swim along with their mouths open. Our guide gave us the following indications which help protect the Whale Shark from the increasing tourism that puts stress on them and their environment.
- Boats must keep a minimum of 10-meters distance from the sharks
- Swimmers must keep a minimum of 5-meters distance from the sharks
- Swimmers must avoid wearing sunblock or tanning oil
- Maximum groups of 2 swimmers with a mandatory guide
- Swimmers must enter the water slowly and quietly
Swimming with the Sharks!
Everyone on the boat was thrilled to finally see these giant creatures up close. We were amazed by their size! Our guide said they can grow up to 12-meters in length and 20-tons in weight on average. From our boat, we could see at least 5 sharks swimming calmly just under the surface. We took turns sliding into the water and snorkelling alongside the sharks in pairs of two with our guide. Surprisingly, their seemingly slow pace felt like swimming at a sprint for us. Despite wearing fins, we really had to exert ourselves to keep up with their speed. It was a little bit overwhelming to be in the water just metres away from such a giant fish and the adrenaline raced through my body. I was out of breath by the time our turn ended from the physical exertion and the excitement of the experience.
Back on the boat we continued to take photos and the rest of the group swam with the sharks. Finally we said goodbye and continued our tour to a nearby coral reef. Here we had the chance to hop back into the warm, clear water to see barracudas, vibrant reef fish, sea turtles, rays, coral, sponges and colorful marine life. It was the perfect ending to a perfect day. We were thrilled and amazed by what we had just experienced. As we rode back to Holbox Island, we felt fortunate that we saw so much marine life in their breathtaking natural habitat. We decided we would definitely come back again someday to experience it all over again.
Why don’t you find out for yourself and book a Whale Shark adventure today, so you can get up close to these gentle giants of the sea!