“Today was the best day of my life”, my sister in law said after we got off the boat; ending a miraculous day in the open sea, swimming with one of the most magnificent creatures I’ve ever witnessed – The Whale Shark!
My sister in law was visiting, and we always do something a little out of the ordinary for my husband’s birthday, so the three of us picked from a list of options! Since we were in the exact perfect season for it, we decided the whale sharks would be the one!
To be honest with you, when we decided to book the tour, I was not so sure that I would love it so much. I mean, I wasn’t scared but at the same time it seemed something “normal” to me like swimming with the dolphins or the Sea Turtles in Akumal. Maybe living here in the Riviera Maya for 2.5 years, you get a little numb to the excitement of swimming with sea creatures!
But to my surprise, this experience topped any and all adventurous experiences I have had in the Riviera Maya thus far! I mean just miraculously incredible and unexpected!
We booked the tour through one of the most respected whale shark tour operators in the area called Ocean Tours. We were picked up in the center of Playa del Carmen and taken to the dock in Cancun where we would embark on our journey!
Once we arrived to the dock we were assigned to a group and a tour guide. Each boat is good enough for a group of about 10 people!
Our tour guide was named Rod and he was not only knowledgeable but very friendly and entertaining! On our boat we had English speaking people, French Speaking and Spanish Speaking. He spoke all three languages to accommodate everyone and to be sure everyone understood the proper instructions.
It takes about 1 hour to reach the destination where the whale sharks are feeding, which is somewhere between the Islands of Isla Mujeres and Holbox. It is not always certain where the whale sharks will gather that day so it can take more or less time to arrive depending on the day! So until then you just sit back and enjoy the ride, the sunshine and the view of the open sea!
Finally we had arrived to see a swarm of large whale sharks swimming and feeding at the ocean’s surface! It was then that I understood that this was about to be an experience of a life time!
We were sent out to swim in groups of two, for a total of 3 separate jumps! The timing has to be very specific as the tour guides do their very best to get you to swim right up close and personal with the whale sharks as they are moving by! The whale sharks are not curious creatures and won’t be interested in your presence, so you must adapt to them as they will just continue on swimming in their own direction.
There you are, in the beautiful blue Caribbean Sea, surrounded by these massive and glorious creatures! Even without the presence of the whale sharks, the feeling of being in the deep ocean, surrounded by the brilliant rays of sunlight which gleam and sparkle underneath the ocean waters, is so beautiful and surreal!
Actually the whole experience is somewhat surreal! I never imagined that I would ever be here! But I was and it felt amazing – almost like being in a dream!
Our second jump was the most incredible, as our tour guide led us right over the whale shark – literally almost on top of him (or her)! It was in that moment in which you realize how small you really are compared to the shark! Did I mentioned that whale sharks weigh up to 4 tons? Yes, they do! But not even that fact is scary when you are in the moment.
When you first start the tour and they tell you that you have 3 jumps – your first thought may be something like… “Only 3 jumps? What am I paying for then?” But believe me, after jump number 2 you are wiped out and tired from the intense swimming. You really don’t realize it in the moment when you are in the action, but afterwards you will feel like you just put yourself through an intense total body workout!
After jump number 3, they did give us an option for an extra jump but nobody wanted to take it as we were all exhausted and needed the break! But still it’s an option if you are still roaring to go!
As a part of the complete tour, the day did not end there! The next part of our adventure sent us to a beautiful coral reef just meters away from Isla Mujeres! This was my first swim in a larger coral reef; and again, simply amazing! They allowed us to explore for about 20 minutes before entering the boat, which will then took us meters away to the beautiful Island of Isla Mujeres!
We docked close to the shore and enjoyed free time to swim in the pristine crystal waters which touched the Island! They also provided us with a delicious fish ceviche lunch with guacamole, beer and soda, which were served on floating tables inside the water! How cool is that?
We spent about an hour there relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and the beautiful scenery! Then we headed back to the dock in Cancun and found our transportation back to Playa!
It was a happy day! A day that will never be forgotten!
Suggestions and Considerations for your comfort!
My first piece of advice is if you are lucky enough to be in the Riviera Maya during this high season of whale sharks you must do this tour! You must!
Second, if you are someone that has the tendency to get sea sick- do take the Dramamine Pill! They are provided to you free of charge for your comfort! Yes, it makes you tired and there’s no way around that (be prepared) but being sick is worse. Take the pill and rely on the excitement to revive those sleepy eyes!
Floatation devices must be worn by law. They do provide standard life jackets free of charge but they do give the option to pay a little extra for a wetsuit. The wetsuit also acts as a floatation device and is very comfortable option to swim freely! I do highly recommend the wetsuit! If you own one then bring it along! It was my first time using it and I must say it is wonderful!
If you have a Go Pro or waterproof camera – DO NOT forget it! If you don’t have one, borrow one! And if you can’t borrow one then you may purchase the photos as your tour guide will be taking pictures along the way! We did both and we were glad we did!