Best Time to See Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico & Review?

Best Time to See Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico & Review?

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Jumping in the ocean with Whale sharks near Cancun can be both, a nerve-wracking and exhilarating experience. So, if you’ve ever dreamed of getting up close and personal with them, you know it can take a little time to research and prepare for it. But, more importantly, finding the best time to see Whale Sharks in Mexico.

Today’s post will delve into everything there is to know about Whale Sharks and the time of year to visit. As well as my personal experience, review of the tours, and where to book. Consequently, this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

So please read on below to find out everything you need to know!

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Best Time to See Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico?

The Best months to see Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres are when they’re migrating through, anytime between June and September each year. Although July and August seem to be when the whale shark numbers are at their highest, and you have a better chance to see them. 

Why are the Whale sharks around at this time? Well, they are chasing the increased plankton supply, which is a significant food source for them. This is why I chose Mexico for this experience, as there are hundreds in the water and the best opportunity to see at least one. 

Both Matt and I organised our visit to Isla Mujeres at the end of July and booked 3x day trips from the Island. Even though these are wild creatures, and you’re not guaranteed to see them, we were lucky to see plenty every day. Plus, the extra time in the water heightened the encounter and allowed us to fine-tune our photography. 

Something else you might like to consider is traveling within three days before and after a full moon. It’s not an exact science, but a variety of underwater creatures are more active during a lunar cycle. This could either be the Whale Sharks themselves or the plankton they are eating.

The July/August period was the best time for us to visit Mexico to swim with Whale Sharks
The July/August period was the best time for us to visit Mexico to swim with Whale Sharks

How to Book Whale Sharks Tours from Isla Mujeres or Cancun

Whether you’re staying at Cancun on the mainland or on the island of Isla Mujeres, there are no worries about getting Whale Shark Tour options. This includes Playa Del Carmen, Cozumel, Tulum, and other Islands like Holbox. 

➡  Check and compare prices for Whale Shark Tours from Cancan & Isla Mujeres HERE with Viator. Or you can find other options HERE with Get your Guide.

The boat tours take a little longer in some areas, but you still get to experience the same things as if you were staying on Isla Mujeres. Some of these tours could also include transportation from your Cancun accommodation.

Although there were at least a hundred boats in the water, they were spread out over many kilometres in the water. So it wasn’t overcrowded, and plenty of Whale Sharks in the water to share around. 

The Whale Sharks will move fast and glide right by you
The Whale Sharks will move fast and glide right by you

Review and my experience with Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres

This is something I’ll always remember and talk about it constantly to family and friends. If anyone asks what my favourite part of visiting Mexico is, it’s hard to choose, but swimming with the Whale Sharks is nearing the top of the list. 

We could jump in the ocean and observe the sharks as we watched them smoothly glide through the turquoise water. Despite their massive size, their friendly nature and gentle movements made us feel calm and connected with nature. Our tour only had about 8 passengers on board, so the numbers were limited and left more time in the water for you. 

Ours was a small boat tour with about 10 people
Ours was a small boat tour with about 10 people

The boat will manoeuvre in the path of an oncoming Whale Shark, and with your mask and snorkel fitted, two people will jump in the water. Although the Whale shark seems to move its tail very slowly, it doesn’t take long for it to glide right past you. A couple of minutes later, the boat will pick you up, and you take turns with the rest of the people on the boat.

Surprisingly, you had no hope of trying to keep up with them. I remember paddling furiously with my fins and barely getting 10 seconds near them before passing us. I guess that’s why the tour leaders drop you in the Whale Sharks’ path and allow them to swim right by you. 

This magical encounter was worth every penny, and if given the chance, we would do it all again without a doubt. Swimming with Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres was a remarkable memory that will stay with us forever. I truly believe if you’re either a seasoned snorkeler or someone who’s never even seen a fish before, this unbelievable activity will excite you.

