Whale Sharks: Swimming With the Gentle Giants of the Sea

As if the Riviera Maya didn’t offer enough to do and see, there is one special phenomenon that takes place every year. Whale sharks – the single largest sharks in the world – make their migration through the Mexican Caribbean every summer during their mating season. From June through the end of August, you can experience a close encounter with these gentle giants of the sea. Don’t worry, they are completely harmless and feed only from plankton. Many tour operators take advantage of the summer season to bring people like you close to these school-bus-sized animals. You will find them in their natural environment in an activity you should not miss out on.

Swimming with whale sharks

A whale shark can weigh as much as 10,000 pounds and can measure up to 40 feet long. Even though the enormity of the whale sharks can be daunting, they usually just roam around the ocean looking for plankton, fish eggs and krill to eat. Humans and other animals are not their main concern, as they are not part of their diet. However, due to their unnaturally huge size, keeping a safe distance from them is essential. You want to avoid being hit by a heavy fin.

Where can you swim with whale sharks?

The best place to find the whale sharks in the Riviera Maya is around Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox. During this migratory season it is possible to spot as many as 40 whale sharks at the same time smoothly cruising through the ocean. While snorkeling from above may make them sometimes seem very tiny from afar, once they come up close and personal you can really entertain the idea of how big they actually are. They primarily swim through the northeastern shores of the Yucatan Peninsula.

Swimming with whale sharks

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean and represent a healthy marine ecosystem. Their life expectancy is around 100 years old, although some have been reported to live up to 150. Interestingly, female whale sharks can have about 300 pups per litter. This is an opportunity not to be missed when visiting your vacation home in the Riviera Maya – be it Cancun, Playa del Carmen, or Tulum. Many tours will take you to see them with experts on the subject explaining everything about them to you.

Don’t Miss This Opportunity

When you plan your next vacation to paradise, or if you are visiting during the remaining time of August, make sure to factor this amazing natural wonder into your trip. Trust us – it makes for one amazing life experience to tell people back home. Whale sharks are the gentle giants of the sea for a reason. Swimming alongside them is one of the most thrilling activities to engage in. It also makes for a sweet pro-tip to tell those renters who book your vacation rental during the summer months.

If you are looking to invest in the Riviera Maya, make sure to send your inquiries our way. Our expert Buyer’s Representatives can hook you up with the best real estate in the region. You can have your perfect paradise home right next to the whale sharks.

10 Interesting Facts About Whale Sharks

  1. Despite their name, the whale shark is neither a whale nor a mammal; it is a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known fish species. The whale part of the name comes from its sheer size. The whale shark is an Ovoviviparous species, this means that it keeps its eggs inside her body and once they are mature; tiny whale sharks emerge alive from the mother’s body.

 photo whale shark 10_zpsfctvww8z.jpg

  1. The whale shark has an extremely thick skin, in some cases up to four inches thick. In addition, their skin has a much darker tone than the rest of the fish with white patterns comprising dots, vertical and horizontal lines; making really interesting patterns.
  1. The whale sharks huge mouth can be as big as five feet long, but swimming alongside a whale shark is 100% safe as they have no interest in consuming humans. They also have a filtration system that does not allow the passage of anything bigger than small fish like sardines and their many rows of tiny teeth are located in the back of their mouth; so they can not really harm anyone.

 photo whalesharkteeth_zps9pmy2akf.jpg Whale Shark Teeth
Source: https://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/gallery/descript/whaleshark/whaleshark.html

  1. These majestic animals have an advanced filtration system that allows them to eat without having to swim, compared to other animals that require them to move forward to push water inside their mouth. The whale shark is able to use their gills to pull water into their mouth, where it accumulates plankton, krill and other small seafood like sardines or anchovies.
  1. These fish live in tropical waters at an average 700 meters deep. They are generally solitary animals, but are grouped when they find an area rich in food.
  1. The whale shark is known to be the world’s largest fish, with verified specimens as long as 40 feet; that is as long as a trailer. There are many reported sightings of much bigger whale sharks, over 65 feet long; but they have not been documented and therefore are considered a myth.
  1. Despite its imposing size, whale sharks are completely harmless and peaceful creatures. Tourists can swim very close them, and in the past visitors were even allowed to even touch them but this is no longer permitted.

 photo whale sharks swim_zpspjtn1ixd.jpg

  1. Summer is the best season to observe these magnificent creatures, especially the months from June to September. The Riviera Maya has many tour companies that organize whale shark tours, which includes everything you need to enjoy this experience.
  1. If you live in the Riviera Maya or are vacationing here, the best places to find whale sharks are in the area between Isla Mujeres, Contoy and Holbox Island.
  1. Each year an estimated 1,400 whale shark reach the coasts of the peninsula, and about 200 approach the islands of Holbox and Contoy in the state of Quintana Roo.

