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Swimming with the Whale Sharks of Isla Mujeres, Mexico

A sun-drenched jewel of an island only a few miles from Cancun, Isla Mujeres (the Island of Women) is treasured by residents and tourists for its charm, tranquility and soft, white-sand beaches. Spend a relaxing day strolling the streets of Isla Mujeres and view beautiful, Caribbean-style homes, quaint shops, seafood restaurants offering delicious traditional food and fisherman mending their nets at the close of the day.

Complementing the balmy, tropical allure of Isla Mujeres is the island’s annual Whale Shark Festival, a world-famous event that allows visitors to enjoy the rare experience of swimming with hundreds of friendly whale sharks in the warm Caribbean waters. It is a once-on-a-lifetime sight to behold!

Fascinating Facts about the Whale Sharks of Isla Mujeres

Although the whale shark is the world’s biggest shark and largest species of fish, it isn’t really a whale but is called the “whale” shark because of its immense size. Zoologists only recently discovered that hundreds of whale sharks congregate annually during the summer around Isla Mujeres, but aren’t sure why they amass there because whale sharks are mostly solitary creatures.

Whale sharks are gray with white undersides but present individually unique patterns of yellow spots and stripes that run the entire length of the whale’s body. With mouths up to five feet wide and several hundred rows of tiny teeth visibly lining the inside of these huge mouths, you might wonder who would have the nerve to swim unprotected with these huge sharks? Unbelievably, however, whale sharks may be one of the “tamest” wild animals on Earth and pose no risk to people swimming alongside them. In fact, snorkelers and divers have reported whale sharks acting playful and apparently happy to have outsiders join their social gathering at Isla Mujeres.

So how big are whale sharks? The largest confirmed whale shark weighed 47,000 lb (21 metric tons) and was 41 feet long (12 meters) but numerous unconfirmed reports of whale sharks weighing 30 tons and stretching 50 feet in length are not uncommon. They get this big by eating massive amounts of plankton, krill and algae, which they consume by simply opening their mouths and sucking in thousands of gallons of sea water.

About the Whale Shark Festival

Nearly 1,500 whale sharks swim by Isla Mujeres each summer, attracting people from all over the world who want to swim with these gentle giants in the sparkling blue Caribbean waters. This four-day festival is accompanied by a fun variety of beach activities, traditional dance and singing and lectures by ocean biologists. The Whale Shark Festival also promotes awareness of how delicate the local marine ecosystem is and the need to preserve the barrier reef (the second largest in the world) surrounding Isla Mujeres. Not only does this coral reef serve as a migratory path for whale shakes but also for game fishes, water birds and sea turtles.

While staying at the renown Privilege Aluxes luxury resort, you’ll be able to participate in whale shark tours that allow you to swim alongside the biggest fish in the world, guided by licensed divers and experienced guides, of course. For those less adventurous, you can take boat tours that let you observe whale sharks up close–without needing to get in the water!

Book your rooms early so you don’t miss one of the year’s most unique and exciting events–swimming with the whale sharks of Isla Mujeres, Mexico!