Get to know the largest fish of Isla Mujeres
Weighing in at up to 15 tons, the whale shark can reach lengths of 46 feet, making it the largest fish in the world. Like most sharks, females are larger than males.
Locally known as “Dominos,” whale sharks have huge mouths at the front of their heads that open in excess of four feet. The head itself is small and flat, with a rounded snout and small eyes. The whale shark has five very large gill slits, two dorsal fins, and two pectoral fins. The tail has a top fin that is larger than the bottom, and the spiracle is located just behind the shark’s eyes. Their dark skin is up to four inches thick, and the enormous mammal filters its food (plankton) through its gills as it swims.
Whale shark season begins on June 1, with tours running through the beginning of September. During this time, hundreds of whale sharks feed on the plankton in a 7-square-foot area of Isla Mujeres, where the Gulf of Mexico joins the Caribbean Sea. An experience you’ll never forget, the hour-long boat ride from Isla Mujeres will take your breath away as your guide takes you directly into the feeding territory of these giant creatures. The tours run regularly, with a fee of $135 set by the Mexican government.
Private tours are available, starting at $1100 for ten guests. This is a great choice for professional photographers and videographers, allowing maximum exposure time for those who choose to enter the water to get that perfect shot.
Whale sharks are not dangerous and pose no real threat to humans. The dense population can be overwhelming at times, but the animals are very slow-moving and docile.
Booking Whale Shark Tours
Tours begin very early in the morning, leaving the island at 7 or 8 AM. The tour runs for much of the day, with most boats returning to the dock around 2 or 3 PM. The price of the tour includes the use of life jackets, snorkel gear, sandwiches, snacks, and a lunch buffet upon arrival back at the port. Snorkelers swim two at a time with a supervised guide.
The following companies offer tour bookings online:
Swimming with the Sharks
Like all other adventures on Isla Mujeres, safety is paramount with shark swimming excursions. While whale sharks are slow-moving and docile, they are still wild animals and should be approached with caution. Below are a few guidelines to ensure safety:
- All participants must be strong swimmers.
- Only swimmers 10 and older are permitted on the tour.
- Pregnant women in their second and third trimesters should not join the tour.
- Take turns. Each set of two snorkelers gets 5-10 minutes in the water with the guide until everyone has had a turn.
Following these rules will make your whale shark swimming experience as safe as it is thrilling.