Swimming with Whale Sharks in Cancun
We’re not even in the water yet, but already my heart is pounding in my chest.
I’m on a boat about 2 hours from Cancun, on the perimeter of a circle of dozens of other boats filled with eager tourists. Like my 12-year-old daughter and I, they’re all here for a singular purpose: The once-in-a-lifetime experience of Swimming with Whale Sharks, the largest known fish species in the world.
Though the glare of the morning sun on the water is nearly blinding, the 35-foot, 20,000-pound whale sharks aren’t difficult to spot. In fact, their hulking forms are everywhere we look, swimming in slow, lazy circles to filter-feed on krill and plankton at the surface, seemingly oblivious to our presence. Thankfully, our captain stays far away from the other boats, so that when one of these gentle giants swims near we will have them all to ourselves.
As he brings the boat to a halt, a massive whale shark swims straight for us. He looks as wide as a VW Beetle, and as long as a school bus, gliding effortlessly with his mouth wide open. At the last second his spotted form swerves past us, changing directions surprisingly quickly with a mere flip of his tail. I’m 6’2″ and built like a linebacker, but suddenly even I feel very small by comparison.