What Not to do When Swimming with Whale Sharks

Emily Deemer June 19, 2013 10

The video below of a teenage boy in Florida riding a whale shark is a perfect example of what NOT to do when swimming with whale sharks.  Chris Kreis, 19, seemed to have no qualms about hopping on and riding the 30-foot long, 50,000 pound whale shark for a good 20 seconds or so.  Kreis was a little too nonchalant in describing the experience to local news station NBC2:  “When I started holding on I felt the whale shark it started moving itself, it felt the drag and it didn’t really want me on there so I let go and that’s it.”

Riding a whale shark is not prohibited by law, but perhaps it should be, as it’s likely that the fish could have been injured from the boy’s ride.  “When people spend a lot of time and pressure on a fish it takes away a slime that covers the fish,” marine biologist Bruce Neill told NBC2. “They need that layer to stay healthy.”  The video went viral with over 500,000 hits on YouTube, but we are hoping all of the “shares” of the video will help spread the word that touching whale sharks is harmful to them.

If you want to swim with whale sharks in a responsible manner (no touching!), check out our whale shark tour off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula.

What do you think of this teen’s actions?  Should he have known better or does society need to do a better job educating people about how to behave around wildlife in its natural habitat?

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Natural Habitat Adventures guest swimming with whale sharks in Isla Holbox, Mexico.


  1. Lionwell March 26, 2015 at 4:02 am - Reply

    For me, you can touch a whale, but most people see it as entertainment. Whales are creatures with a “soul” and they sense the reason. It’s the same with humans, we wont let us get touched/hugged etc by the wrong people.

    • Andrew September 7, 2016 at 7:55 am - Reply

      This is a year and a half late, but this was not a whale, this was a fish, hence whale-SHARK. As a fish, it is hyper-sensitive to stress and change in its body pH, and the removal of even a bit of the slime on its body could cause an infection that the stress it was under might’ve not allowed it to fully recover from.

      Regardless, the ocean is their home, not ours. Do not approach unless approached. Same goes for any animal, really.

      • Kit October 22, 2016 at 12:16 am - Reply

        Did you know, that even though hsarks are fish, they do not have a layer of slime? Touch them and it feels like sandpaper in one direction. You might want to learn a bit about sharks before stating inncorrect facts.

  2. T April 14, 2014 at 7:05 pm - Reply

    It was a bad idea, but I do not want to make any rood comments. Yes, people should learn about respecting wildlife.

  3. Yashzer April 12, 2014 at 9:10 pm - Reply

    I wouldn’t blame the boy. Many people make mistakes with thing like this without noticing. I wouldn’t condemn him right away. Also he said he knows what’s wrong now atleast.

  4. Garyc March 20, 2014 at 10:50 am - Reply

    I think it was a silly thing too do but he is a young man and all young men do silly things at some point so just let him know he was silly and hope he has the common sense not too do it again the next time could be his last one hit off the tail of a whale shark could knock him out and he would have drowned

  5. Elisabeth Banks June 19, 2013 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    Absolute ignorance and arrogance. I say give them a taste of their own medicine. Let me be the whale

  6. Martine Felts June 19, 2013 at 4:00 pm - Reply

    You should never ever approach or touch wildlife. If they come up to you, just enjoy it. Kid should be condemn.

  7. Carl Stark June 19, 2013 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    It was the moment. I do not condemn or praise him.

    • Whalelover June 19, 2013 at 3:20 pm - Reply

      Sheer stupidity and totally only thinking of himself and not the animal. Um, yes, the shark of course did not want him on top of him.. so many people need to be educated about all wildlife. To me this seems like the kid just wanted to be ‘famous’ for doing it. I think he should have been fined!

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