Swimming with Mexico's Whale Sharks
Swim and Snorkel with These Gentle Giants, Which Are Actually the World's Largest Fish!
Just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is a small island largely untouched by tourism, despite its proximity to Cancún. Isla Holbox might go unnoticed entirely, except for some unique visitors who come to its warm ocean waters each summer. Their presence is hard to ignore, since they average 40 feet long and weigh 15 tons. These are gentle whale sharks—not whales at all, despite their size, but actually the world’s largest fish. Docile and unafraid, they allow us to swim close enough to observe the checkerboard pattern of pale yellow dots and stripes covering their thick gray skin.
- Alongside our naturalist Expedition Leaders, swim with enormous, friendly whale sharks – the world’s biggest fish!
- Explore idyllic Holbox Island, a traditional fishing community with streets of white sand and virtually no cars
- Visit Isla de los Pájaros – “Bird Island” – teeming with frigates, flamingos, pelicans, herons and egrets, and snorkel over the world's second-largest barrier reef
What Makes Our Whale Shark Adventure Better than the Rest?
Few nature aficionados will ever have the chance to see, let alone swim with, a whale shark. That's because few adventure travel companies are passionate enough about nature to offer this rare opportunity. We do — and we do it in a way that offers a far superior experience to other whale shark trips:
- A More Remote Location for Intimate Wildlife Encounters
The few tour operators who visit whale sharks off the Yucatan do so mostly from mainland tourist resorts like Cancun and Playa del Carmen—not exactly Nat Hab's style! We, on the other hand, avoid the mega-resorts, basing ourselves on remote Holbox Island from which we visit a lesser-known group of whale sharks, far from tourist crowds. Plus, Holbox Island itself is a delightful, little-visited locale that adds greatly to our experience.
- An Eco-Conscious Approach
Unlike some tour operators, we are committed to a responsible, low-impact presence that prioritizes the wellbeing of the whale sharks. Where we travel, boats are spread out and each spends time with its “own” pod of sharks. Taking turns, we permit just two snorkelers in the water at a time, accompanied by an Expedition Leader.
- Small Groups for the Best Guide-to-Guest Ratio
Our small group means we have the best guide-to-guest ratio of any whale shark adventure offered, with just eight guests enjoying the personalized service of a dedicated Expedition Leader. Depending on our group size—which will never exceed 15—we may travel with two Expedition Leaders, meaning that you'll experience an exceptional level of care, service and interpretation. You won’t find a smaller group with which to share this out-of-the-way nature adventure!
- Experienced Guides Who are Whale Shark Experts!
NHA has a global reputation for hiring the world’s best naturalist guides. Our two NHA Expedition Leaders who have long guided this trip have more than 19 years’ experience each and are among Mexico’s foremost authorities on whales and whale sharks. In addition, we are accompanied by experienced local guides, whose presence allows us to offer extra assistance in the water for those who need more support while snorkeling. Other companies' whale shark trips typically include only the local guides—not a dedicated naturalist leader throughout. See Expedition Leader bios with traveler comments regarding the quality of our expert guides.
- A Well-Rounded Itinerary of Diverse Nature Highlights
Though whale sharks are our main focus, we don’t miss other highlights of idyllic Holbox Island and the Yucatan coast. From exploring the mangroves of Isla de los Pájaros, teeming with shore birds and seabirds, to swimming in a freshwater cenote and snorkeling over the barrier reef, we experience a thrilling array of tropical nature adventures during our compact Mexico journey.
- An Uncompromising Commitment to Safety & Training
Our boat drivers and local guides are certified by the Mexican national park system, each year undergoing a refresher course about whale sharks as well as marine regulations—this is not the case with many of the local operators that other U.S.-based tour companies use in this area.
- We Guarantee Your Special Whale Shark Experience
With Natural Habitat Adventures, you receive our exclusive quality and value guarantee: that we will meet the lofty expectations we establish in our promotional materials. To our knowledge, this is the most ambitious guarantee made by any adventure travel company. Read our important promise.
- Feel Good About the Way You Travel
We all care about the planet, and when you travel with us, you can know that the emissions from your trip are 100% carbon-offset – Natural Habitat Adventures is the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company.
- Natural Habitat Adventures is World Wildlife Fund's Travel Partner
Because of our commitment to environmentally conscious travel, as well as the outstanding quality of our worldwide adventures, World Wildlife Fund, the world's leading environmental conservation organization, has named Natural Habitat as its worldwide travel partner, a designation that makes us exceedingly proud!
Longitude Books has created a custom comprehensive listing of Mexico's Extraordinary Whale Sharks travel books
for this trip.