Requin-baleine. Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.
Whale shark. Quintana Roo, Mexico. July 2014.

What a hell of a mouth, these Mexican whale sharks !

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could have been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:

I crossed an ocean for them. Whale sharks - tiburones ballena in Spanish - gather in July-August off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

Énooorme!

Yes, in this month of July 2014, I am in Mexico. This is a new destination on Little Bubbles Elsewhere! I usually hang out in South East Asia during the summer holidays ... But I really wanted to see this:

Requin-baleine. Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.

Every year, from mid-June to mid-September, whale sharks congregate in the hundreds off the Yucatan Peninsula, near the Yum Balam Nature Reserve in Mexico. They come to eat tiny translucent tuna eggs, abundant in the area this season. You can swim with them in snorkeling fins.

The intensity of the experiment is proportional to the size of the animal. It's just enooorme! ! !

Requin-baleine. Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.

Those are the biggest fish in the world. They do not have teeth (only very small teeth of a few millimeters that are not used for much), but they are sharks.

Like whales (which are mammals, not fish), they are gigantic and feed on tiny marine organisms (plankton) and small fish, which they swallow by filtering the water, mouth wide open.

They measure in the 12-14 meters in adulthood. The largest specimens can reach, it seems, 18 to 20 meters and weigh from 20 to 30 tons ...

Requin-baleine. Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.

To learn more about these unusual fish, I refer you to the Wikipedia page "whale shark".

Previous meeting: in Thailand, in 2006!

Avec un requin-baleine en Thaïlande, en 2006.
With a whale shark in Thailand, in 2006.

My previous encounter with a whale shark dates back to 2006! It was in Thailandduring a diving cruise in the Similan Islands, near Richelieu Rock (the photo here, where I am seen with my small compact camera of the time was taken by another diver, Daniel Cocker, whom I thank for the image!).

I tried to cross their path again off Koh Lanta in 2007then in Sogod Bay in the Philippines in 2008. In vain. More recently, on a diving cruise in the Maldives In February 2014, I once again managed to miss a whale shark ... Frustrating.

So, this summer, I decided to fly west to Mexico, where the meeting with these giants of the sea is 100% certain in July!

Update 2018: Four years after this 2014 trip to Mexico, I had the chance to meet whale sharks again ... See my post here: 
→ In the Philippines, let the whale shark come to you

Requin-baleine. Mexique. Juillet 2014.

Video: swimming with whale sharks

What show ! The cattle are there, on the surface, to swallow big gulps of plankton, indifferent to the little swimmers waggled by the swell around them.

Once in the water, no need to continue. These nice monsters are much faster than humans wearing shorts. With the swell and the current, approaching them is already very sporty!

I had confirmation of what I already knew: I am a better diver than a swimmer. Palmer on the surface being shaken by the waves, that's not my thing at all. I'm never sick by boat, I almost seasick in the water, maneuvering my big box to make my photos and my videos!

Requin-baleine. Quintana Roo, Mexique. Juillet 2014.

Requin-baleine. Mexique. Juillet 2014.

Some practical information to observe whale sharks in Mexico

As I receive more and more e-mails asking for information about my travels, I compile below some information about my stay in Isla Mujeres and the whale shark excursions ... 😎

WHEN TO GO?

As I explained above, the whale shark season is roughly from mid-June to mid-September. The meeting with the giants of the seas is, so to speak guarantee from mid-July to mid-August. The rainy and hurricane season usually arrives in September-October.

July-August, it is also the season when it is terribly hot, in this region of Mexico (tourists who are not interested in whale sharks come, en masse, in February-March, enjoy the Riviera Maya when the temperature is then more bearable).

I am able to settle for a fan in Asia, I bless the air conditioning here ... But it is really in the water that we are the best!

Que calor aquí ! Isla Mujeres, Playa Norte. Mexique, juillet 2014.

ISLA MUJERES AS A BASIC CAMP

I chose to stay in Isla Mujeres, to be closer and reduce the travel time to the area of whale sharks (and get there before the hordes of snorkelers from Cancún and Playa del Carmen).

I settled in the south of the island, far from the tourist "village" of the north. Nothing planned in advance. I found at the last moment, on the internet, the day before my arrival, a small hotel that seemed nice and comfortable, just to finish my stay in Mexico. Good pick. A peaceful place, with sea view, all cute. The iguanas come to walk near the swimming pool and the wifi walk of the fire of God. I recommend the address, which is affordable, it's really nice: La Joya Hotel.

Good to know: for accommodations in Mexico, if you pay in cash, you are often given a discount corresponding to the amount of taxes (ie 16% + 3% in all hotels where I stayed).

