Once per year hundreds of Whale Sharks and Manta rays come to the coast of Isla Mujeres, which lies off the coast of Cancun, Mexico to feed on plankton brought together by the waters of the Caribbean sea and the Gulf of Mexico.
It is safe to say Isla Mujeres is 3 months per year a Whale Shark hotspot with a 99% chance to encounter one of these gentle giant in their natural habitat.
In order to protect the Whale Sharks and manta rays who migrate to these waters each there are some restrictions. One of them is you are not allowed to scuba dive within the predefined zone the where the Whale Sharks feed.
Swimming with Whale Sharks and large mantas is one of the goals of just about every serious scuba diver on the planet. These majestic creatures slowly and gracefully move through the water and being next to them can make you feel very small while giving you a new appreciation for all ocean life.
Check out this incredible aerial video and continue reading to learn more.
Manta's & Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres
Isla Mujeres is an ideal spot for all who want to be in the water with as many Whale Sharks and mantas as possible at the same time. When the summer season arrives, Whale Sharks congregate by the hundreds, forming one of the largest Whale Shark groups on the planet.
The manta rays that join the hundreds of Whale Sharks only add to the breathtaking experience, as they all circle one another as they feast upon the fish eggs and plankton in the water. There's nowhere else in the world where you can be in the water with so many mantas and Whale Sharks at the same time.
How to get to Isla Mujeres?
Isla Mujeres, which translates to Island of Women, is located in the Caribbean Sea and is a part of Isla Mujeres Municipality in Quintana Roo, Mexico. It's roughly 13km from the coast of Cancun. The island measures about 650 meters wide and 7km long.
There are two locations in Cancun from where you can get a ferry to Isla Mujeres.
- From Pueto Juarez/Gran Puerto Ferries - $70 Pesos (one-way) - roughly $5.50 USD
- Cancun Hotel Zone Ferries - $11 USD (one-way) or $17 USD (round-trip)
Click here for scuba dive operators in Cancun who offer Whale Shark trips to Isla Mujeres.
When can the Whale Sharks be found in Isla Mujeres?
The best time to visit Isla Mujeres to encounter Whale Sharks and Mantas is during the summer months of June through September. This is the time of year when the Whale Sharks will be making their way to the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula in order to feast in the warm waters.
The 2016 season starts on the first of June and the closing date of the season will be the 15th of September.
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Are you allowed to scuba dive with the Whale Sharks?
No, you are not. In fact, because the Whale Sharks and mantas remain at the surface in order to feed, you can get in the water with nothing more than a pair of fins and snorkel gear. There is a clear set of rules, and one of them is that you are not allowed with scuba gear in the water.
Other rules are:
- You are not allowed to feed the Whale Sharks
- You are not allowed to touch the Whale Sharks
- There must be a minimum distance of 2 meters between you and the shark
- You must use biodegradable sunblocks and oil only
- You are not allowed to jump from the boat and make a big splash
- You are not allowed to use flash photography
- You must wear a live jacket (You don't have to wear a life jacket if you are wearing a wetsuit)
Besides these "common sense" rules anyone who is comfortable swimming in deep waters can enjoy the experience that Isla Mujeres has to offer.
Would you like to swim with the Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres? Let us know in the comments below
Article written by Rutger Thole who is an avid scuba diver and loves to travel, dive and write about scuba diving. Based in Amsterdam he runs bookyourdive.com and at least twice a year he plans a dive trip of the beaten track.