Have you ever considered swimming with whale sharks in Cancun? Each year, from May to September, Cancun and the Riviera Maya play host to one of the most spectacular tours you’ll ever experience: the Cancun whale shark adventure!
#1 Whale sharks are actually sharks, not whales
Whales or sharks? Having both denominations in their name, it’s a hard guess. Because of their size, many would and have said that they are whales. But they aren’t whales at all. They’re sharks. And in spite of their thousands of teeth, they’re no threat to humans.
#2 Whale sharks have throats the size of a quarter
While a whale shark’s mouth can be as large five feet (!) in diameter, that big opening that many of us could almost fit inside leads funnel-like to a very tight esophagus—the size of a U.S. quarter!
#3 Despite their enormous size, their diet is made up of small micro-organisms
They may be the biggest fish on the planet, but you sure wouldn’t know it by their diet. Except for the fact that what they do eat they eat by the tons. You see, whale shark eat things like plankton and krill, which are so tiny they can fit inside that tiny throat of theirs.
#4 Whale sharks aren’t dangerous
Yes, despite their enormous mouths and thousands of teeth, whale sharks pose no risk to humans. With a diet limited to tiny micro-organisms, you’re definitely not on the menu. Plus, with an average swim speed of 3 m.p.h. and already accustomed to swimming alongside humans, these gentle giants are very docile creatures. In other words, swimming with whale sharks in Cancun is perfectly fine!
#5 Whale sharks migrate thousands of miles each year in search of food
Whale sharks like to travel. In fact, they spend most of their lives on the move. Although much is still unknown about these gentle giants, it is thought that whale sharks are solitary creatures that migrate according to where the food is to be found. That’s why you’ll find them every year between Mexico’s Holbox Island in the Gulf of Mexico, and Isla Mujeres, off the coast of Cancun, feasting on plankton and the eggs of tuna fish, among other marine-based munchies.
#6 Whale sharks have over 3,000 teeth
The fact that these ocean titans have over 3,000 teeth is impressive, but even more so when you consider that, as filter fish, they don’t eat with their teeth. So what, you ask, are they good for? Not much really, at least as far as scientists know. And if you can’t see them in the picture, it’s because each tooth is approximately the size of a match tip.
#7 Whale sharks are one of the least understood and researched sea creatures
Whale sharks have been measured up to 65 feet in length and weighing in over 12 tons. You would think that something so big and so majestic would be well-studied, with much known about their migrations, reproduction and behavior. But in fact the opposite is true. For instance, whale shark migratory patterns are still widely unknown, and not once have they ever been seen giving birth or mating.
#8 No two whale sharks have the same dot patterns
Like snowflakes or finger prints, yet another fascinating aspect of these beautiful creatures is that no two whale sharks are alike. In fact, each whale shark has their own distinctive pattern of white dots spread throughout their bodies.
#9 Whale sharks are a vulnerable species
Whale sharks are not considered an endangered species, but the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified them as being a vulnerable species. This means that they are at high risk of extinction. Their principal risk factors include the international demand for shark products and environmental degradation due to things such as oil spills and over-fishing.
#10 There are rules to swimming with whale sharks in Cancun
While it is extremely safe to swim with whale sharks, certain rules do exist to make in order to conserve the species and protect all those involved. For instance, it is prohibited to touch a whale shark, and you should always maintain at least a two-meter distance from the head and four meters from the tail. Make sure you follow all the instructions provided by your guide, who will provide you with all you need to know to enjoy a fun and safe swimming with whale sharks in Cancun.
#11 The largest congregation of whale sharks in the world happens off the coast of Cancun
Whale sharks have been seen and there are even tourist projects in place at locations like the Marshall Islands, Los Cabos, the Philippines, Belize, Honduras and Australia, to name just a few. But nowhere else in the world do so many come together at once like off the coast of Cancun. For several years now, hundreds of whale sharks can be spotted at a place called “Las Afueras” (the outer areas). It is here where you can witness a truly spectacular feat of Mother Nature: a whale shark feeding frenzy.
Pre-book your whale shark tour online to guarantee your space and experience Cancun’s most awe-inspiring tours: swimming with whale sharks!
All images courtesy of Ecocolors and Synthia Meier (via Ecocolors)