Tourists from around the world visit Cancun to swim with whale sharks, the largest fish in the world. And now the whale shark species return to the turquoise waters of Cancun this summer. Throughout the months of mid-May to September, you can swim with them through various tour operators in the destination.
Whale sharks measure 15 to 50 feet in length and weigh as much as 15 tons. Thankfully, grandeur is the only intimidating aspect of these gentle giants, as the whale shark’s diet consists mostly of plankton - the reason they travel yearly to Cancun’s nutrient-rich waters - making the swimming experience completely safe for curious travelers.
“The return of the whale sharks signifies a special time in Cancun, when visitors from all over the world come to Cancun for a chance to swim with the largest fish in the world,” said Jesus Almaguer, CEO of the Cancun CVB. “The Cancun CVB is proud to have this eco tour available to locals and visitors alike and is a perfect opportunity to showcase our efforts to conserve this endangered species to communities here and abroad.”
Recognized as the pioneers of whale shark tours, EcoColors Tours introduced this experience over 14 years ago and earned recognition as Mexico’s Best Nature Tour during this year’s Tianguis Turistico. The award, given by The Mexican Ministry of Tourism, recognized the tour operator’s sustainable, innovative and exclusive products in ecotourism, adventure tourism and environmental trainings through quality tours and education. More than 4,000 visitors enjoyed swimming with whale sharks with EcoColors in 2014, a number expected to increase to 7,000 this season.
Operating from Isla Mujeres, Ceviche Tours is another tour company offering the whale shark swimming experience to visitors. Founded on a passion for marine life and the environment, Ceviche Tours excursions are designed and operated under strict quality and sustainability standards, geared to offer visitors the ultimate whale shark experience. Ceviche Tours is on the forefront of education and photo identification efforts contributing to the worldwide goal of protecting and preserving the whale shark species.
The 8th Annual Whale Shark Festival will be held July 18-24 and is expected to attract 5,000 visitors to Cancun, with the whale sharks as the main attraction. Along with the tours, the festival will also include an exhibition showcasing the beauty of the island, traditional dancing, and delectable local food. All proceeds from the festival benefit The Blue Realm Project and Amigos de Isla Contoy, two organizations dedicated to the conservation and education of marine life and ecotourism in the Mexican Caribbean.
During whale shark tours, strict safety guidelines are implemented, including: buddy-system swimming, no touching or pestering of a whale shark permitted, a minimum six-feet distance enforced at all times, and no flash photography allowed. Safety measures also extend to allowing a maximum of 10 people per boat in order to provide personalized attention, and a maximum of two people in the water to avoid disturbing the fish’s natural habitat.
Cancun takes great pride in providing exciting eco-adventures for travelers of all ages. The destination’s commitment to the preservation of the environment extends to promoting educational initiatives, like the Cancun Goes Turquoise Initiative, which recently celebrated its first anniversary on Earth Day, April 22, 2015. This initiative honors organizations that implement programs to reduce their carbon footprint, preserve wildlife and their natural habitats, and support educational efforts on these fronts.
Through the implementation of eco-focused programs, tourists and locals can take part in conserving the natural resources that make Cancun a premier destination. With new Sunwing flights from Southwestern Ontario and new routes from Houston courtesy of Southwest Airlines, the CVB looks forward to welcoming visitors to enjoy eco activities like whale shark swims and sea turtle nesting season, beginning late May.