Swimming with Giants

Swimming with Giants

Face-to-face with the world’s biggest fish: the whale shark.

Out of the clear water, you’ll see them appear slowly—at first, just a darker spot against a plan of unbroken blue. Slowly, they clarify and resolve into grey-and-white spotted mammoths. These gentle giants are whale sharks, the largest known species of fish in the sea. And they’re right next to you.

Between the islands of Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, whale sharks visit the warm, clear waters from June to September. Though they are docile and pose no threat to snorkelers, as you get near to these behemoths, you may feel that combination of fascination and fear at simply being so close to such imposing creatures. At up to 41 feet long and 47,000 pounds, swimming with a whale shark is swimming with a creature the size of an average bus. And it’s precisely how you’d imagine: you feel quite small and are fully aware that you’re in a world where you’re not in charge. It’s a wonderfully freeing experience.

Whale sharks are filter feeders with hugely gaping mouths to scoop up tons of tiny creatures, including plankton, krill and algae. So while they may have the word “shark” in their name, you can forget about sharp teeth and ferocious appetites. The biggest danger whale sharks pose is a smack from a giant fin or tail. But since the rules state you must stay at least seven feet from the wild whale sharks, you’re really in no danger of that.

It’s no exaggeration to say that coming face-to-face with these prehistoric fish is life-changing. Both exhilarating and peaceful, there’s really nothing else in the world like it.

From June to September, arrange your whale shark excursion from Cancun, the Riviera Maya, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel via Lomas Travel and Funjet Vacations.

Lisa Lach

Lisa Lach is a Contributing Writer for Here & Beyond, where she covers vacation trends and in-depth explorations of top destinations. She has a background in content development and social media for travel and tourism brands including Funjet Vacations, Weddings by Funjet and the Funjet Insider. Lisa holds a BA in English with a creative writing emphasis from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has always had the travel bug and has visited Cancun and the Riviera Maya, Mexico; Samaná and Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; Rincón and San Juan, Puerto Rico; London, England; Rome, Italy; Santorini, Greece; San Lucas Tolimán, Guatemala; and many U.S. cities.