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10 Things You Need To Know About Swimming With Whale Sharks In Mexico

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One of the things I love about being in Mexico is having the opportunity to enjoy some pretty amazing experiences. We’ve been spending the last few weeks in La Paz, Mexico, on the southern tip of the Baja peninsula in the western part of the country. Here in Baja Sur, as the area is often called, one of the popular activities for visitors is swimming with whale sharks in Mexico.

I remember reading about this type of experience in a travel magazine. I was so fascinated by these giant, yet gentle, creatures. So when the opportunity to go whale shark snorkeling with a company called Todos Santos Eco Adventures arose, I instantly jumped at the chance. There’s no way I would pass up this experience!

This post was updated May 20, 2020.

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whale sharks in Mexico
A whale shark near our boat (February 2019)

A few things to know about whale sharks

The whale shark is the largest fish in the world. Measuring between 18 to 32 feet, these fish are no minnows. Yet, despite their size, they are one of the gentlest creatures in the ocean. Whale sharks are filter feeders. This means they eat plankton. They also eat small creatures like krill and tiny crustaceans. So they’re virtually harmless to humans.

Whale sharks in Mexico are protected creatures. In the past, tourists who come to La Paz often hired boats to take them out to see whale sharks in the nearby bay. However, despite it being such a popular tourist activity, there was essentially no regulation in the number of boats visiting the whale sharks. As a result, swimming with whale sharks began to have a negative impact on the whale sharks’ habits.

These days, the boats who come to visit the whale sharks are tracked by GPS. This monitors their speed and limits the number of boats who come to see the whale sharks. Certain rules are in place to also limit the number of people who swim with the whale sharks. All these regulations help to ensure that these creatures are able to enjoy their lives with relatively little disturbance and influence from humans.

Explore all the other amazing experiences you can have while traveling in Mexico.

whale sharks in Mexico
Whale shark in La Paz (photo credit C. Cappellano)

Enjoying whale sharks in Mexico with Todos Santos Eco Adventures

Countless tour companies exist in Baja Sur advertising experiences with whale shark snorkeling. When we were looking for a tour company to take us on a whale shark excursion, we really wanted a company that cared about preserving the habitat and habits of the whale sharks, rather than just making a quick buck. That’s why we decided to tour with Todos Santos Eco Adventures. They invited us to do their sea lion and whale shark excursion.

Based in Baja Sur, Todos Santos Eco Adventures offers a variety of eco-friendly single day or multi-day tours for visitors to Baja Sur. Some of their popular tours include swimming with sea lions, glamping on Isla Espiritu Santo, whale watching, and horseback riding. They also offer cooking classes, surfing lessons, and historical town tours.

Many of their tours are family-friendly. And their commitment to conservation aligns well with our family’s philosophy towards ethical family travel.

Our whale shark snorkeling experience was part of a joint excursion that included swimming with sea lions near Isla Partida, and a catered lunch picnic on Isla Espiritu Santo. After a morning of swimming with sea lions, we had a chance to savor a delicious meal, while enjoying a view of white sands and crystal blue waters. And capping the day off with a swim with the whale sharks was such a treat! It was truly a fun and relaxing experience, and one that every member of our family could enjoy.

Our whale shark excursion with Todos Santos Eco Adventures (February 2019)

Where to swim with whale sharks in Baja Sur

Swimming with whales sharks is a popular activity in many parts of the world. If you’re curious about where to swim with whale sharks, you can do so in the Philippines, the Maldives, Indonesia, Australia, and even the Caribbean. In North America, you can find whale sharks in Mexico around the Baja peninsula in the west. You can also find whale sharks in the Yucatan peninsula in the east.

Whale sharks love warm water. And they also tend to go where there is an abundance of the type of food that they love to eat. In Baja Sur, the best location of where to swim with whale sharks happens to be in the shallow waters of the Bay of La Paz. We were surprised at how close we were to the shore!

Hanging out near the bay in La Paz, Mexico (February 2019)

Things you need to know about swimming with whale sharks in Mexico

If you’re planning a visit to Baja Sur, you can’t miss experiencing whale sharks in Mexico. But before you go off on your whale shark snorkeling excursion, here are a few things you should know.

