Everything you need to know about Whale Sharks in Cancun

Everything you need to know about Whale Sharks in Cancun

Here are some interesting facts about swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun, Isla Mujeres or Holbox.

Is it SAFE to swim with Whale Sharks? That’s always the first question!

But the most important thing you need to know before booking a Whale Shark tour is: how much swimming time will you get?!

Have a look a the facts below, taking an informed decision is a choice that you can make, once you have all the information related to this bucket list adventure. Then you can decide which choice is the best for you.

When you take a regular Whale Shark tour, participants will have 1 or 2 chances of swimming. This means only two rounds of 1 or 2 minutes each time. The total time would be 2 to 4 minutes in the water with the gentle giants. That doesn’t sound like enough time!

Most experienced travelers recommend booking a Private Whale Shark Tour. With a Private Boat and your personal tour guide you will be able to enjoy all the time you want to spend swimming with Whale Sharks. A Private Tour means that there are no strangers in your group,  just you and the people you love. This activity is perfect if you share the boat with your family and friends.

When is the best time to go on a whale shark tour in Cancun?
Is it safe to swim with whale sharks?
Can you touch or ride a Whale Shark?
How far are the whale sharks located?
Are Whale Sharks considered Whales or Sharks?
How long does a whale shark tour usually last?
How big are the whale sharks?
Are whale sharks carnivores?
Is a Private Tour better than a shared group tour?
What should I bring on a whale shark tour?
What happens if I don’t see any whale sharks on the tour?

Private Whale Shark Tours - Cancun by The Custom Tour
Private Whale Shark Tours – Cancun by The Custom Tour


When is the best time to go on a Whale Shark tour in Cancun?

The best time to go on a Whale Shark tour in Cancun is between June and early- September. This is the time of the year when big groups of Whale Sharks migrate to the feeding area, located nearby Isla Mujeres, Holbox and Contoy Island, in Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Is it safe to swim with Whale Sharks?

Swimming with Whale Sharks is generally safe as long as you follow the guidelines set by the tour operators and respect the animals. Our boats and captains are licensed and properly trained in order to provide a safe and enjoyable experience.

Can you touch or ride a Whale Shark?

It is not allowed to touch or ride a Whale Shark during any tour. Whale Sharks are gentle giants and are not harmful to humans, but they are still wild animals and should be treated with respect and care. Touching or riding a Whale Shark causes stress to the animal, which can affect its behavior and health. It is important to maintain a safe and respectful distance from the Whale Sharks during the tour, and to follow the guidelines set by the marine park to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for both the tourists and the Whale Sharks.

How far are the Whale Sharks located?

On a good day, it takes 45 minutes to 1 hour to reach the Whale Shark feeding area by boat (28-30ft), and the distance can be around 20 to 25 miles (30 to 40 kilometers). The time between the marina in Cancun and the Whale Shark area can vary depending on the day’s sighting and the current migration patterns. We will provide private transportation to the marina from your hotel in Cancun or Playa del Carmen, as part of My Private Whale Shark Safari.

Are Whale Sharks considered Whales or Sharks?

Based on their anatomical characteristics and reproductive biology, Whale Sharks are classified as a type of shark, the largest living species of fish, and not a mammal. Their scientific name is Rhincodon typus.

Whale sharks are classified as sharks because they share anatomical features with other members of the shark family, such as a cartilaginous skeleton, five gill slits on the sides of their heads, and a streamlined body shape. Whale Sharks are fish, and therefore obtain oxygen via their gills. They have no physiological requirement to breath at the surface, unlike whales and dolphins.

Despite their name, whale sharks are not mammals. Whale Sharks are ovoviviparous. Unlike most marine animals that lay their eggs, the eggs of a Whale Shark hatch within the parent in the form of egg capsules. Once it is out of the capsule, the young shark continues to be nourished inside the mother. Only when the baby sharks are nourished enough does the mother give birth to its live young.

How long does a Whale Shark tour usually last?

A typical whale shark tour in Cancun lasts from 4 to 6 hours. Private Tours include transportation, snorkeling with the Whale Sharks, and eating fresh fish ceviche while relaxing onboard, at the famous Playa Norte in Isla Mujeres. The most important thing you need to know before booking a Whale Shark tour is how much swimming time you will get! If you are on a shared tour most likely you will be able to spend two swimming rounds of 1 minute each time. This means you will spend only 2 or 3 minutes in the water with these gentle giants. By booking a Private Whale Shark Tour you will be able to enjoy all the time you want swimming with Whale Sharks. Remember a Private Tour means there is no strangers in your group, only you and your party.