Un iguane près de la piscine à l'hôtel La Joya. Isla Mujeres, Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

WELL CHOOSING YOUR DIVE CENTER

Again, I had nothing planned or booked in advance ... Once arrived in Isla Mujeres, I still fumbled a little in the reviews on the internet and I decided for the Casa del Buceo. It is a small Mexican dive center, family-friendly, out of the tourist center (and not too far from my hotel). Home super nice, outings in small groups, staff to care. Ideal for me who coltine me a bulky camera with its waterproof case.

The day I pointed, it was a hot day to die. The very efficient Pablo was opening up a cerveza behind the desk. A benevolent guy, who immediately understood what needed the dripping tourist who came to inquire: "Hey, it's too hot, so take a beer," he said, handing me a Dos Equis (XX). I also did two small bottle dives near the island with them.

Casa del Buceo. Isla Mujeres, Mexique, juillet 2014.

(If you live in Playa del Carmen, I also recommend the small French dive center O2 Mexico, which regularly organizes whale shark excursions. I plunged with them in cenotes and at sea ...)

TARIFFS OF WHALE SHARK EXCURSIONS

Whale sharks, which gather in the summer off the Yucatan Peninsula, near the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, have become a tourist attraction. We come to swim with them from Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Isla Mujeres, Isla Holbox ...

The trip (which usually includes transportation, lunch and drinks, guide and equipment rental) costs from 100 to 150 dollars (American, of course), sometimes more, depending on the starting point, operators, benefits.

Palmer avec les requins-baleines, c'est épuisant ! Mexique, juillet 2014.

HOW TO AVOID THE CROWD

In the late morning, there is an impressive number of boats on the area where whales are! To avoid the crowd, it is better to favor a dive center or a tour operator who leaves very early (same tactic as to visit the Mayan pyramids). It's really worth getting up at dawn!

Requin-baleine vu du bateau. Quintana Roo, Mexique, juillet 2014.

RESPECT THE LAW

Recently, the approach of whale sharks is regulated (fortunately for them): no scuba diving, no more than two swimmers together with an authorized guidemandatory wearing of a floating garment (diving suit or lifejacket), ban on touching animals

Once localized, the huge fish are visible from the surface, by boat, and all the success of the trip is based on the skill of the captain and guide to lead you right in the right place, to admire these giants under their best angle, preferably avoiding other groups of snorkelers.

Excursion requins-baleines avec la Casa del Buceo. Mexique, Quintana Roo, Isla Mujeres, juillet 2014.

CROSSING

Another tip to know: crossing to reach the whale shark zone can be long (from one to three hours, depending on starting point, engine power, captain's age and weather). It can also be very "flashy" if there are waves (goof also seasick, both on the boat and in the water). Whale sharks are not always in the same place and not necessarily close to the coast. At one time, there was a rally near Holbox Island. But this is not the case today.

For the trip I made, we went quite far offshore, far beyond Isla Contoy located north of Cancún. I tinkered a Google Map below, with a blue fish that I placed where I think we went.

Three weeks in Mexico

I have been in Mexico for three weeks! My stay ends this Sunday, July 20th ... And except today, I did not blog at all during the trip! Too many busy days and bad internet connections. And then, I think I needed to disconnect a little ...

Une touriste à la distillerie artisanale de tequila Mayapan, près de Valladolid, dans le Yucatán. Mexique, juillet 2014.

All the same, I managed to post some pictures (especially underwater) en route, on the Facebook page of Petites Bulles d'Ailleurs. You can see them at the end of this link:
Album «Mexico - July 2014» on Facebook

Here are, in order, the stages of this trip to Mexico - or more exactly in a very small part of Mexico, along the very tourist Riviera Maya - which I will detail in future articles:

Finally, I still have two other trips and lots of dives to tell: the Maldives (February 2014) and my short getaway in Indonesia (May 2014). I interrupted the current stories and I have a lot of photos in the hard drive ...

In short, I have a big delay in the update of Bubbles Underwater & Beyond. Do not be surprised to see Indonesian and Maldivian posts, between two Mexican articles, in the coming weeks!

To see all the articles on this trip, click on the link below ...

  Mexico: Yucatán - July 2014

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  1. So do you prefer Mexico to Thailand?

    In Mexico there is a lot of things to see, including the famous cenotes and the Mayan pyramids. This is one of the best trips I have ever made. The Yucatan peninsula is very touristy but some villages are still preserved from mass tourism and remain a good spot to stay.

    By cons I did not have the opportunity to snorkel with these whale sharks! Pity.