Matt swimming right beside the Whale Shark in Isla Mujeres
Matt swimming right beside the Whale Shark in Isla Mujeres

How long is a Whale Shark Day Trip Tour?

It would be best if you allowed a whole day to enjoy the Whale Shark Tours leaving from the Yucatan area. This includes Cancun, Playa Del Carmen, Tulum or Isla Mujeres. The tour itself can take anything from 5 to 7 hours, but this depends on their other pickups and where you’re leaving from. 

➡  Check and compare prices for Whale Shark Tours from Cancan & Isla Mujeres HERE with Viator. Or you can find other options HERE with Get your Guide.

It took about 1 to 1.5 hours to travel each way from Isla Mujeres to the Whale Shark location. After a few hours out on the open water and taking turns in the water, we traveled back to Playa Norte beach on Isla Mujeres and had a late lunch in the shallow waters. Also, gives you a chance to jump in for a swim while lunch is prepared. Please click this link HERE to watch our experience on snorkelling with the Whale Sharks inn Isla Mujeres

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Best month to Swim with Whale Sharks in Mexico & Review?

What should you bring with you on a Whale Shark Tour?

If you plan to swim with whale sharks, you’ll surely want to capture the phenomenal experience! For that reason, it’s essential that you bring along a camera and/or a GoPro to snap photos and record videos of this tour. 

Some other thoughts on what to bring are as follows:

  • Bathers/Swimming costume
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • sick sickness tablets
  • Backpack to carry everything
  • Hat
  • Towel

Lastly, while snorkel and masks will usually be provided by the tour operator, if you want your own equipment, it would certainly be worth taking it with you! We did!

Is Lunch provided on the Tour?

Yes, lunch was provided on our tour and was one of my favourite Mexican dishes! What was it, you ask? Well, it was Ceviche, a popular dish made from fresh raw fish cured in fresh citrus juices like lemon or lime, Onions, salt, coriander, and other seasonings like chili peppers. Ours was also topped with some beautiful fresh avocado, just a perfect way to end the tour. 

I’m sure this is not the same food on every tour, but it was a fantastic addition to our experience!

Enjoy a local dish called Ceviche, on board the boat
Enjoy a local dish called Ceviche, on board the boat

How to Swim with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico is easy and is available for all ages, including children above 3 years old. However, please ensure that everyone has some basic swimming skills down. 

Everyone must wear a shortie wetsuit, which keeps you afloat, and lifejackets are also available. In addition, the Mask and Fins will be provided and help you swim and see the Whale Sharks under the water. 

If you have never snorkelled, I recommend trying it out before booking this tour. I’ve seen plenty of people panic, trying to breathe when putting their heads under the water. Therefore, some confidence that you’re OK will come in handy prior.

Very little swimming is involved due to the speed of these magnificent creatures. So, essentially, you just have to float until the boat picks you up again. 

Where is Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres is a small Island located approx. 36 kilometres (22 miles) or 1 hour off the coast of Cancun. This is on the eastern side of Mexico in the Quintana Roo Region. 

(Please click here for the Map Directory Link to open or apply directions from your location)

Map of Where is Isla Mujeres

How do I get to Isla Mujeres?

Flights to Cancun can happen from anywhere in the world, but some transfers might be needed. This is the closest spot to get to the beautiful island of Isla Mujeres. 

➡  Check and compare prices for your Flights on Expedia HERE

From the terminal, you will need to make your way to the Puerto Juarez Ferry Terminal. For ease, I took a private transfer from the Airport, but there are obviously taxis, Uber, and public transport options. 

The “Ultramar Isla Mujeres Ferry” leaves from this terminal roughly every half an hour between 5am and 8:30pm. Tickets will cost you about $16USD round trip and can be purchased right before you get on board.

Where to stay in Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres may be small, but its accommodations don’t have to be! From small guesthouses to large five-star resorts, the island has got something for every traveler. 

➡  Check and compare prices for Isla Mujeres Accommodation HERE with Staying in Cancun instead? Then, click HERE for their accommodations options.

