The popularity of whale shark tours and excursions has skyrocketed in Cancun and the Mexican Caribbean this year, with local companies organizing more trips than in the past two years. The whale shark season lasts from May until late September, when the world’s largest fish species congregate in the warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean.
Whale shark spotting tours are one of the most popular aquatic activities in the Cancun area. The whale shark is the world’s largest fish species, and hundreds of specimens migrate to the Mexican Caribbean’s warm waters each year to feed and mate.
There are more than 200 vessels in the Cancun area alone for whale shark tours, and this year, tour operators say that sales have shot up by 30%. There’s still some way to go to reach 2019 figures, the last year before the pandemic hit. However, local businesses say that they expect a full recovery by next year, with more tours available. The positive outlook comes at a time when the Mexican Caribbean is seeing more tourists than ever before.
According to Miguel Ángle Burgos Erosa, captain of one of the local whale shark tour companies, the summer season has been a resounding success for the industry. Overall, more than 80% of all tour vessels were operating during the summer, with some days seeing up to 160 departures.
That number is a significant increase compared to last year’s departures when at the most, around 75 boats would set off in search of the majestic whale shark. With the season now wrapping up, companies are already looking forward to next year, during which they expect to make a full recovery, if not exceed it.
The most popular locations to go whale shark watching include Puerto Juárez, Punta Sam, and Isla Mujeres. Holbox, in the north of Quintana Roo, is also a popular location, although more remote. The shark season officially ends on September 30, but most companies have already wrapped up their work for the year and have begun preparations for 2023.
Whale shark tours are typically done in groups of 10 to 30 tourists, with the average tour lasting around 7 to 8 hours. Tour companies typically offer visitors snacks and drinks, as well as diving equipment. Each departure costs operators up to 6000 Mexican pesos or around $300, including gasoline and other expenses. Whale sharks can measure up to 10 meters in length, and despite their size, they feed exclusively on plankton and shrimp.
Discover Mexican Caribbean Marine Life With These Tours
Although most whale shark tours have ended for the season, visitors headed to the Mexican Caribbean can still opt for several aquatic tours. The region has recently stepped up measures to protect coral reefs, and Cozumel is home to the world’s second-largest reef system.
Viator is offering a 5-in-1 snorkeling tour off the coast of Cancun. The nearly 4-hour tour is excellent for beginners, as visitors are always accompanied by a guide throughout the marine adventure. The $72 per person tour includes pick-up from the Cancun area as well as transportation.
For a more thrilling experience, visitors can hop on a high-speed boat that takes them to an underwater diving museum complete with more than 500 life-sized sculptures. The 4-hour, $59 per person tour departs from Cancun’s hotel zone and also includes pick-up and equipment.
Visitors can also head south to the Manatee Sanctuary in Chetumal, where they will find an extensive protected area where manatees thrive. The area is rich in flora and fauna, and tourists can go on a guided visit to the area where they get to feed and interact with the majestic creatures.
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