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Cancun Whale Shark Tours To Begin This Month With Strict Regulations

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The whale shark season is set to begin in just several days in Cancun and Isla Mujeres amid unprecedented traveler demand for sighting – and even swimming with – the aquatic species. 

a giant whale shark in isla mujeres with travelers

One of Cancun’s most iconic and memorable experiences, swimming with the majestic whale sharks is a once-in-a-lifetime occasion. 

And this year, up to 140,000 travelers are expected to book a tour to swim along these gentle giants. 

Although the season is just around the corner, travelers are being told to brace themselves for stringent environmental regulations, limiting the scope of Cancun’s renowned whale shark tours. 

beautiful beach resort in Tulum with boats

With that in mind here’s what travelers can expect from this year’s whale shark excursions.

Cancun Tightens Whale Shark Tour Restrictions As Species Remains Endangered 

Not only is Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean the leading destination for millions of American travelers, it’s also a sanctuary for the whale shark, the world’s largest fish species.

Each year between May and September, hundreds of whale sharks flock to the warm waters surrounding the Mexican Caribbean, where they feed on plankton. 

a female traveler swiming alongside a whale shark

A highlight for countless travelers, the whale shark season is an exciting time for nature lovers. And for many, swimming alongside the up to 10-metre-long species is a bucket-list item. 

Fortunately, Cancun is widely considered one of the top locations worldwide to see and swim with whale sharks.

Conveniently located departure points, affordable prices, and excellent environmental standards are just a few of the reasons that make Cancun whale shark tours a hit with travelers. 

a huge whale shark feeding on plankton

Tour operators are thus getting ready for the whale shark season, which officially begins on May 15.

Starting then, travelers will be able to board vessels that have been certified to carry our whale shark tours.

According to local excursion companies, travelers can only expect to encounter a handful of whale sharks during the first few weeks of the season, with hundreds more set to arrive from June onwards. 

A traveler swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres

But with demand for the tours soaring – after all, the season only lasts several months – authorities are enacting stronger regulations to protect whale sharks, which are critically endangered in parts of the world. 

A total of 120 vessels across Cancun and Isla Mujeres have been authorized to carry out whale shark tours this year.

That number was determined by the local Plan de manejo, or Management Plan, which sets certain restrictions on tours to safeguard whale sharks’ natural habitat.

fishing boat in shallow water in Isla Mujeres

Among the many measures outlined in the document are those that deal with when tours can operate, how many passengers they can accommodate, and under which conditions travelers are allowed to swim with whale sharks. 

This year, operators are allowed to sell excursions between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. – with most tours departing early morning and returning in the afternoon – with passenger limit capped to 10 participants. 

a diver next to a whale shark in the mexican caribbean

Officials are also introducing new restrictions on when travelers are allowed to get in the water and swim with whale sharks.

When fewer than five whale sharks are present, passengers are limited to merely observing the creatures, whereas in other cases they are allowed to swim close to them. 

A total of 140,000 travelers are expected to book whale shark tours this season, potentially setting a new record despite new restrictions.

Some of the top-rated tour companies include Whale Shark Adventures and DC Explorer Snorkel Tours, each offering an excellent variety of experiences for Cancun travelers.

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