Natural Habitat Adventures

Swimming with Mexico's Whale Sharks

Itinerary

Itinerary Map
Day 1: Cancun, Mexico / Puerto Morelos
Our whale shark tour begins on arrival at the Cancun airport, where you are met and transferred to our oceanfront hotel on a quiet stretch of the Riviera Maya. Enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with our Expedition Leader this evening.

Day 2: Cenote Swim / Isla Holbox
After breakfast, we drive three hours north, bound for Holbox Island. En route, stop at a freshwater cenote, among the Yucatan’s most enticing natural wonders, where those who wish can enjoy a refreshing swim in this deep pool of crystal-clear water. Cenotes, fed by subterranean rivers, were sacred to the Maya as entrances to the mythical underworld, and their only source of fresh water in the jungle. Along the way, we stop in a Maya community for a picnic lunch. Once we reach the north coast of the peninsula, board a ferry for the short ride to Holbox Island, a tranquil haven known for its pristine beaches, white sand streets and abundant fresh seafood, the mainstay of the small fishing village of Holbox that is the only settlement on the island. Our hotel, set among gardens dotted with palm trees, fronts an inviting sandy beach.

Day 3: Swimming with Whale Sharks / Isla de Los Pajaros
After a light breakfast early this morning, we set off in search of the whale sharks that migrate to these Caribbean waters each summer. We generally find them 20–25 miles offshore, so our boat ride can take up to two hours. Once we locate the whale sharks, we enter the water two at a time with our Expedition Leader, who helps us swim within arm's reach of them. These gentle giants aren't actually whales at all, despite their enormous size—they are the world's biggest fish, reaching up to 45 feet in length and weighing some 15 tons. As filter feeders, they subsist on plankton that floats near the water's surface, and their distinctive gray and white patterned skin markings make them easily visible. To be in the sea with these enormous, placid creatures is an experience many describe as life-altering. Once we're back to Holbox Island this afternoon, we make another offshore excursion by motorboat to Isla de Los Pajaros, a protected mangrove island that is a nesting sanctuary for flamingos, pelicans, herons, frigatebirds and cormorants.

Day 4: Swimming with Whale Sharks / Isla Holbox Tour
A second excursion offshore offers another wondrous encounter with the whale sharks. With a maximum of just eight guests in our boat, we have a peaceful, personalized experience that few visitors who come to see whale sharks experience. After lunch, set out for some further exploration of Holbox Island. Our guides have years of experience discovering the hidden corners of Holbox, and they know just where to take us to observe local wildlife and tropical birds in their natural environment, when afternoon weather conditions permit. Should we encounter one of the frequent squalls that sometimes move in later in the day, we'll focus on a cultural experience with the island's hospitable inhabitants. 

Day 5: Puerto Morelos
We leave the languid charms of  Holbox Island behind this morning as we ferry back to the mainland to return to our beachfront hotel. Here, a submarine paradise awaits, with a chance to snorkel over the world's second-largest coral reef, located right in front of our hotel. This is the northern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that stretches more than 600 miles to Belize, and this intricate underwater ecosystem abounds with diverse tropical marine life. Along with colorful coral and huge schools of fish, we're likely to see rays and sponges in the transparent Caribbean waters. Like most of the world's coral reefs, this fragile ecosystem is threatened by human impacts of pollution and global warming, and we leave more conscious of the critical need to protect its astounding biodiversity. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner with our Expedition Leader.

Day 6: Puerto Morelos / Cancun / Depart
Our whale shark adventure comes to a close this morning as we leave the Riviera Maya to transfer to Cancun airport for departing flights.

Physical Rating: Moderate / Flexible

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