How big are the Whale Sharks?

Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the world. They grow up to 40 feet (12 meters) long and weigh up to 20 tons (40,000 pounds). They have a broad, flattened head, a wide mouth, and distinctive markings on their skin that resemble a checkerboard pattern. Despite their size, whale sharks are filter feeders, and feed mostly on plankton, small fish, and crustaceans. Swimming with these gentle giants is an incredible experience, and is a popular activity in places like Cancun, Mexico or Ningaloo Reef, Australia, where they congregate in large numbers.

Are Whale Sharks carnivores?

Whale Sharks are filter feeders, which means they are not carnivores. They primarily feed on plankton and very small fish. They filter large amounts of water, extracting their food as they swim. Although they are the largest fish in the world and have a wide mouth, their relatively small throat limits the size of what they can consume. Therefore Whale Sharks are not a threat to humans.

Is a Private Tour better than a shared group tour?

Definitely! We will pick you up right at your hotel, taking the fastest route straight to the marina. Your boat and captain will be waiting for you. Of course we consider restrooms and coffee stops requested by our guests. Our logistics will help you save precious vacation time by getting you there early morning. There will be more chances to spot Whale Sharks in the morning due to their feeding behavior.

You will be able to swim with Whale Sharks as much as you want, instead of a limited amount of times (group tours usually offer two rounds maximum per person). With our private tour you will spend the time you need in the water. The one and only swim until you drop experience! Our aim is to use the time in the most optimal way. Avoid the crowds and book your Private Whale Shark Safari by The Custom Tour.

What should I bring on a Whale Shark tour?

You should bring swimwear, reef safe sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, a towel, and a change of clothes. The boat crew will provide snorkeling equipment and a life jacket. Don’t forget to bring your underwater camera! Tour Guides also wear a short wetsuit or a SPF snorkeling rash guard to keep themselves protected from the sun.

What happens if I don’t see any Whale Sharks on the tour?

Sightings cannot be guaranteed. Whale Sharks are wild animals and their presence can vary depending on various factors. Tides and other weather conditions may affect this activity. There are chances of spotting other marine life from the boat, such as: dolphins, sea turtles or even manta-rays.

Private Whale Shark Tour - Cancun by The Custom Tour
Private Whale Shark Tour – Cancun by The Custom Tour


Where to swim with Whale Sharks in Cancun?

2 Responses
  1. Anne Palsgaard

    We had a great experience with the Custom Tour and would recommend it to anyone. My mom is scared of the ocean and my brother is hesitant, I am the only one who is an avid snorkeler/free diver. So i was so suprised that the crew and team felt them feel so comfortable that they went in diving with the whale sharks several times with me! It was an easy boat trip out to the whale sharks and the guide was very knowledgeable and caring. She made us feel safe the whole time and this is probably the only tour where you get the whole boat to yourself. So you can dive in as often as you like. I thought the rate was affordable because if you split it evenly with just a few other people it comes to be the same price as a crowded public tour, except this is private. The crew also got many professional underwater photos of us (free!) so that we can share and always remember this experience!

  2. Lynn Gilbert

    If you truly want to get the BEST possible experience snorkeling alongside whale sharks, CHOOSE THIS COMPANY. I don’t typically use a lot of annoying capital letters, but the difference I saw necessitates this kind of drama.
    Our guide has tremendous knowledge of the ocean, sea life (species in both English and Spanish), and understands whale shark behavior. He will get you alongside as many as you have energy for. I jumped in 6-10 times and swam with an average of 3-4 each time. Here’s why this company stands out: on group tours, you typically get 2 jumps TOTAL, likely with a single animal. You’re done. Next. If this experience really matters to you, book The Custom Tour.

    The skill, knowledge, and warmth of this team will win you over from the first “Hola!” I do hope you get Kat, who is charming and open hearted, playfully fun but not silly. Her broad life experience makes for quite interesting conversation. She serves with such kindness and attention, you’ll be instant friends.
    Our Capitan was an excellent boatman. He manages waves with such facility. Sea sickness was never a concern for either of us. Plus, we had fabulous weather. He knows just the timing to get you in just the right place to intercept the whale shark’s trajectory without disturbing the animal. When you are done swimming all around, you’ll look up and he’s right there, ready to pick you up for a rest.
    You’ll wind down in calm turquoise waters off Isla Mujeres, paddling around while the crew prepares delicious fresh ceviche and guacamole. It’s a peaceful, scenic way to reflect on your private experience.

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