We have talked about swimming with whale sharks for a couple of years now, since they congregate every summer in our back yard.
After talking with several people about going to Holbox or going to Isla Mujeres we chose Isla. Of course, it is closer to Cozumel, but the main reason was the chance that we would find the whale sharks in the Caribbean instead of the Gulf. That would mean clearer water.
We left Isla Mujeres with Seafarious Diving around 8:30 am and after about 50 minutes of full throttle cruising we encountered a large group of whale sharks(40 – 50) feeding on bonita fish eggs, plankton and krill. We were told to expect a lot of eggs in the water, since we were a few days away from a full moon. That was good, since it would mean a high concentration of sharks, but it would also mean decreased visibility in the Caribbean waters.
It was amazing. The whale sharks are large, graceful and magnificent. Making good photos is challenging, because they are busy feeding and mostly want to avoid goofy humans bobbing in the water. So, you wait until you see one or two heading on a course and you try to intercept them for a close encounter. Sometimes they hold their course and glide right by you. Other times, they change course and you find yourself swimming hard to chase shark tails.
For good, clear photos, you need to be close, but not too close, because they are 25 feet to 30 feet (8 to 10 meters) long. Underwater, the visibility was barely 20 feet, so there is a magic distance.
The photos were secondary, because the experience was unforgettable.
It was great to visit Isla Mujeres after a 13 year absence. The town is still laid back, with more restaurant options, and the beaches are pristine. There are a number of really nice looking private villas and the Avalon Reef Club is on it’s own little peninsula.
We had great meals at Barlito, Olivia and Las Brisas on the beach.
We look forward to returning next summer, if not sooner.