Just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a small island untouched by mass tourism. Peaceful Isla Holbox might go unnoticed entirely, except for some high-profile visitors that frequent its warm ocean waters each summer. Averaging 40 feet long and weighing 15 tons, the whale sharks' presence is hard to ignore. These gentle filter-feeders are actually not whales at all, despite their size, but the world’s biggest fish! We enter the water with them in pairs, alongside our Expedition Leader, for a low-impact, close-up encounter. Docile and unafraid, they allow us to swim near enough to observe the checkerboard pattern of pale dots and stripes covering their thick gray skin. Their capacious mouths are 5 feet wide, and as we watch them swim with their jaws wide open to collect plankton, it's easy to imagine Jonah's fate. If you’re looking for a fish tale to top all others, this is it!
Ethical Whale Shark EncountersAlongside our naturalist guides, swim up close to gentle whale sharks on careful, low-impact encounters in warm Caribbean waters
Stay on a Small, Peaceful IslandExplore idyllic Isla Holbox, a traditional fishing community with streets of sand and few cars, in contrast to crowded Yucatan resorts
Excellent Birding & SnorkelingVisit Isla de Los Pajaros, teeming with frigates, flamingos, pelicans and more, and snorkel over the world's second-largest barrier reef
You'll Find No Better Whale Shark Adventure—Here's Why!
Few nature aficionados will ever have the chance to see, let alone swim with, a huge whale shark. But that's exactly what we offer, and we do it in a way that provides a far superior experience for both you and the whale sharks. Read on:
Responsible, Ethical Whale Shark Encounters
You will find plenty of other tour operators offering whale shark excursions off the Yucatan Peninsula, mostly from large mainland resort areas like Cancun and Playa del Carmen. And to be frank, most of them do not offer an eco-conscious experience. In many cases, their boats are crowded, and there may be dozens of people in the water with the whale sharks at the same time. In stark contrast, we're based on remote Holbox Island, where we visit a lesser-known group of whale sharks away from tourist crowds. We are committed to a low-impact presence that prioritizes the well-being of the whale sharks, using best practices as stipulated by WWF: Our boats are spread out so each spends time with its “own” pod of fish, and each boat stays a minimum of 10 meters from the whale sharks. Taking turns, we enter the water with just two snorkelers at a time, accompanied by an Expedition Leader who models proper behavior.
Holbox Island—A Quiet Base in Nature
Far from touristy mega-resorts, our home base is idyllic Holbox Island, a laid-back little outpost with uncrowded white sand beaches, one small fishing village and very few cars. The island, reachable only by small ferry, has an eco-conscious vibe that is palpable, and its residents have banned all single-use plastics as part of the local commitment to keeping beaches and marine environments pristine.
The Best Guide-to-Guest Ratio—No More than 8 Travelers Per Boat
Our small group size means we have the best guide-to-guest ratio of any whale shark tour on offer. Depending on our total group size, which will never exceed 14, we may travel with two Expedition Leaders, dividing into two boats with a maximum of seven per boat. This intimate context ensures an exceptional level of personalized care, service and interpretation, plus more time in the water with the whale sharks than you'd get on a standard tour.
Experienced Guides Who are Whale Shark Experts Nat Hab has a global reputation for hiring the world’s best naturalist guides. The two seasoned Nat Hab Expedition Leaders who guide this trip have 20 years’ experience each and are among Mexico’s foremost authorities on whales and whale sharks. We're also accompanied by experienced local guides, offering extra assistance in the water for those who need extra snorkeling support. See Expedition Leader bios with traveler comments regarding the quality of our expert guides.
A Well-Rounded Itinerary with Diverse Nature Highlights While whale sharks are our main focus, we add other highlights, too, on Holbox Island and the Yucatan coast. From exploring the mangroves of Isla de Los Pajaros, teeming with shorebirds and seabirds, to swimming in a freshwater cenote and snorkeling over the barrier reef, you'll enjoy an exhilarating array of tropical nature adventures on our compact itinerary.
An Uncompromising Commitment to Safety & Training
Our boat drivers and local guides are certified by the Mexican national park system, undergoing an annual 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 Your Carbon-Neutral Journey We care deeply about our planet, as we know you do. When you travel with us, the carbon emissions from your trip are 100% offset—including your round-trip flights from home. Natural Habitat Adventures has been the world’s first carbon-neutral travel company since 2007.
Natural Habitat Adventures is WWF'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 Adventures as its worldwide travel partner, a designation that makes us exceedingly proud!