Whale sharks in Mexico
A whale shark in the water (February 2019)

1. Visit during whale shark season

Believe it or not, there’s actually a whale shark season. One of our guides during our Todos Santos Eco Adventures excursion explained to us that the whale shark season runs between October to April. This is the time when plankton is abundant in the water. The plankton is what attracts the whale sharks to the area. However, take caution when visiting in November, as the winds in the area can often make the water too strong for swimming.

whale sharks in Mexico
A whale shark feeding in the water (photo credit: C. Cappellano)

2. Give yourself time during the day

Since whale sharks are a protected species, there are certain regulations that tour operators need to follow. One of the regulations is that there are time windows that boats are given for visiting the whale sharks. If you’re on a whale shark snorkeling excursion, you may have to wait for your time slot to open up. Be patient, and make sure you give yourself plenty of time in your day, in case there are delays.

Waiting for our time slot to open up (February 2019)

3. Practice proper water safety

Going out to see whale sharks in Mexico means that you’ll be riding in a boat and swimming in open water. If you’re doing this experience with kids, it’s important that they know proper ways to stay safe in a boat and in the water. For starters, make sure your kids wear life jackets. When the boat is moving, make sure to stay seated and hold on to something. The waters can get really choppy and bumpy! Also, even if you’re a confident swimmer, it’s helpful to wear a life jacket while you’re swimming in the water, to help you stay afloat.

Staying safe in her life jacket (February 2019)

4. Bring warm waterproof clothes

Riding around in a boat can get pretty windy. We were ill prepared for our excursion looking for whale sharks in Mexico. And we were freezing during our boat ride! We were also pretty soaked by the end of the day, from all the spray from the waves. If you’re planning to go out and see whale sharks, I recommend bringing a warm waterproof jacket. Long pants and socks are also helpful to stay warm in the boat.

Staying warm on the boat (February 2019)

5. Take ginger pills for seasickness

The waters in Baja Sur can get pretty choppy. All that rocking back and forth can send your stomach into somersaults! I was fortunate not to get seasick during the trip. But my husband was not so lucky. If you’re prone to motion sickness, taking along some ginger pills, like the chewable ginger tablets from Ginger Rescue, can be helpful in preventing you from getting too seasick.

My husband, trying hard not to get too seasick! (February 2019)

6. Have a waterproof case for your camera

Swimming with whale sharks is a memorable experience, and you want to be able to capture that experience, both above and below the water. Before going out on your whale shark excursion, I recommend getting a waterproof case for your camera. In our case, we used a waterproof case for our phones, like the JOTO cellphone dry bag pouch. I’m so glad we did, because I was able to capture some footage of a whale shark while under water. The cellphone dry bag pouch really did keep my phone completely dry!

whale sharks in Mexico
Snapping a shot of a whale shark under water! (February 2019)

7. Swim with a guide

If you’re planning on looking for whale sharks in Mexico, I recommend doing so with a guide. The guides are so knowledgeable about the animals in the area, and they have the experience to be able help you get through any potential tough situations. When you’re out in the water, your guide can lead you in where to go to find the whale sharks. And they also know what areas of the bay you are permitted to swim in.

One of our guides leading us to the boat (February 2019)

8. Keep a safe distance

Before diving into the water, our guide gave us a quick tutorial for whale shark snorkeling. One of the most important rules for swimming with whale sharks is to keep a safe distance. These giant fish are docile and gentle, but their size also makes them very strong. A flick of their tail or a nudge from their head can send you tumbling through the water. When swimming in the water with whale sharks, make sure you keep a safe distance.

Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico
Keeping a safe distance from the whale shark (February 2019)

9. Leave no trace

One of the wonderful things about our experience swimming with whale sharks in Mexico was getting to experience the beauty of Mexico itself. Baja Sur, and its surrounding waters, is so beautiful! As a visitor, you need to remember to leave nature just as you found it. That’s why it’s best to adhere to a “leave no trace” philosophy when you’re doing your whale shark excursion. Whether you’re swimming in the water with the sharks, or having a picnic on the beaches of Isla Espiritu Santo, remember to leave no trace.

