How do you top a week of jaw dropping scenery and wildlife encounters in Mexico’s Sea of Cortez? Swimming with whale sharks of course. Kayaking the Mexican Baja, I kept rubbing my eyes to ensure the hot sun was not inducing wildlife hallucinations.
Now on the final morning the guides announced we were in for a special treat. Really? More special than snorkeling with wild sea lions? Or having the Mobula rays leap like flying frying pans around our kayak? Or how about the dolphins tagging along beside our boats.
Today it would be cavorting with the largest fish in the ocean. Swimming with whale sharks was on the agenda.
Swimming with Whale Sharks? Is That Dangerous?
Sharks you say? As in the kind that might like a snack on a swimmer’s leg? The whale shark, although massive in size growing as long as 40 feet (12.4 m), only has eyes for microscopic plants and animals.
Known as filter feeders thousands of gallons of water per day move through the mouth of the gentle giant. Occasionally a small fish may may get through but the small throat allows no room for the body parts of a swimmer.
Consequently the whale shark will not be eating humans but is a huge fish. Weighing an average of 20 tons the flick of a tail can send a snorkeler flying. Give the whale shark some personal space.
Where Can I See Whale Sharks?
In the Bay of La Paz, off Mexico’s southern Baja, whale sharks return in early winter and can be found until March. Here they feed in nutrient rich waters.
As of 2015 private vessels are prohibited from visiting the area. Whale sharks are an endangered species and Mexican law protects them. Swimming with whale sharks must be with a guide who has an official permit.
While slipping into the water of the Sea of Cortez that final morning I confess to being tired and less than my typical bubbly self. The week had been stuffed full of once in a lifetime experiences.
With less enthusiasm than usual I followed the instructions of the guide to follow him closely in swimming away from the boat.
Ready, Set, Snorkel
It is extremely fortunate my face was covered by the snorkel mask for as I gazed down at the massive spotted whale shark I thought surely my eyeballs might pop right out of their sockets.
Swimming below me ever so slowly the massive spotted creature gracefully moved. The awe and wonder of seeing the magnificent giant and his nearby pals will forever be imprinted in my memory.
Would you want to go swimming with a whale shark?
Thanks to Nichols Expedition for their contribution of photo#1, #2 and contributions within the video. This post was facilitated and sponsored in part by Nichols Expeditions. All eyeball popping and opinions are my own.