Swimming with Whale Sharks is one of the most incredible underwater encounters you can have around the world, however it can only be done in certain locations at certain times. These locations include the Philippines, Australia, Honduras and Mexico among a few other select destinations worldwide.
I personally recommend doing your whale shark swim in Cancun or Isla Holbox in Mexico (especially if it will be your first encounter) since here you are offered a guarantee of swimming with the creatures at most shops. So you know you´ll get your money´s worth unlike in other destinations where while the price might be a little cheaper (such as in the Utila Bay Island, Honduras) but comes with no guarantee and a much lower probability of seeing and swimming with the gentle giants.
When you go whale shark swimming in Cancun not only do you get great visibility and the aforementioned guarantee you also get a price much cheaper than you would swimming with the same attraction in the western world (such as in my lovely home in Australia). Prices in Cancun start from $125 with the median price around $150 – $160. Be aware when choosing tours based on the cheapest price (aka those under $150) as you get what you pay for and there may be no guarantees with these tours so always check beforehand.
The beauty of these tours are that they are out in the open ocean and the whale sharks are free to come and go as they pleased and it is a much better option than doing something similar at a water park. There are strict regulations governing human interaction with the whale sharks such as strict rules against the amount of swimmers in the water at once and that the giant fish must not be touched in any way, shape or form.
The tour begins with an early pick up from your hotel and a drive out to the wharf. My tour guide even stopped for some of us to get sea sickness pills on the way so if you suffer from sea sickness and you can´t speak Spanish ask your guide to help you out on the way (I went with Eco Color Whale Sharks Tours).
Once arrived at the wharf you will, depending on your tour, get a small breakfast to eat before the ride and the option to hire a wetsuit. You´ll also have the chance to use the bathrooms before hopping on your speed boat and jetting off to whale shark central.
It takes a little while to get out to the spot but if you’re as lucky as we were you’ll begin to see the whale sharks gliding through the water on arrival.
If there was any doubt before hand of us actually seeing the sharks, let alone swimming with them it was shaken away as soon as we arrived at the swim spot. Multiple whalesharks darting around freely and gracefully got our group rather excited before even jumping into the water.
Once you’ve arrived you’ll jump in at pairs of two at a time to swim with the whale sharks. Remember to jump in as soon as th guide says so and you’ll have to swim fast to keep up with them otherwise you might miss them. The experience itself is amazing, if not short, and being able to swim so near to these giant, peaceful beings seems like such a privilege.
You’ll get a couple of turns each pair, have some lunch (often provided) and then often the tours will whisk you off to either a snorkelling spot or a pretty beach such as Isla Mujeres (which is hands down one of the best beaches in the Yucatan). After that you’ll head back to the wharf and (depending on your tours description) get dropped off back at your hotel.
The tour takes a full day and while being a strong swimmer isn’t a neccessity, it definately helps when trying to catch up with the Whale Sharks. Just remember that you are out in the open ocean so you should be able to swim moderately well and you may see other creatures while in the water. We saw a manta ray on one of our swims which I quickly swan away from as I am terrified of them.
Snorkelling with Whale Sharks is a tour you can’t miss if you are visiting the Yucatan during the season and could very possibly be the highlight of your trip. Please see the video below for a short, bumpy look into one of my swims with these graceful creatures.
Your Checklist For Booking A Whale Shark Swim
- Does the company offer a whale shark guarantee?
- Do they comply with environmental and set guidelines (aka not touching the whale sharks, within the correct period)?
- Is the tour between July and September?
- Is wetsuit hire include in the price ? Since wetsuits are optional most tours wont include this extra, if you want one and its not offered make sure you bring currency with you to hire the suit at the docks. If I remember correctly this was between 12 & 13 US dollars, and was payable in Pesos or US currency (however I would confirm if US currency is accepted before solely bringing it).