So, whether you’re looking for a slap-dash getaway or something more luxurious and upmarket, there are a few places to choose from. I like to select my accommodation based on location, cost, and walking distance to where I need to go.

Wherever you decide to lay your head, you’ll be sure to find all the amenities and comforts without sacrificing that small island vibe.

How to Get around Isla Mujeres

The best way to get around Isla Mujeres is by scooter, motorbike, pushbike, or golf buggy. Like most tourist hubs, scooters are abundant and the most popular form of transport on the island. 

However, buggies are the second most popular and an alternative to cars or taxis. Both the scooters and buggies can be hired on the island when you get there.

Isla Mujeres is easy to walk around or with a golf buggy!
Isla Mujeres is easy to walk around or with a golf buggy!

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Is Swimming with Whale Sharks Worth it?

Absolutely yes, swimming with whale sharks is worth it! They seem to move effortlessly as they glide across the deep ocean waters. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about them, how they interact with humans, and how we can help protect their species from extinction. 

Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is unique and a lot more ethical than other interactions around the world. There aren’t many opportunities like this in life, and sharing a few moments in the water with these gentle giants is a memory that will last a lifetime.

➡  Check and compare prices for Whale Shark Tours from Cancan & Isla Mujeres HERE with Viator. Or you can find other options HERE with Get your Guide.

Tour ends with swimming on Playa Norte Beach, Isla Mujeres
Tour ends with swimming on Playa Norte Beach, Isla Mujeres

Safety to consider swimming with Whale Sharks

Whale Sharks Isla Mujeres are wild creatures you’re swimming with, and there are some things you need to do for your own safety and to limit the environmental impact of the tour.

  • Wear a short wetsuit to keep you buoyant. You’re in open water, and you are nowhere near the bottom.
  • Wear a full bodysuit. Consider protecting your skin from Jellyfish, Coral spawn, or particles in the water that might react to your skin. This is not needed for everyone, but based on personal experience and getting a slight rash afterward!
  • Stay out of the direct path of the Whale shark, and don’t get too close. Even their massive tails could swipe a person and send you spinning. Let them feed and you can easily admire them from a small distance.
  • Take precautionary methods for Seasickness. You are going into open water and will be out there for hours. Nothing spoils a tour more than being seasick the whole time.
  • Don’t touch any wild animals. You need to limit the ethical and environmental effects of doing this activity. 
  • Take lots of sunscreen – You are in a small boat and in the sun a lot.

What are Whale Sharks

These might very well be a part of the Shark family and could be one of the largest animals you will see in your lifetime. However, you have absolutely nothing to fear with these beautiful creatures as they aren’t interested in humans. 

They are the biggest fish in the ocean growing up to 12 metres (40 feet) long and having a 70-year lifespan. But can you also believe that they can weigh up to 20 tonnes, roughly the size of a school bus?

They inhabit tropical and warm-temperate seas like what you get off the coast of Mexico. Primarily pelagic, this means that they live in the open sea but not in the greater depths of the ocean. They are known as filter feeders, and the spawning of coral and plankton blooms appears to control their movement around the world.

Much like human fingerprints, the white spot markings and patterns on a Whale Shark are very unique. Their heads are flattened and have large mouths that could be 1.5 metres(5 feet) wide. The colours on their back or side vary from grey to brown, and their bellies are white. Like other sharks, they also have rows of teeth but don’t use them.

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico
Swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico

Do you Snorkel or Dive with the Whale sharks?

The Whale shark experience in Mexico is only snorkelling since the water is too deep for diving. This means it’s open to everyone who can swim, and you don’t need a diving certification. 

But if Diving is more your cup of tea, one also has the option to dive with Whale Sharks in Oslob, Philippines. The Whale Sharks congregate in shallower waters and make it easier to dive. 

Snorkelling or diving, both experiences are absolutely unforgettable, so why not make a vacation out of both? No matter which option you choose, swimming with the Whale Shark is sure to be an adventure of a lifetime.