Swimming with the whale sharks is a once in a lifetime experience, remember this is a peaceful creature but there have been reports of them attacking boats; after being harassed. If you are going on a whale shark tour, respect the whale sharks and follow the indications given by your tour guide.

Would you like to partake in unique experiences like this all the time? Consider retiring or purchasing a vacation home in Mexico there are so many things to do here, you will never run out of once in a lifetime experiences.

From dreaming to owning your dream home in Mexico, Top Mexico Real Estate has a decade team of Top Mexico Buyers’ Representatives with the experience in helping foreigners become homeowners in Mexico.

Top Mexico Real Estate…

We Make It Happen!

Would You Swim with Whale Sharks? I Did and I Loved It! Part 2

On Friday I shared a story about seeing whale sharks in Holbox last summer. (See Would You Swim with Whale Sharks? I Did and I Loved It! Part 1.)


Another trip we took snorkeling with whale sharks was out of Cancun. We drove ourselves to Punta Sam, but there are trips that pick you up from Playa del Carmen, Akumal, Tulum, etc. From there we were put into our boat groups, again, about 8-10 per boat, introduced to our English speaking guide and set off in search of the whale sharks.


After about 45mins, they had been spotted and we were all rushing to get our life jackets, fins, snorkels and masks on and dive right in. Being experienced we jumped in first, giving the others a chance to observe from the boat and show them that to do. I mean, you cant just float around in the water, you need to try to swim along side these amazing animals, and they are fast. But if you can’t swim well, don’t worry there are plenty around to look at and even just watching from the boat is a fantastic experience.


Food in MexicoOn our way back to mainland, the boats stopped just off the coast of Isla Mujeres. While the captains made lunch, ceviche (a Mexican dish of fish, shrimp, octopus and other seafood, marinated in lime, served with tortilla chips) we jumped in the water again to have another snorkel around.


After lunch and a few beers – included in the trip – we headed back to Playa. Each tour group is given a photographer, so we got to check out all the photos they took of the day in and out of the water.

Swimming with any animal is an amazing experience, but with the whale sharks, it’s a time I will never forget. It’s one of my favorite memories. Memories I’m holding onto until July when I get to go again!


TOPMexicoRealEstate.com; Mexico’s Leading Network of Specialists for Finding and Purchasing Mexican Properties Safely


Mexico Insurance Kit

Would You Swim with Whale Sharks? I Did and I Loved It! Part 1

While many visitors associate Cancun and Playa del Carmen with the winter, there are some great and very unique things to do in the summer, when it’s hot, the water is fresh, the breeze is blowing… I love summer time. Just recently, I remembered that for the hottest months of the year, June-September, it’s the chance to go swimming with the amazing, enormous and fascinating whale sharks.


Being the largest fish in the world, they could have their choice of meals, but they prefer the taste of plankton. These awesome animals cruise the waters off the coast of Cancun for only a few months of the year. July or August is the best time to catch them.

The first time I we went swimming with the whale sharks out of Holbox, Quintana Roo. We decided to take a weekend trip. We drove to Holbox one Saturday afternoon; it’s about 2hrs from Cancun. Then we took the ferry across to the island of Holbox. It’s a small island, still a little primitive in its ways, (there are no cash machines, so take cash). We learned this the hard way and had to drive 30mins back to the nearest atm.


We camped for the night and took the boat ride out into the middle of nowhere. All of a sudden we find ourselves surrounded by these whale sharks. They came right up to the surface to greet us. My mouth dropped open the second I saw them, I was speechless. I hadn’t ever seen any animal so graceful and so very large.

After jumping in the water and seeing these things underwater I was even more amazed. They were the size of a small airplane and they were everywhere. After swimming with them for a bit we got out to let some other people have a go. You see, each boat has 6-8 people, so you jump in the water 2 at a time. Once everyone had had their chance, we were eager to get back in the water again with these giant but docile creatures.


After a few hours observing, we were given a packed lunch and it was time to head back to land. On the boat ride back we were accompanied by a group of dolphins that were having fun diving in and out of the water along side the boat. We also saw a manta ray jump out of the water, flip and slam back into the water again. I’ll never forget that sight. It was huge, well not as big as the whale sharks, but big for a manta ray.


On Monday, I’ll share another story about whale sharks.


TOPMexicoRealEstate.com; Mexico’s Leading Network of Specialists for Finding and Purchasing Mexican Properties Safely


Mexico Insurance Kit