The annual summer migration of the world's largest fish, the whale shark (Tiburón ballena), has commenced and the first groups have appeared on the northern tip of the Yucatan near Isla Contoy.
These filter feeders arrive every June, July and August to feed on Mother Nature's buffet of plankton and krill. They are an endangered species and are actually hunted as food in other parts of the world.
They are harmless to humans, even considering their huge size (up to 30’ long!).
They glide through the water, ingesting thousands of gallons of seawater through their huge mouths, and expelling through their gill network.
They travel around the world in temperate zone waters. Their presence here has spawned a very large and growing tourism business. Starting in 2004 on Isla Holbox, boatloads of tourists go out in search of these "gentle giants” to snorkel alongside.
Because of the logistics of getting to Holbox, the Mexican Government began issuing permits in Cancun to tourism operators.
There are very strict rules of engagement, such as no touching or in any way impeding their movement. Tourists must maintain distance from them, but are happy to snorkel along with them. There is NO DIVING or SCUBA allowed. It's a snorkel-only event. Operators of different sizes operate these tours each summer from Cancun. One of the most ECO Conscious tour operators is Cancun Whale Shark Tours which has operated since inception on Holbox Island and now Cancun. They belong to the International Ecoourism Society and have a very strong attachment to the whale sharks. A small thing, but very important, is that they are one of the few tour operators REQUIRING snorkelers to only use biodegradeable sunscreens while swimming with the whale sharks.
They care! Their past customers tell it best on their TripAdvisor reviews, garnering them the Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor in 2011, 2012 and now 2013. They ARE the way to go!
See their whole program, including exciting videos online
Roddrigo, "Whale Shark Daddy," the owner, will see that you check this off your bucket list.
There are whale sharks here now and numbers will increase as the summer continues. They are usually all gone by the end of September. This is something you gotta do! It's great for the whole family on a public (shared) tour or on the EXCLUSIVE VIP PRIVATE Tour with unlimited swim time.