Swim with Whale Sharks & Giant Mantas, Isla Mujeres Mexico
Photograph hundreds of whale sharks and giant mantas in the warm blue water off the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula as they feed and gather in the largest aggregation in the world. Photographer Gregory Sweeney is your escort for this photography tour on our private 36ft charter that leaves daily from the docks of Isla Mujeres. We stay all day snorkeling with whale sharks for maximum time in the water photographing and enjoying this incredible encounter. The whale sharks feed at the surface making the photo opportunities spectacular and easy. Only snorkeling gear is required. As we are in blue water, visits by other pelagic species such as sailfish and manta rays are possible. Limited to 6 guests only. This is a NON SCUBA and suitable for those who are comfortable with a snorkel in open water.
Guests should arrange to fly into Cancun airport (CUN)on July 18 th (July 23rd for second group)
Guests will take taxi and travel the ½ - 1 hr drive to ferry
Ferry to Isla Mujeres departs on the ½ hr then hourly in the evening until 9pm takes (about 20 minutes ride)
Guests should arrange to depart CUN at the end of the trip (July 23rd and July 28th) no earlier than mid morning allowing time for the ferry and taxi ride. If this is not possible guests should consider staying an extra day so as not to miss any time on the boat. Boat returns to dock around 3:30 each day.
A typical day begins when we depart at 7am sharp. It only takes a few minutes to walk to the wharf. If the whale sharks are aggregating in a consistent location, we are hopefully in the water by 8am. Chances are there will be many whale sharks in the area and you can have many encounters in one place in a short time frame.
The water is very warm but a wetsuit is required. We recommend a thin shorty or full (3mm or less). Be prepared to do alot of swimming and bring mask, fins, and snorkel. Bring plenty of sun lotion with high SP. Long fins or closed heel fins are recommended
This trip is designed for photographers and those that love marine life. We make every effort to share the best encounters during this trip, but we are dealing with nature and there are no guarantees of animal encounters and no guarantees (or refunds) in regards to the weather.
Swimming with Whale Sharks 2013 Photos by Gregory Sweeney
The recently discovered aggregation of hundreds of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) off the coast of Isla Mujeres, a tiny little island off the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, is the perfect opportunity for underwater photography and close up wildlife encounters. The whale sharks arrive in large numbers every summer to feed on the abundant supply of plankton and bonito eggs. For me it was an incredible experience to be in the warm blue water with these beautiful and graceful creatures. On several peak days several hundred whale sharks would congregate in the space of a couple soccer fields. I have photographed whale sharks in locations around the world (Honduras, Mozambique, Western Australia), but never had the experience of being in the water with such a large aggregation and individuals who seemed unfazed by my presence. 2013 has proven to be the best season yet with the giant mantas nearly stealing the show. Word spread quickly of the large numbers of whale sharks and mantas and well-known photographers from around the world flocked to Cancun to experience this magnificent event.
Get Details of our 2014 Whale Shark Adventure
Rotating Gallery of My Whale Shark and Giant Mantas Images
Swimming in this aggregation was not like other times I have encountered whale sharks. We would hold in an area where there were 4 -5 visible then wait until they passed close and get in the water with them. They did not seem too agitated by our presence or the splash of our fins. I could swim along side one of them for a while then if they got ahead of me often they would turn and come back toward me. Waiting in one spot in the water often would put me in a good position to encounter another individual. We stayed in the water for hours at a time. Occasionally we would move the boat to keep up with the movements of the aggregation.
Our boat captain and crew were excellent at finding whale sharks each day, sometimes just a short 40 minute boat ride. The food on the boat made the day even more special. After long day on the water we would head back to Isla Mujeres for a relaxing time in the hotel pool , a cleanup and download , and a delicious dinner.
To encounter whale sharks in such huge numbers was truly an unforgettable experience.
Highlights from July 2013
My first guests can to Isla Mujeres in late July. The weather was great with smooth water, great visibility and hundreds of whale sharks which were easy to find each day. And there were the mantas. They would glide in lazy loops up and down, oblivious to our presence. I was so happy I choose to book durring this peak time and full moon (which is also supposed to enhance feeding activity). Everyone has as many encounters as they wanted and the pictures were beyond expectations.
The most special days were when the myself and crew found schools of mantas separate from the others and the other boats full of swimmers. For the whole afternoon on several days we had a private show of giant manta ray ballet punctuated by whale sharks skimming past. I had some guests who were willing models for some photos to show what sort of interaction happens daily in these waters.
Guests Dancing with the Whales Sharks and Giant Mantas
I use a Canon 5D MKIII in an Nexus housing for my underwater work. It is full frame and I like the quality video capabilities - see some of my video below. Due to the size of the whale sharks I am using a Canon 15mm f2.8 fisheye lens.
Typical Settings Using full Manual Mode
||320 or 400
||f8.0 - f9.0
Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea (5.5 to 10 meters and 20.6 tons average) and although massive in size, they are docile and fortunately for us they favor plankton over other food. As a filter feeder it has a capacious mouth, which can be up to 1.6 meters wide and can contain 310 to 360 rows of tiny teeth. The many rows of teeth play no role in feeding. Instead, the shark sucks in a mouthful of water, closes its mouth and expels the water through its 5 pairs of gills. During the slight delay between closing the mouth and opening the gill flaps, plankton is trapped against the dermal denticles which line its gill plates and pharynx. This sieve-like apparatus prevents the passage of anything but fluid out through the gills, trapping anything above 2 to 3 millimeters in diameter.
It is believed that they reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and their life span is an estimated 70 to 100+ years. A pregnant female whale shark can carry up to 300 pups 35 to 65 cm long which she gives birth to live. The spots on a whale shark's back are unique to each individual and can be used as a form of ID. In much of Latin America the whale shark is known as "pez dama" or "domino" for its distinctive spot pattern. In Africa it is known as "papa shillingi" from the Kenyan myth that God threw shillings upon the shark, which now has spots.
2014 spaces are booking up fast!