Swimming with the biggest fish in the world – the whale shark

Mexico Holbox mapSo far in my travels, the whale watching trip I did in Holbox, Mexico has been my absolute highlight. The. Best. Day. Ever. So many whale sharks in one place! Getting so close to them! Such stunning animals!

Like always with wild animals, you need a bit of luck to be blessed with that special moment. A whale shark encounter is always something extraordinary. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world – up to 16 meters long! They are super friendly, super cute and just massive! They feed on plankton (and look too cute while doing so). As huge as they are, they are not dangerous at all.

How to behave in the water – if you are a whale shark

Swim with your mouth open at all times to maximize your plankton intake and to look extra funny and cute for the humans. Aim to show up at the same spot between May and September every year, but you don’t need to be on time, as it will be extra exciting for the humans if they feel special to have encountered you.

How to behave in the water – if you are a human

  • Everybody wears a life jacket, because no diving is allowed around whale sharks. Buhu you think – but actually – the whale sharks stays on the surface while feeding and the life jacket makes it very relaxing to be able to just float around, observing them.
  • No touching. We don’t want to transfer our germs to their world. Or hurt them. Because we care about them.
  • No feeding. Duh. Wild animals are perfectly capable to find food on their own. Food that is good for them. By feeding them we change their behavior. Also the animals becomes dependent on people and we end up with a zoo like experience.
  • In-the-water-time is limited to ten minutes with all the companies in Yucatan, Mexico. Yes, that is short, but just enjoy it while it lasts! Oh yeah you will. You get good views from the boat, too. There are a lot of people that want to see the large fish, so it would not be possible to let everybody take their time.

Where to meet whale sharks

Be careful when choosing your whale shark tour operator, as there are several places in the world where they for example feed whale sharks and/or where it is possible to touch them. A big warning for example for Oslob in the Philippines. In Mexico however, the tours are strongly regulated. In Mexico Holbox is the place where you have the shortest time in the boat, meaning it is closest to the whale shark spot (but still it is a long ride). This means also that it is cheaper to go from here. Holbox is a really nice little island with excellent beaches, tons of flamingos and a great little village.

When you can hang out with whale sharks in Mexico

Whaleshark season Holbox May–Sep

The whaleshark season is mid May to mid September. Remember that there are no guarantees, and the boat trip is long and boring if the whale sharks decides to wait until another day. However, if you are lucky and the whale sharks decides to show up – it will be amazing.

Bonus animals

Also competing for your attention in the water you can find gigantic manta rays doing amazing acrobatic tricks in the water. And if you go to/from Holbox there are hundreds of flamingos posing for you along the shore.

Where to stay

I stayed in a cheap place as usual, met amazing people – friends for life actually – and had the best time. If you, like me, travel on a budget, check out these offers for the best prices on accommodation.

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Good Things

  • Many whale sharks
  • Get close on their terms

Bad Things

  • Many boats
  • Long boat ride, short snorkel time



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