Having a picnic lunch at Isla Espiritu Santo (February 2019)

10. Have fun!

By far, the most important thing is to have fun! If you’re a first time snorkeler, or you’re not used to being on a boat, visiting the whale sharks in Mexico may make you a bit nervous. Remember that the guides are also there to make sure you’re safe and having a good time. If there’s any part of the excursion that you’re uncomfortable with, feel free to sit it out. Your own personal safety and enjoyment is way more important than an Instagram or Facebook pic!

Read here for more ideas on how to use the outdoors for learning.

Enjoying my time on the boat (February 2019)

Putting swimming with whale sharks in Mexico on your bucket list

I was so impressed by our whale shark snorkeling experience with Todos Santos Eco Adventures. Our guides were so knowledgeable, and our family felt safe during every minute of the trip. Even our two young kids, who were first time snorkelers, had a chance to experience getting in the water!

If you’re planning on visiting Baja Sur, I recommend swimming with the whale sharks in Mexico. This experience is not to be missed, and should be on everyone’s bucket list!

Have you had a chance to go whale shark snorkeling? Share what your experience was like in the comments!

10 Things You Need To Know About Swimming With Whale Sharks In Mexico | The Wandering Daughter |

Whale shark snorkeling excursion in Baja Sur, Mexico with Todos Santos Eco Adventures. Swimming with whale sharks in Mexico with kids. #ad #familytravel #Mexico #whalesharks #Baja #LaPaz

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. We received a complimentary trip with Todos Santos Eco Adventures to swim with sea lions and whale sharks. However, the views and opinions of this blog post are completely my own.

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21 Responses

  1. This looks like an exciting trip but not for me. I get seasick just looking at choppy water, I would be miserable in the boat. I’ll need to try those ginger pills. I usually take Dramamine but dislike how sleepy it makes me. Looks like it was a great adventure for your family though.

  2. This looks like a fun activity for the family! Great to know that they have regulated the activity here for a more safe and sustainable way. Your full day excursion sounds very satisfying too (sea lions in the morning and whale sharks in the afternoon sounds like a treat for adults and kids)!

  3. Thanks for sharing such great tips. We want to swim with the whale sharks here in Western Australia but are waiting for our girls to be old enough to remember it. You have some great advice about keeping children safe when out on the water. I bet this was an incredible experience!

    1. It’s definitely helpful to wait until your kids are older. Our kids swam with life vests, but our youngest is still not that strong of a swimmer, so he stayed in the boat when we swam with the whale sharks.

  4. After reading the sub-heading – I had scary images of you swimming with sharks getting attack and living to tell the tale. Thankfully that wasnt the case. After reading this hopefully I can do this when I get to Mexico one day, would love to try this out (safely!) Didnt know children could do this as well. Good to know for my crazy daughter. 😛

    1. Ha ha! I have to admit, even though I knew they didn’t eat humans, I had visions of Jaws in my head the whole time.

  5. I didn’t know that they were completely harmless creatures. With the name “Shark” it really tricks the mind. I also have never seen those ginger tablets and just ordered some! I get sea sickness so easily and am going to give those a try!

  6. I have been snorkeling throughout the world, but never with whale sharks! Of course when I first read “snorkeling with sharks” I thought “no way would I do that,” so I’m glad that one of the first things you mentioned is that they are filter feeders. You have great advice, thanks for sharing!

  7. Swimming with whale sharks looks like it’s becoming the next hottest thing! When I was in Holbox, I saw a bunch of tours but I think these majestic creatures are only around for a couple months a year, as you mention here (which by the way looks like a different season than in the Riviera Maya). I’ve also seen posts about swimming with them in Tanzania, so I’m surprised at how widespread they are! Love all your suggestions here, and it looks like you had a phenomenal time! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Hmmm … leave no trace, and yet husband trying not to be sea sick. 😉 I am hoping he did not have to “chum” the waters. No fun being sea sick and then trying to snorkel I have heard. Snorkeling with the whale sharks would be such fun. I have dove with many types of sharks and fish, but never a whale, or a whale shark. One day I hope. Great write up.

  9. Wow! What a great activity for kids – and adults alike! I would love to go swimming with whale sharks in mexico, quite frankly I was there in August and had no idea this was a thing. Thanks for the water safety tips super important for any travelers!

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