I can’t emphasize this enough. If you get the chance to snorkel with whale sharks, you always say yes.
What’s in a name? Take “whale shark.” Rhinocodon typus got its name because of its whale-like size (up to 12.65 meters and 21.5 tons) and filter-feeding style. But this beautiful giant is actually the largest fish, the largest living non-mammalian vertebrate, in the ocean. It is beautiful, graceful and mother-effing huge.
Every year, from June to September, pods of whale sharks congregate just off the Mayan Riviera in Mexico, where they munch on plankton and fish eggs. Munch, however, may not be the right word. Each whale shark has a unique, wide hose-like mouth, resembling the open end of a Japanese wind sock. This mouth acts as a filter as they swim along the surface waters, making sure each animal gets a hearty, filling meal.
I’ve always dreamed of snorkeling with the whale sharks. Alas, my trips to Cancun or other spots along the coast, never lined up with the migratory season. So when Palace Resorts and Solo Buceo invited Chet and I to come visit–and added a trip to snorkel with the whale sharks to the itinerary, I jumped at the chance.
It was incredible.
I’ve never done anything like it. An avid diver and snorkeler, I’ve been in the water with all manner of sea creatures. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt as small as I did swimming in between two of these creatures. The feeling was not unwelcome. It was awe-inspiring.
Believe it or not, this is a very family-friendly excursion for kids 10 and up. Chet was not able to go — but there were three girls aged 10-13 who were along on my trip. They had a great time. Whale sharks truly are gentle giants–and the guides make sure you keep a safe distance in case of any tail bumping. (For the record, I did get a bump from an animal that changed course at the last minute. It had some force behind it, pushing me back a few feet, but did not hurt).
So if you get the chance to do your own snorkeling with the whale sharks, do not hesitate. Jump in, swim along and be prepared to be amazed by these incredible animals.