Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
I crossed an ocean for them. Whale sharks - tiburones ballena in Spanish - gather in July-August off the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
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:
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! ! !
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 ...
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!).
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!
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!
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).
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.
(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.
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!
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.
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 ...
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: