Swimming with whale sharks

Making Friends with the Fishes - Photograph by Ocean Tours
Making Friends with the Fishes – Photograph by Ocean Tours

This past trip to Mexico we made sure we went when the whale sharks are known to migrate to the warmer waters of the Mexican-Caribbean Sea, usually mid May to September. This photograph was taken by our guide from Ocean Tours, of my husband next to one of these gentle and giant whale sharks. Unfortunately I didn’t make it into many photos because every time I jumped into the water, I was immediately transfixed by the majestic creature in front of me, that I would forget to channel my inner Olympic swimmer to keep up with them! The bus-sized whale sharks were slowly cruising through the water, sucking up plankton without a care in sight, and even with their slow motions easily outswam us. I really enjoyed going on this tour because it felt like Mexican authorities really care about these mysterious beauties. There are many rules and regulations in place to make sure that people are not infringing on the whale sharks natural behaviors, feeding and migratory habits. They limit the season length, the number of boats, and allow only two people with a guide in the water with the shark at any time. They really want to make this a sustainable attraction, and I feel that many countries could use this as a great example that nature should be prioritized over fast monetary gain. Although I am not in any way a comfortable boat person, and after a while was “feeding the fishes” rather than swimming with them, I would recommend this fantastic experience to anyone.

Please click here to see my other underwater posts.

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15 thoughts on “Swimming with whale sharks

  1. Beautiful shot Laura, I have never heard of whale sharks, so are they a whale and not a shark or vice-versa? I like hearing about good stories about Mexico and that they are working hard to preserve these wonderful animals. All we seem to hear about Mexicans seem to be negative, so tired of it. This post is a double delight. 🙂

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    1. Thanks Margaret, that’s a very nice thing for you to say! Of my experiences in Mexico with how they care for the turtles and other marine life, I think they are doing a great job, and sadly I have seen many other countries which don’t seem to care at all. The whale sharks are a large filter-feeding shark. So a shark that eats like a whale, and is the size of a whale. They have lovely white polka-dots, and are very beautiful!

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    1. Yes, sadly that is true. Which is why it’s is even more crucial that they have a safe haven in these waters to feed. Thank you for your lovely compliments too, I really appreciate them so much. I love that I can bring some new and fascinating biology to you.

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  2. In the summer of 2015, my husband and I swam with whale sharks off the coast of Cancun and it was something we will never forget. What an awesome experience to be right next to such huge yet docile creatures in the water! But we were concerned because there were so many boats surrounding the animals, and we actually had to alert our guide to stop someone from another tour who had grabbed and was holding onto a whale shark (which is absolutely forbidden). So although we are glad we had the opportunity to swim with these amazing creatures, the Mexican government needs to do more to regulate the number of whale shark tour operators, and the tour operators need to keep a closer eye on the tourists. I can’t remember the name of the tour we chose, but we did a lot of research on Tripadvisor to find what we considered to be the most environmentally-conscious company.

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    1. Hi Naomi,
      Thanks for sharing your experience! I’m sad to hear that you observed others not respecting these beautiful creatures, or the rules. I did not see any of this, but I’m sure there are always people who will disregard the safety and health of animals for their own personal gain. I also took a lot of time to chose the tour company which appeared to have the greatest respect for the animals and environment and were very strict about the regulations.
      I really wish more people cared as much as we do, the world would be a much better place!

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