A day with whale sharks is unlike anything you will have ever experienced. From July to September (July is the best month) a couple of thousands of these big boys come to feed off the plankton-rich seas. Once you are in the water, face to face with a 15-ton, 15m-long giant, the rest of the world seems to fade away. Their grace, colorful spots (some folks even call them “dominoes”) and unworldly bulk take you back to the time of dinosaurs and leviathans. The small, funky island of Isla Holbox – a tiny spit of sand just a day’s travel from the glitzy Mexican resort city of Cancun – is a great spot to swim with the biggest fish in the sea, and the island is an attraction within its own right.
The waters surrounding Isla Holbox are slightly muddier than those found to the south, along the Caribbean coast of Riviera Maya, but the reward is an island paradise where people get around by golf-cart. Your biggest worry of the day is whether to walk to the end of the island for bird watching, hang out in a hammock or cruise out with your buddies for a day of whale sharks watching. Lucky for you, it is easy enough to fit all of these into a couple of days on the island.
And while such close interactions with wildlife is definitely a delicate topic, local tour operators such as Lomas Travel have teamed up with the World Wildlife Fund to create some best practices for the tours. Visitors are required to wear a life jacket or wetsuit, you cannot feed the fish or submerge yourself beneath them, only three people (plus a guide) are allowed in the water at one time, and, no, you cannot catch a ride on their fin.
On your way back to the island, ask your guide if you can stop for a snorkel. If you are lucky, you may spot a manta ray soaring through the shallow depths.