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How to Swim with Isla Mujeres Whale Sharks

Want to swim with sharks but are scared of getting eaten? Well here’s your answer: swimming with Isla Mujeres whale sharks! It’s a whale that looks like a shark! So technically, you will be swimming with whales instead! Perfect! This blog post is about the budget option and is from Isla Mujeres. If you are interested in tours from Cancun then this is the post for you!

When to go

The whale shark migration in Mexico makes it so that these animals are only in this part of Mexico for a short period of time. From June to September is the only time during the year that these tours are available.

Where to swim with whale sharks in Mexico

You can actually swim with whale sharks in several different places in the Yucatan Peninsula. We chose Isla Mujeres after a lot of research because it consistently came up as the best place to swim whale sharks

However, you can also choose to do a tour from Holbox, Cozumel or Playa del Carmen!

A girl swimming with two whale sharks

How to get to Isla Mujeres

If you are staying in Cancun, you can take the Ultramar ferry to Isla Mujeres and be there in just 20 minutes! It costs $8-14 roundtrip depending on the port that you depart from. If you want to see whale sharks in Cancun, I would highly recommend hopping over to Isla Mujeres to see the whale sharks.

Two Whale Sharks

The company we used

We chose Isla Whale Sharks for our Isla Mujeres Whale Sharks tour. We were searching everywhere online for a reputable company to go with but it wasn’t easy!

We actually found the link to this site on a forum in TripAdvisor and we’re so glad we did!

Every year (during whale shark season in Mexico) 99% of the tours that go with this company end up seeing whale sharks! They are very prepared and super helpful.

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A whale shark breaching the water

How much it costs

So how much does it cost to swim with whale sharks? In Mexico, there is a mandatory cost to protect the whales which means that all tours must cost at least $125. If you find a tour that is lower than that, then it is an illegal tour.

A girl free diving with a whale shark

What is included in the tour

The tour includes a small breakfast with coffee as well as snorkeling equipment and a wetsuit. Then after the tour, you have a little time to go snorkeling and then they took us to Playa Norte beach where they served us fresh ceviche that we watched them make on the boat.

Then they served drinks and everyone was able to swim around while drinking and eating!

Tip: Choose the wetsuit and not the life jacket, it will look better in pictures and you can dive down and swim with the whales more.

How & when to book your whale shark tours

You can make an online reservation on their website. It’s not the prettiest website, but it is legitimate! Just click on the “reserve” button and fill in your email address to create a new account.

Website where to book a tour with whale sharks in isla mujeres

When booking your tour, make sure to book for the first day of your trip to Isla Mujeres. Occasionally whale shark tours in Mexico are canceled because of bad weather. If you book on the first day, you can easily change to a different day in case of a cancellation.

How early you should book

This is directly from the website:

A screenshot: You need to book your whale shark tour 3 days in advance

Definitely book as soon as you know your trip dates since there is a possibility that the dates will fill up quickly!

There are a lot of different whale shark tours on Isla Mujeres, so if this tour company is already sold out you can go to the cafe that is mentioned above to ask for recommendations.

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You can find Adrian’s Internet Cafe in the Parque Principal of Isla Mujeres. It isn’t a location on Google Maps, but it is very close to the Súper Akí which you can find on this map:

what to do when you get to isla mujeres

A screenshot: You need to go to Adrian's Internet Cafe for your whale shark tour

Make sure to go to the cafe during the times listed above.

What you should bring with you:

Buy medication but it will make you tired

I wish I hadn’t taken it because I have a lot of experience boating and have never gotten sick on a boat before, but I got so scared that getting sick would ruin my experience with the sharks.

Everyone fell asleep on the way back because of the medicine.

A quick tip:

On any tour always be ready! For some reason, we are always the first people who are ready to hop off the boat and do whatever excursion is ready.

Since we had our snorkel gear on and ready, we got to swim with the sharks with fewer people around and actually got closer than everyone else was able to.

Whale shark swimming between two tour boats

No sunscreen allowed

You are going to be swimming with whale sharks! So in order to protect the animals from the harmful chemicals in the sunscreen, you are not allowed to wear it on the tour.

Instead of wearing sunscreen, make sure you bring a hat and maybe a blanket or towel to cover yourself on the boat trip.

Whale shark

Bring an underwater camera for whale shark photos

Definitely bring a GoPro or an underwater camera to capture yourself swimming with whale sharks. If you are bringing a GoPro, you should also consider buying a floatable selfie stick to prevent losing it while you are swimming.

One disappointment with the whale shark experience

I assumed that since we paid the fee that was supposed to be protecting the animals that they would restrict the number of visitors who were allowed to go at the same time. However, that wasn’t the case.

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By the time we left, it was pretty difficult to swim with the whales without running into other tourists.

A man snorkeling in Isla Mujeres with a whale shark
Jake snorkeling with sharks!

I asked our tour guide about this and he said that if the whales are annoyed with the people, they will swim below the surface to avoid you. They come to the top to eat the plankton that is on the surface of the water. If they want to get away from you, they just go down and swim to another area.

A woman snorkeling with a whale shark in Isla Mujeres

Although this helped me feel a little better, it soured the experience a little for me. If I were to go again, I would talk to the tour agency and see if there is a possibility to go earlier than the other boats. Another way to swim with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres and avoid too many people is to avoid going on the weekends.

So, is the whale shark experience worth it?

Overall, I’d definitely say yes! There are positives and negatives to every experience, but I am really glad that we went on this tour and I would definitely do it again.

A girl snorkeling with whale sharks in Mexico

And of all the places where you could see whale sharks on your next trip to Mexico, I highly recommend Isla Mujeres! Not only was the experience amazing, but there are lots of beautiful beaches and other activities that you can do on the island. Jake and I even looked into real estate prices there since we liked it so much!

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