Each and every year beginning at the end of May, whale sharks descend upon the waters of the Mexican Caribbean near the Riviera Maya located on the Yucatan Peninsula as part of their yearly migration. These breathtaking animals are drawn annually to the warm, inviting waters in the Riviera Maya region where there is an abundance of food for them. As the largest fish species found on Earth, whale sharks grow to incredible sizes, averaging 40 feet in length and 11 tons in weight! Their massive size makes them seem intimidating, but they are actually harmless and uninterested in humans. They move at a slow, docile pace which makes swimming with them an amazing experience; in fact, it has grown to become one of the most in-demand tours in the Riviera Maya. Before you head out for your own whale shark tour, take a look at these top tips for a safe yet exciting adventure:
Let Nature Take Charge
Every adventure involving swimming with whale sharks is unique because, as wild animals, they do whatever they please. Sure, they have patterns which make it easier to predict where they will be, but there is no guarantee they will do what you expect. Swimming with whale sharks on any given day depends greatly on the conditions of the water, too. It is more difficult to locate groups of whale sharks when the water is choppy; this type of environment can also cause sea sickness. Recent rainfall can cause whale sharks to swim at a much deeper level instead of feeding near the water’s surface, making an encounter unlikely. Talk with your tour operator when booking your adventure to make sure the water conditions are likely to make your experience a great one. July and August are the months that usually have the largest whale shark groups in the Riviera Maya.
Whale sharks are on the threatened species list, so to make them feel as safe and undisturbed as possible, there are many important rules to follow. When entering the water to swim with the whale sharks in the Riviera Maya during a group tour, one guide is required to accompany every two participants. As a result, the periods you get to swim with them may be only a couple of minutes long, and each participant may only have a few chances to do so. You may want to consider booking a private guided tour that will give you a more personalized experience and more time to swim in the water with these awe-inspiring creatures.
You may not approach whale sharks on a jet ski, nor can you dive around them. Remember to maintain a distance of at least 3 feet away from their massive bodies and 10 or more feet away from their forceful tails. In order to show whale sharks the respect and care they deserve, do not touch them, do not use a flash when taking pictures and wear only biodegradable sunscreen.
Sadly, whale sharks are facing a high risk of extinction, and we all need to do our part in protecting the species however we can. Choosing a seasoned and knowledgeable tour operator in the Riviera Maya who strives to respect the animals within their natural marine environment is a great way to ensure you are helping keep whale sharks safe from harm. Experiencing a tour with certified guides in the Riviera Maya will definitely help you get the very most out of swimming with whale sharks!