Starting on May 15, the 2015 whale shark season will officially begin just off the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula. Each year the whale shark, which is the largest of the fish species, begin to arrive from their annual migration to the warm waters of the Mexican-Caribbean Sea near Cancun/Riviera Maya. The gentle fish can grow around 40 feet in length, weigh 11 tons, and pose no-threat to humans! As the sensational experience of swimming with whale sharks has become more popular over the past few years, official authorities have taken efforts to limit and reinforce many of the rules and regulations to protect these animals that are now on the threatened species list. Here are 6 things to keep in mind for the upcoming 2015 whale shark season in Mexico.
1) The best area to swim with whale sharks this year is near Isla Contoy.
As the ocean constantly changes, so does the pattern of the whale sharks’ migration. Isla Holbox was popularly known in past years for their whale shark aggregations but they recently have moved away from Holbox toward the Caribbean Sea near Isla Mujeres and Isla Contoy. The waters surrounding Isla Contoy and protected areas are proposed to have some of the densest populations this year. Although the official season starts from May and ends in September the best time to swim with whale sharks is between July and August when it is common to find 30 to 40 gathered in one place.
2) The rules to swim with whale sharks will be enforced.
It is important to remember that only two people at a time may enter the water to swim with a whale shark per guide and the rule will be highly enforced this year. In a typical group tour of 10 people, a person can expect to swim in the water two or three times, only several minutes each time. If travelers are interested in spending more swimming time with these amazing creatures, we recommend a private guide or a complete private whale shark excursion. Other important rules to remember include: no jet skis, no diving, no touching the whale sharks, no camera flash, use of biodegradable sunblock, and always keep at least 3 ft away from the whale shark’s body and at least 10 ft from its tail.
3) Be flexible
The conditions of the sea will greatly impact the chance to interact with whale sharks. If the ocean is choppy, not only is sea sickness a factor but it is much more difficult to find whale shark groups; and if it has recently rained, the whale sharks will not feed on the surface of the water and stay submerged below. Prior to the tour, it is important to stay flexible and check with your provider to see if the conditions of the ocean are ideal. At Journey Mexico we recommend only going out when conditions are best to ensure a pleasant experience.
4) The Whale Shark Festival is July 18-24.
Isla Mujeres will celebrate their 8th annual Whale Stark Festival from July 18 to 24th, 2015. The event showcases the achievements, traditions, and environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres and attracts over 5,000 people. The family-friendly fest encourages swimming with the whale sharks and educating visitors on the need to preserve the area’s marine ecosystem. A part of the proceeds from the festival will go to Amigos de Isla Contoy, a non-profit working to advance education on sustainable marine conservation and ecotourism in the region. For more information visit www.whalesharkfest.com.
5) Choose your tour operator carefully and consciously.
The whale sharks of the world are on the WWF conservation animal list categorized as vulnerable — a species considered to be facing a high risk of extinction in the wild. For this reason, it is important to work only with a highly knowledgeable and experienced tour company who operates their tours with the utmost priority to respect these animals. The tour boat operator should be aware and trained in the movements of the whale shark to avoid any boat collisions and the guide should be certified and give a detailed briefing about the rules and safety before entering the water (bilingual if necessary!). If you are looking for an experienced and knowledgeable whale shark tour, please contact one of our travel planners.
6) Plan ahead of time!
Mexican Conservation Authorities have decided to drastically limit the number of authorized whale shark boats this season due to the fact that the heavy congestion in the past years resulted in injuries to the whale sharks. It is for this reason that availability will be limited and therefore is required to make reservations ahead of time. It is also strongly recommended to use alternative hours and get to the whale shark area either before everybody arrives or when everybody starts to leave to maximize your time.
Ready to Swim With Whale Sharks?
For the opportunity to swim with the whale sharks of Mexico, check out our Private Whale Shark Tour or Yacht Expedition to Swim with Whale Sharks. Remember, the use of a private, expert guide will enhance your experience greatly; enabling you to not only receive personal attention but also to perform the activity under your own pace and not have to wait long turn lines to enter the water. In line with our commitment to sustainable tourism and pledge to provide the best possible services to our discerning travelers, we assure to asses each tour carefully only operating during good conditions and with certified, bilingual guides.