How do Whale Shark mate?

Around 30 years old, a Whale Shark will reach sexual maturity and be able to mate and reproduce. Generally, a male will try to get the female’s attention by zigzagging and diving deeper, essentially trying to show off. 

Then, the male will swim up from below and use one of his two claspers to mate with the female. As this has not been witnessed much, there is still much research needed for this behaviour.

The gestation period is unknown, but a female Whale Shark will produce eggs that hatch inside the mother. She will then give birth to roughly three hundred live young. Unfortunately, all won’t make it to maturity.

Sometimes you'll swim with two at a time!
Sometimes you’ll swim with two at a time!

Are they Whale or Shark?

Are they a Whale or a Shark, or a bit of both? They are, in fact, a Shark, made of cartilage and breathing through their gills. 

However, they share a lot of common traits similar to Whales. One being their size and two having a diet and feeding habit more like Whales.

What do Whale Sharks eat?

Whale Sharks feed by sifting small food particles through the water as they swim around (Filter Feeders). You will see Whale Sharks opening and closing their large mouths, drawing the ocean water in. Their bodies filter out the food they need and then release the water back into the ocean.

Their favourite meal is Plankton, which are tiny drifting organisms carried by tides or currents. Other food sources are shrimp, krill, algae, Sardines, Anchovies, squid, tuna, or they have been known to hang around for fish spawning to eat the eggs.

They are not, by any means, meat-eating carnivores like the Shark!

They are known as Filter Feeders, ingesting small organisms
They are known as Filter Feeders, ingesting small organisms

Is it safe to swim with Whale Sharks?

Yes, It’s very safe to swim with Whale Sharks, and they are not interested in hurting or eating people.  

Is it Ethical to swim with Whale Sharks?

Swimming with whale sharks is one of the most incredible experiences a person can have in the natural world. Although, how Ethical it is to swim with them will depend on the company you choose to go with.

However, it’s important to remember that our interactions with them aren’t guaranteed either. These wild animals come and go as they please, which is, overall, the most ethical way to see them. 

Where in the world can you swim with Whale Sharks?

There are many different places around the world you can see Whale Sharks, and so far for me, I managed to catch them in Mexico and the Maldives.

Isla Mujeres was not the first place I tried to swim with Whale Sharks! In Fact, Coral Bay in Western Australia also gets Whale Sharks migrating through their waters. 

Unfortunately, timing and weather contributed to my tour being canceled, so I never got the opportunity to try. However, I have heard others experiencing the Whale Shark snorkel here and had a wonderful time. 

Although the whale Shark numbers in Mexico can’t be denied.

Other locations you can see Whale Sharks are:

  • Mexico
    • Cancun & Cozumel
    • Baja California Sur
  • Belize
  • The Philippines
  • Tanzania
  • Australia
  • The Maldives
  • Mozambique
  • The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  • Thailand
  • Honduras
  • The Seychelles
  • Djibouti
  • Costa Rica
  • Sodwana Bay, South Africa
  • Egypt

➡  Check and compare prices for Isla Mujeres Accommodation HERE with Staying in Cancun instead? Then, click HERE for their accommodations options.

Do people in Isla Mujeres speak English?

Yes, people in Isla Mujeres speak English! In fact, it’s quite widely spoken on the island. So whether you’re asking for directions to the local beach or grabbing a bite to eat at one of the many fantastic restaurants, chances are you’ll be able to get what you need with just English. 

That said, you’ll still hear plenty of Spanish being spoken, as it is by far the most common language here. So go ahead and book that trip to Isla Mujeres, your English skills will definitely help, but brush up on those Spanish basics before you go too!

