Whale Shark Festival, Isla Mujeres, Mexico

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    Swimming with Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

    © Mike Johnston via Flickr

    Da-nuh. Da-nuh. Da-nuh-da-nuh-da-nuh-da-nuh. Sound familiar? Think Jaws, the shark-based thriller that had people on the edge of their seats with a now-famous theme indicating a sure attack on an unsuspecting victim. Now imagine that shark again, only bigger.

    At the annual Whale Shark Festival in Isla Mujeres, Mexico, huge sharks are hardly a product of the imagination. On the contrary, the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the world’s largest fish species, averages 40 feet long and 20.6 tons. Concerned yet? How about if a whole fleet of them showed up at one beach, where innocent swimmers spend their days basking in the sun and splashing in the cool Mexican Caribbean waves? What if it was one of the largest gatherings of sharks at one spot, at one time, in the world?

    Scared yet? Don’t be.

     

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    Whale Sharks are the Gentle Giants of the Caribbean

    swimming with whale sharks, Isla Mujeres

     

    Whale sharks, though they may look intimidating, feed on plankton, and the Whale Shark Festival is held to celebrate these gentle giants and raise awareness of marine ecosystem preservation and conversation. Known by locals as “Dominos” for their spotted exterior, these bus-sized beasts are well-tempered creatures that have been known to give rides to willing swimmers, much like their distant relative, the dolphin.

    Held each June, the Whale Shark Festival offers tourists an opportunity to swim among these friendly sharks. Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun, also hosts International Whale Shark Day, when researchers from around the world gather to discuss findings and scientific studies revolving around these magnificent ocean-dwellers.

    Whale shark season in the Mexican Caribbean runs from May through September, so if you miss the festival you can still swim with the sharks by booking a trip with companies like Ceviche Tours in Cancun or Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Tours.