The first whale sharks of the season have been spotted in Isla Mujeres waters near Cancun this week.
Tour operators are gearing up for one of the busiest seasons this year as officials reveal new whale shark tour regulations.
Swimming with whale sharks is a bucket-list experience for many travelers, and Isla Mujeres is widely regarded as the best location to spot these docile giants in the Mexican Caribbean.
Here’s the latest on this year’s whale shark season and when travelers can look forward to swimming with them.
First Whale Shark Sightings Reported In Isla Mujeres
Fishermen around the waters of Isla Mujeres have reported several whale shark sightings this week, an indication that the season is almost here.
Each year, hundreds of whale sharks migrate to the warm and plankton-rich waters of the Mexican Caribbean to feed. The whale shark season officially begins on May 15th, when the first tours head out to sea and lasts until the end of August.
During that period, travelers can book whale shark tours to spot and even swim with these gentle giants, which are the largest fish species in the world, measuring around 32 feet on average.
While most tours will kick off on May 15, some companies have announced that they will wait until June 1, when more whale sharks are expected to arrive in Isla Mujeres waters.
A total of 120 vessels have been authorized to operate tours, a move which is intended to protect the delicate species, which is endangered, although not critically.
Mexican Caribbean officials have emphasized the importance of protecting whale sharks while allowing tour operators to benefit from the record-breaking season.
With millions of travelers expected to flock to Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean over the summer, authorities recently published new guidelines on whale shark tours, limiting the maximum number of people allowed to swim with the creatures to two at a time.
While whale sharks typically prefer swimming alone, they tend to congregate when feeding, which makes Isla Mujeres one of the best places to spot the giant species. Known for its plankton-rich waters, the Mexican Caribbean is home to several popular whale shark tour hotspots, including Holbox.
Practical Information For Travelers
Booking a whale shark tour is one of the most popular Isla Mujeres activities. However, there are a few important things to keep in mind before doing so.
First, travelers should book with a reputable firm that has experience in whale shark tours. Dozens of companies operate in Isla Mujeres, although not all of them meet the same quality and environmental standards.
New regulations that came into effect this year mean that travelers will not always have the opportunity to get up close and personal with whale sharks. According to new environmental rules, participants can only swim with whale sharks where there are 5 or less specimens present in the water.
Travelers can use websites like Viator or Tripadvisor to read reviews and learn more about the company they’d like to book with.
Isla Mujeres travelers can book this 6-hour snorkeling tour, which provides an excellent overview of not only whale sharks but other marine life like manta rays and tropical fish. The $156 per person tour includes pick up as well as snorkeling equipment.
Cancun travelers can also book a whale shark tour without having to go to Isla Mujeres. This 4-hour shark and beach combo tour, which departs from Cancun, is a great alternative for mainland travelers. Priced at just $170 per person, the small-group tour focuses on providing a quality experience for all participants.
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