It's easy to explore the street of Isla Mujeres
It’s easy to explore the streets of Isla Mujeres

Isla Mujeres Weather

Maximum and Minimum Temperatures ( Celsius)

  • January: 28° / 19°
  • February: 28° / 19°
  • March: 29° / 20°
  • April: 30° / 22°
  • May: 32° / 24°
  • June: 32° / 25°
  • July: 32° / 25°
  • August: 33° / 24°
  • September: 32° / 24°
  • October: 31° / 23°
  • November: 29° / 21°
  • December 28° / 20°

What is the Average Rainfall in Isla Mujeres

June and July are peak summer seasons, and being a tropical location, it also has the heaviest rainfall. However, don’t let this discourage you from booking around this time. 

Whale Sharks tours will still run in light rain, and it doesn’t hang around for too long. The first morning I arrived on the island, it poured down for 2 hours with gusting winds. However, the sun came out after that, and it was such a beautiful day. 

  • January: 66mm, Average 6 days of rain.
  • February: 54mm, Average 5 days of rain.
  • March: 36mm, Average 3 days of rain.
  • April: 42mm, Average 3 days of rain.
  • May: 108mm, Average 7 days of rain.
  • June: 183mm, Average 11 days of rain.
  • July: 129mm, Average 11 days of rain.
  • August: 148mm, Average 11 days of rain.
  • September: 224mm, Average 14 days of rain.
  • October: 185mm, Average 13 days of rain.
  • November: 85mm, Average 8 days of rain.
  • December 79mm, Average 7 days of rain.

What is the Water Temperature in Isla Mujeres

With its stunning beaches and shimmering turquoise waters, Isla Mujeres is the perfect place to cool off from the blazing summer sun! But what about the actual water temperature? 

Lucky for you, yearly temps on this island paradise range between a comfortable 27-32 degrees Celsius. That means no matter what time of year you visit, there’s sure to be plenty of warm water to take a dip in. 

In fact, during whale shark season (around late May to September), readings can even reach as high as 30 degrees Celsius. Now that’s a summer paradise worth planning a trip to!

About Isla Mujeres

Whale Sharks aren’t the only thing to see or do on Isla Mujeres. The island itself is approximately 7 kilometres (4.3 miles) long and 650 metres (2,130 ft) wide. Consequently, in clear weather, you can see the coast of Cancun from the west side of the island. 

It’s a perfect location just to sit and relax on the beach or take the opportunity of the many activities.

There are several restaurants available with all kinds of different food. Not sure about you, but I love trying local dishes and cuisines when visiting any country. I remember that it was hard to get breakfast so early in the morning before tours unless it was supplied by your hotel.

Things to do in Isla Mujeres

What else can you do to entertain yourself while visiting Isla Mujeres? Let me subject a few things below:

➡  Check and compare prices for all Isla Mujeres Tours HERE with Viator. Or find more options HERE with Get your Guide.

  • Sailing Trips
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Sun baking
  • Golf Cart bar crawl
  • Dolphin discovery
  • Captain Dulche’s Museum
  • Explore the Island
  • Yoga on the Beach
  • Avenida Miguel Hidalgo ( Pedestrian Street shopping)
  • Visit the Turtle Farm
  • Diving the Reef or Musa Museum
  • Visit the Mayan Temple, Punta Sur
  • Watch a sunset from the beach
  • Admire the ‘Sea Wall Murals’ of Isla Mujeres
  • Fishing
  • Visit Playa Norte beach
  • Day trip to Isla Contoy bird sanctuary
  • See the Joysxee Floating Bottle Island
Diving the Musa Museum is something else you can do in Mexico
Diving the Musa Museum is something else you can do in Mexico

➡  Check and compare prices for Isla Mujeres Accommodation HERE with Staying in Cancun instead? Then, click HERE for their accommodations options.

Wrap up to the Best Time to See Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres, Mexico & Review?

As I live in Australia, traveling to Mexico is no quick trip, in fact, it was nearly 27 hours door to door. However, after my experience, it was well worth the travel time.

Thanks for reading this blog post today and finding out the best time to see Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres Mexico, plus my review. I hope you found the information you were looking for.

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