In 2008, a group of over 40 whale shark experts at the International Whale Shark Conference in Isla Holbox decided that August 30th should be dedicated to celebrating whale sharks, educating people about them and promoting their conservation.  So began International Whale Shark Day.

Swimming with whale sharks is a life-changing experience, but it must be done responsibly.  Mexico’s whale shark tourism industry has grown significantly in the last several years, increasing from just a few hundred tourists annually to over 12,000 per year. This puts enormous stress on the whale shark population.  WWF Travel Program wrote a wonderful article on responsible whale shark tourism.  Check it out to learn how to swim with whale sharks responsibly.

Swimming with whale sharks

As an ode to these gentle giants, we wanted to share 7 fun facts about whale sharks.  All facts were gathered from WWF’s whale shark page.

Whale Shark Fact #1: Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet.

Whale Shark Fact #2: Whale sharks are in no way related to whales. Although they are sharks, they are very docile and pose no real threats to humans.

Whale Shark Isla Holbox

Whale Shark

Whale Shark Fact #3: Whale sharks can reach up to 14m (46 feet!) in length.

Whale Shark Fact #4: Whale sharks can weigh up to 12 tons. That’s 24,000 pounds or nearly 11,000 kilos!!

Whale Shark Isla Holbox

Whale Shark Fact #5: Whale sharks are filter feeders and sieve plankton through their gills for much of their nourishment. They also sieve squid, krill, and small fish.

Whale Shark Fact #6: Whale sharks have about 3,000 tiny teeth (less than 6mm long) but they don’t use those teeth to eat.

Swim with whale sharks

Whale Shark Fact #7: Whale sharks aren’t the fastest swimmers, reaching speeds no higher  than 5 kmph. They swim by moving  their bodies from side to side, unlike other sharks like the great white, who just use their tails to swim.

Ready to swim with whale sharks now?  Check out our tour Swimming with Mexico’s Whale Sharks and our other Mexico and Central America tours here: