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Swimming with whale sharks in Cancun: where, how, and when!

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Sharks. The very word drives fear in our hearts, and we get images of pointed teeth in our minds. But, since you’re here, you already know that swimming with whale sharks in Cancun is a very popular option that a lot of tourists (and even locals) go for.


Some of you might wonder what possesses these people to risk their lives. The answer is simple, whale sharks are docile and extremely agreeable to swimming with human beings. Their diet is comprised of tiny micro-organisms like plankton, fish eggs, and other small fishes. Swimming with these gentle sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that you should not pass on if you’re in the area.

Now that we’ve established that it’s definitely something you must experience when you’re in Cancun, let’s know a little bit more about whale sharks.

swimming with whale sharks
Me swimming with whale sharks

About the whale sharks

Whale sharks are the largest animals in the ocean, but, despite their size and having whale in their name, they’re sharks. These majestic creatures can grow as much as 40 feet long, but their average length is somewhere between 18 to 32 feet; on average, they weigh around 20 tons.

While they’re sharks, whale sharks are not predatory animals; they’re filter-feeders. What this means is that they ingest a large amount of water, filter their food from it (which consists of plankton and other small organisms), and let the water out afterward. So you have nothing to worry about when swimming with whale sharks, you’re not on the menu for them.

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the most unique experiences you’ll ever have. Let’s see when and where you can swim with whale sharks in Cancun.

whale shark swimming to the surface

When to swim with whale sharks in Cancun

Whale sharks visit the ocean around Cancun from June till September. You can also find them around Holbox and Isla Mujeres, and book trips from there.

If you really want to visit them, I highly recommend not waiting until September. Book your tour as soon as possible (anywhere from June-August). Sometimes whale sharks can leave the area a bit earlier, and you might miss your chance of seeing them. So when it comes to booking your trip, the earlier the better!

Read also: Is it safe to travel to Cancun right now?

Where do the whale sharks tours leave from?

The tours for these underwater marvels leave from many different places. The most popular ones can be found in Cancun, Holbox, and Isla Mujeres. These tours leave at around 9 in the morning, and usually take a whole day (which means a delicious lunch on the sea!). Below, I’ll tell you briefly about the tours leaving from the places I mentioned.

snorkeler swimming with whale sharks

Whale shark tours from Cancun

The tours in Cancun to swim with whale sharks are all organized by expert fishermen or authorities dedicated to the preservation of these species in order to make the experience safe for both you and the whale sharks.

You can either book a tour from your hotel’s reception, or book it online using one of the tour services there.

The tours usually include pickup from your place of stay and cost around 150 to 200 USD. Be wary of the people who offer you a tour for less than that, it might be a scam or their tour wouldn’t be a very good experience after all.

Whale shark tours from Holbox

Whale shark tours were the main attraction in Holbox before they became available (and popular) in Cancun and Isla Mujeres. But it’s still the long-established place to go if you want to join a whale shark tour.

While you’re visiting Holbox, you can also experience the awe-inspiring phenomenon known as bioluminescence. The waters of Holbox island come to life at night with millions of glowing stars in them. It’s a breathtaking sight and I highly recommend seeing it, together with many other amazing tours about which I will talk soon in another post.

The best way to book your tours though, it’s directly on the island either with your hotel or hostel, or with the fishermen at the pier. Just make sure you agree with the price and discuss what’s included.

Whale shark tours from Isla Mujeres

Similar to the other two whale shark tour locations, Isla Mujeres has its own tour organization bodies. You can book one from the same touring company that I mentioned earlier. They’re reliable and pretty good at what they do. Alternatively, you can ask for a tour at your hotel/resort’s reception and book one from there. Make sure not to trust any stranger with booking a tour and only use trusted services.

whale shark swimming surrounded by fishes

Things to keep in mind

It can be incredibly exciting to swim with these majestic creatures. But there are a few things you should keep in mind when swimming with them:

  • Use biodegradable sunscreen when going on a whale shark tour.
  • Keep a distance of at least 6 feet from the whale sharks, and don’t swim under them. They’re docile and not dangerous, but you can easily hurt them without even knowing it.
  • Unfortunately, these majestic creatures are currently endangered and need to be protected. Respect the instructions of the tour guides and abide by them.
  • Don’t try to swim with the sharks on your own, you can only do it with authorized touring guides and services. Firstly, because the tours in a controlled-environment are an effort to preserve the species. Secondly, it’s because you won’t be able to find them on your own. The whale sharks move around as they please. Your guides/fishermen communicate with each other to locate exactly where the whale sharks are and then take you there.
  • Make sure to pay extra attention to the “no touching” rule. Even though it might be tempting to touch these majestic creatures, you might unknowingly hurt them if you do so. So avoid doing it in any case.

If you followed everything I mentioned in this post, along with the instructions your tour guide would give you, I’m pretty sure your swim with the whale sharks will be one of the best things you do. I hope you liked my post. If so, please share it around. If you have any questions, send them my way and I’d be glad to answer them. Have fun!

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