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11 Things to Know About Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun

Travel insights from Amstar, your Apple Vacations DMC

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Have you ever considered swimming with whale sharks in Cancun? Each year, from May to September, Cancun and the Riviera Maya play host to one of the most spectacular tours you’ll ever experience: the Cancun whale shark adventure! For around $200 you can swim with the whale sharks. Some tours are a little more or less depending on the inclusions with the excursion, like hotel transportation and lunch.

What Cool Things Should I Know about Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun?

You should know that swimming with whale sharks is actually one of the most memorable things to do in Cancun. These fascinating animals have incredible features that keep baffling biologists. And, tourists will have the time of their lives spending time in the warm Caribbean waters with them. Here are 11 awesome things to know before swimming with whale sharks in Cancun:

1. Whale sharks are actually sharks, not whales –

Whales or sharks? Having both denominations in their name, it’s a hard guess. Because of their size, many would and have said that they are whales. But they aren’t whales at all. They’re sharks. And in spite of their thousands of teeth, they’re no threat to humans. Whales are mammals and sharks are fish.

2. Whale sharks have throats the size of a quarter –

While a whale shark’s mouth can be as large as 5 feet in diameter, that big opening — which many of us could almost fit in — leads in a funnel-like manner to a very tight esophagus — the size of a U.S. quarter! These amazing large animals eat small things, not large ones.

3. Despite their enormous size, their diet is made up of small micro-organisms –

They might be the biggest fish on the planet, but you sure wouldn’t know it by their diet. Except for the fact that what they do eat, they eat by the tons. You see, whale sharks eat creatures like plankton and krill, which are so tiny they can fit inside that tiny throat of theirs.

4. Whale sharks aren’t dangerous –

Yes, despite their enormous mouths and thousands of teeth, whale sharks pose no risk to humans. With a diet limited to tiny micro-organisms, you’re definitely not on the menu. Plus, with an average swim speed of 3 mph and already accustomed to swimming alongside humans, these gentle giants are very docile creatures. In other words, swimming with whale sharks in Cancun is perfectly fine!

5. Whale sharks migrate thousands of miles each year in search of food –

Whale sharks like to travel. In fact, they spend most of their lives on the move. Although much is still unknown about these gentle giants, some biologists think whale sharks are solitary creatures that migrate toward where they can find food. That’s why you’ll spot them every year between Mexico’s Holbox Island, in the Gulf of Mexico, and Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun. That’s where they feast on plankton and the eggs of tuna fish, among other marine-based munchies.

6. Whale sharks have more than 3,000 teeth –

The fact that these ocean titans have more than 3,000 teeth is impressive. Even more so when you consider that, as filter fish, they don’t eat with their teeth. So what are they good for, you ask? Not much really — at least as far as scientists know. And if you can’t see them in the picture, it’s because each tooth is approximately the size of a match tip

7. Whale sharks are one of the least understood and researched sea creatures –

Whale sharks can measure up to 65 feet in length, weighing more than 12 tons. You would think that something so big and so majestic would be well-studied, with much known about their migration patterns, reproduction cycles and behaviors. In fact, the opposite is true. For instance, whale shark migratory patterns are still widely unknown, and not once have they ever been seen giving birth or mating.

8. No two whale sharks have the same dot patterns –

Like snowflakes or finger prints, yet another fascinating aspect of these beautiful creatures is that no two whale sharks are alike. In fact, each whale shark has its own distinctive pattern of white dots spread throughout its body.

9. Whale sharks are a vulnerable species –

Whale sharks are not considered an endangered species, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified them as being a vulnerable species. This means that they are at high risk of extinction.  Their principal risk factors include the international demand for shark products and environmental degradation because of issues like oil spills and over-fishing.

10. There are rules to swimming with whale sharks in Cancun –

While it’s extremely safe to swim with whale sharks, certain rules do exist in order to conserve the species and protect all those involved. For instance, to touch a whale shark is prohibited, and you should always maintain at least a 6-foot distance from the head and 12 feet from the tail. Make sure you follow all the instructions provided by your guide, who will provide you with all you need to know to enjoy a fun and safe experience swimming with whale sharks in Cancun.

11. The largest congregation of whale sharks in the world happens off the coast of Cancun –

There are tourist projects in place at locations where whale sharks are found, like the Marshall Islands, the Philippines, Los Cabos, Belize, Honduras and Australia, just to name a few. But nowhere else in the world do so many come together at once like off the coast of Cancun. For several years now, hundreds of whale sharks can be spotted at a place called “Las Afueras” (the outer areas). It’s here where you can witness a truly spectacular feat of Mother Nature — a whale shark feeding frenzy.

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