Swimming alongside the largest fish in the sea is one of the ultimate bucket-list experiences. Lucky then, that there are a handful of destinations around the world where in-season sightings of whale sharks are almost guaranteed, and Mexico offers two of these privileged places.
To swim with whale sharks in Mexico you need to travel to the crystal clear Caribbean waters of Cancun or to the “world’s aquarium” (as Jacques Cousteau called it) of La Paz, where in both regions you will be able to experience some of the world’s best snorkeling.
This a regulated activity in Mexico so when you swim with whale sharks it is important to remember the following:
1. keep a respectful distance from the gentle giants (whale sharks can grow up to 65 feet and weigh up to a whopping 75,000 pounds – they are really big)
2. resist the urge to touch them as this may expose them to harmful bacteria that humans carry
3. be respectful at all times
This is a safe activity. While whale sharks have thousands of teeth placed neatly in hundreds of rows in their enormous mouths, they can neither bite nor chew. They’re happy to forego all human body parts in favor of plankton, krill, and small fish.
Reaching their immense proportions requires a huge amount of energy, which the whale shark gets by consuming large volumes of plankton-rich water, straining it out through their gills. In fact, in order to obtain the food it needs it is not unusual for a whale shark to filter approximately 400,000 gallons of water per hour. To conserve this hard-won energy and continue eating, whale sharks tend to do a lot of hanging about in the water, or, if moving, do so at a very slow pace. This is what makes it possible for humans to jump in and swim or snorkel alongside them for a while.
Do not miss this amazing experience when next you travel to the Sea of Cortez or Cancun.