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 largest fish. We enter the water with them in pairs, alongside our Expedition Leader, for a low-impact encounter. Docile and unafraid, they allow us to swim close enough to observe the checkerboard pattern of pale white 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.
Meet Whale Sharks Up CloseAlongside our naturalist Expedition Leaders, swim with enormous friendly whale sharks as we make multiple excursions by boat in the warm Caribbean waters
Stay on a Small, Peaceful IslandExplore idyllic Isla Holbox, a traditional fishing community with streets of white sand and virtually no cars, in contrast to the crowded resorts down the Yucatan coast
Enjoy Birding & SnorkelingVisit Isla de Los Pajaros—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 to 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.
The Best Guide-to-Guest Ratio You'll Find—Average 7 Guests Per Boat!
Our small group means we have the best guide-to-guest ratio of any whale shark tour out there, with no more than seven guests enjoying the personalized service of a naturalist Expedition Leader. Depending on our group size, which will never exceed 14, we may travel with two Expedition Leaders, dividing up into two smaller groups of no more than six per boat—meaning that you'll experience an exceptional level of care, service and interpretation, plus more time in the water with the whale sharks than a typical tour gets.
Experienced Guides Who are Whale Shark Experts Nat Hab has a global reputation for hiring the world’s best naturalist guides. Our two Nat Hab 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.
An Eco-Conscious Approach
Unlike some tour operators, we are committed to a responsible, low-impact presence that prioritizes the well-being of the whale sharks. Where we travel, boats are spread out to each spend time with its “own” pod of fish. Taking turns, we permit just two snorkelers in the water at a time, accompanied by an Expedition Leader.
A Well-Rounded Itinerary of Diverse Nature Highlights Though whale sharks are our main focus, we don’t miss other highlights on idyllic 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 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 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!