by Ken Andrews, Toronto, Canada (April 2012)
In a word: "Breathtaking!" You cannot imagine the thrill of swimming alongside an 18-wheeler in the Gulf Of Mexico!
In July 2011 my wife and I decided to finally do this! We decided to combine a trip to the Maya Riviera, Mexico, with a chance to swim with the ocean's "largest fish" … the Whale Shark.
We researched the Internet and saw many offerings to do this in and around Cancún. We contacted several agencies on the Internet & the only one that responded (and fast) was Cancun Whale Shark Tours headed by an American chap, Roddrigo, who calls himself the "Whale Shark Daddy."
We checked on Trip Advisor for rating comments and found them from his operation from Isla Holbox, Holbox Whale Shark Tours. They had many excellent favorable comments over the years and it looked like a good deal. I called his U.S. direct phone and we went over the details.
We were staying at the Palladium near Playa Del Carmen. Whale Shark Daddy said he'd have the Whale Shark Express pick us up at the front reception at 6:30 a.m. Then he said we'd be picking up other folks, including some taking the 6:00 a.m. ferry from Cozumel.
Right on time, the van picked us up and we continued picking up more new friends as we went. We reached a very nice marina just north of Cancún called Gran Puerto. There we met the on-duty manager, Mike. He briefed everyone as we sipped fresh American coffee and juice, and nibbled on sweets.
Then we got our boat assignment, a spiffy, nice, red boat that had shade (my wife insisted). We had a boat captain, Oscar, and an in-water guide, whose name, I think, was Miguel. Anyway we met all our new friends on the boat and within 45 minutes we were in the Whale Shark feeding grounds!
WOW WOW WOW! What a sight to see and film! We went into the water two at a time with the guide. They provided us all with top quality snorkel gear—masks, fins, etc. We also wore comfortable ski vests so we could float easily. A couple others on the boat brought along their wet suits which they were allowed to wear in lieu of the vest. We had brought along a Sony camera with an underwater housing. We got some awesome photos that we'll cherish always.
Our first time in the water was breathtaking! Here came this huge creature gently swimming along with a mouth big enough to swallow a grown man. But, no, they just move slowly, ingesting gallons of sea water loaded with plankton and stuff.
After our first turn (we got four turns) we were treated to tasty sandwiches, apples, ice-cold water and soft drinks.
Everybody really enjoyed it, even the one woman from Holland who said she wouldn't go. She did and she loved it!
This was a lifetime dream and we successfully checked this off our "bucket list!" (But we'll probably do it again next year!)
On the way back, Captain Oscar took the boat to a very peaceful, shallow reef area where we all went overboard to paddle around in leisure to view the colorful fish. The crew was then busily preparing fresh ceviche, which was served with crispy tortilla chips. Wow, what a neat combination of fresh fish, tomatoes, lime juice, onions, cilantro and, for the brave, habanero peppers!
We all exchanged e-mails, etc. with all of our new friends, and soon we were all back to "reality." The Whale Shark Express was waiting for us and we returned to the hotel.
This was a day we'll NEVER EVER forget! Roddrigo exceeded our expectations and gave us a first- class experience. Now we know why he's known as the "Whale Shark Daddy."
We did this for just a few more dollars than we had spent snorkeling in a tank with dolphins the year before for under an hour. This lasted the better part of a day! One heck of a bargain!
Check out Cancun Whale Shark Tours.
images from their Web site