    Thank you for making us discover this

    1. @Chrissand: I love Asia, and I love to go back ... But I find it artificial to compare countries as different as Mexico and Thailand. And then I really only saw a small piece of Mexico ... I will tell the cenotes and the pyramids in a future post. 😉

  2. Hello Corinne!
    Thank you for the information, they are precious for my next trip to Mexico mid-September (yes I know it's the end of the season, but we never know!).

    I saw whale sharks in the Philippines last year, and it was crazy !!

    I can not wait to read your stories about Cenotes and Cozumel dives!

    See you soon!

    Emma

  3. Buenos dias Corinne!

    So that's funny, I almost went to Mexico in late June for whale sharks (an alternative to diving) and then I gave up because I had only one week. So, all your advice give me a great idea for a future trip & #8230; Beautiful your pictures, as usual! 🙄 So, I fell back on the Azores to meet whales and dolphins! The big heat in less!

  4. Hello Corinne,

    I wrote to you sometimes at the moment when I wished to begin my Padi. You have very kindly answered and advised me. I spent my Padi with my husband and as we still live in Indonesia, I walk in your footsteps in the middle of all these beautiful islands. Thank you for the report on the whale sharks, I think we will go a day soon!
    thanks again

  5. Wow! What pictures !!!

    I really will have to try diving here too in Reunion. But, the shark risk here is cooling me a lot for this activity. It seems that the sharks are scared by the bubbles of divers, you confess me? Of course, here, no whale sharks ... ..

  6. A big thank you for this cool post.
    Well illustrated as always 🙂
    When I think I'm using my vacation to wait for the sun 🙁
    Highly my next vacation dives to All Saints!
    See you soon

  7. The music of your little bubbles of videos are always particularly well chosen! If you have to change jobs one day, get started in the sound illustration 😉

  8. Beautiful article very complete, it makes you want! I will keep this meeting with whale sharks in a corner of my head, we may go there next summer, who knows?
    We recently tested a snorkeling trip with dolphins in the Bahamas: it was magic! So I can imagine how it felt to get close to these sharks (although they are huge compared to dolphins).

  9. Hi Corine,
    we have been walking in your footsteps for some time, lately Raja Ampat where I missed you (see my comment on your post), and Richelieu rock then where we did not have the chance to cross the whale shark (bouhou!).
    This summer, a Gautemale-Belize-Yucatan trip is planned, with a program that seems busy. So, we will not have time to go hang our palms everywhere and we are to select the cream.
    For now, we have chosen to go diving in the cenotes and try to observe the whale shark. We ask ourselves the question of going diving in Cozumel or not. In your opinion ?
    By the way, do you have any echoes about diving in Belize?
    Thank you in advance, while waiting to read the rest of your trip to Mexico on your excellent blog.
    Looking forward,
    JC and Muriel

    1. @ JC & Muriel: ah, if you have already discovered Raja Ampat, it sets the bar very high !!!

      I do not know much about diving in Belize, I only know generalities: that is, the Caribbean is much less spectacular underwater than some parts of Indonesia, especially those that are in the "coral triangle" ... The Caribbean coast has suffered from the El Niño phenomenon, concreting of the coast (especially around Cancun), tourist crowds, overfishing.

      I stayed in Cozumel and dive on the most famous sites (I have not told this on the blog, I'm late for the story of my Mexican journey), with a guy I recommend, who is a real character: Sergio Sandoval (Senior) of Aquatic Sports (not to be confused with his son, who has the same name, with the "Junior" attached). In short: there are certainly pretty sites, and I never sulk my pleasure under the water, but it is not, in my eyes, spectacular as in Indonesia ... The most beautiful site in my opinion: Palancar, with its impressive coral formations. I will try to post very soon photos and a small report.

      For the rest, the island of Cozumel is quite nice, it's worth it to spend a few days and sympathize with the really adorable locals (and dodge the hordes of Americans landed cruise ships-buildings that dock daily). If you have time: yes, give Cozumel a chance. Otherwise, you can do without it, in my humble opinion. After, there is another thing that is worthwhile in season (January-February I think), on the coast of Yucatan, it is the bulldog sharks ...

      Otherwise, yes, the cenotes, it's really apart, unique, extraordinary ... I highly recommend.
      8)

  10. Hello
    It makes you want to swim with tiburones!
    We have 2 boys 9 and 11 years old who know how to snorkel.
    Do you think they can do this experiment?
    They have already swam among fish in Thailand and turtles in Indonesia during our world tour.

    Thank you for your reply.

    Iris

    1. @Iris: yes, if they are good swimmers and accompanied by at least one parent during the "tiburones ballenas" outing, that they know how to comply with the rules, I think it's quite possible. But it is probably safer to make contact in advance with a structure on site, to check that they are OK to take children 9 and 11 years old. Have a nice trip ! 🙂

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