Isla Mujeres whale shark tour operators are seeing a huge increase in pre-bookings for the summer after new regulations came into effect limiting the number of passengers allowed to embark on such excursions.
As a result, travelers are being told to already start booking for the summer due to lower availability. The whale shark season officially begins on June 1, lasting throughout the summer.
A hugely popular activity for Cancun travelers, whale shark tours are already beginning to sell out for certain dates as visitor numbers continue to climb.
The warm summer months are an ideal time to enjoy Isla Mujeres’ beautiful coastline, allowing tourists to spot a number of marine species, including the majestic whale shark.
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With that in mind, here’s a look at what new environmental regulations mean for Cancun travelers this summer.
New Environmental Laws To Restrict Whale Shark Tours
Each year, thousands of travelers flock to Isla Mujeres – a stunning tropical island located just 15 minutes from Cancun by ferry – to enjoy swimming with whale sharks, the largest fish species on earth.
Although in previous years, dozens of travelers at a time have been able to swing along these gentle giants off the coast of Isla Mujeres, this year, strict new environmental regulations will limit the number of participants.
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While vessels can carry multiple guests at once, only two paying passengers will be allowed to swim in close proximity to whale sharks.
The regulations, which are derived from the Plan de Manejo(management plan), are aimed at protecting the endangered species, which has seen its population shrink at an alarming rate.
Meanwhile, the total number of passengers on a given whale shark tour will be capped at 10 in an effort to decrease the environmental effects of larger vessels.
The new regulations also stipulate a mandatory resting day on the 30th day of each month, during which no whale shark tours can operate.
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The new framework also establishes a fixed schedule for whale shark tours, with an early 7 A.M departure time followed by a 9 A.M. departure.
All tours must conclude by 2 P.M., and all operators must limit swimming with whale sharks when there fewer than 5 whale sharks are observed in the vicinity of the vessel.
A total of 120 tour boats will be allowed to operate in the waters off Isla Mujeres to prevent motor noise from disturbing the whale shark’s natural habitat.
@activetourist Swimming with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico📍catch a 15min ferry from Puerto Juarez in Cancun to Isla Mujeres. Make sure to check out Playa Norte, one of the best beaches in Mexico. From Isla Mujeres, organise an 85$ tour for a hour boat ride out to sea where you can jump in with snorkel gear to swim with the friendly whale sharks. Message me if you want the contact details of a tour organiser #islamujeres #whaleshark #cancun #traveltiktok #travelguide #bucketlist #travelspots #subhanallah ♬ talking to the moon – omgkirby
Each year, hundreds of whale sharks migrate to the warm waters of Isla Mujeres and the larger Mexican Caribbean, where they mostly feed on plankton.
The whale shark season officially begins in May, although travelers are most likely to spot the gentle giants between July and August, coinciding with the peak of the busy summer season.
@christianserrao Bucket list experience still! #whaleshark #swimmingwithwhalesharks #islamujeres #cancun #mexico ♬ original sound – Christian Serrao
And while Isla Mujeres’ new environmental laws may seem unnecessarily strict, they are part of a wider effort to bolster sustainability in an industry that many consider harmful to local animal and plant wildlife.
With more travelers expected to set foot in the Mexican Caribbean thanks to the launching of the new Maya Train system, protecting the environment has become more important than ever for local officials.
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In Puerto Morelos, a coastal hotspot just south of Cancun, officials recently revealed the launching of a massive new protected natural area.
The decision comes as severe weather phenomena, including tropical storms, hurricanes, and flooding, continue to pose a risk to coastal regions around the Mexican Caribbean.
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