Whale sharks in Isla Mujeres

We felt quite tender, but no less expectant, when we landed after about 24 hours at the Cancun airport on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It then took 30 minutes by ferry to get to our little paradise island. With its chalky white sandy beaches and swaying palm trees, the island offers one unique spectacle. Here we were going to dive with whale sharks in Isla Mujeres.

Day 1.

At 06:00, we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes, ate a simple breakfast consisting of toast, honey, fresh bananas and mango juice. A fresh mango also slimmed down. With the golf cart, we were down in the harbor in about 5 minutes, where a classic American deep-sea fishing boat was waiting for us. The captain steered out towards open water, the wind was blowing in his hair, the sun was shining and on the roof of the driver's cabin was our whale shark scout.

After about 2 hours, we saw the long-awaited white spotted fin, cutting through the water. A whale shark. Of course everyone wanted to see it closer but at the same moment I thought, there is one, there are several, so we continued. Sure enough, the captain shouted "Hold on", the outboard engines rumbled and we increased speed significantly. Further out we could now glimpse a number of fins which only became more and more numerous. Soon we were surrounded by about 100. Joy spread on board, what a magnificent sight. The water was full of large gaps, some close to the boat. The whale sharks swim at the surface with their large gape wide open to ingest as many fish eggs as possible while filtering the water. After a few hours of snorkeling, we enjoyed a tasty lunch on deck while the whale sharks continued their feast on fish eggs. What an awesome lunch spot!

Day 2.

I wondered if we would have the same luck today or was it a one off? But even today the captain shouted "Hold on". Everyone brightened, because now we knew what it meant. The boat now set off at full speed, but in a completely different direction. Could it be possible? Well then, very true, soon we were in the middle of a large group and once again had to experience voracious approaching whale sharks. They had a good look and moved away when they saw us. A cool experience and maybe the best encounter, was when they came straight at one and the only thing you could see was the giant mouth. We lay in the water and photographed for hours, until it was time to return to the port after another great day.

Day 3.

After a good night's sleep, the batteries were charged to 110%. When we also found a large group of whale sharks today, we also saw something big and white lying at the surface. It was a manta ray. The white we saw was its belly. We jumped in and soon more manta rays appeared and wanted to partake of the buffet. Sometimes they were only a few centimeters apart. When they find a place where there is a lot of fish room, the feasting begins. They make loops to shovel in as much rum as possible.

Over the years I have dived in several places in the world but never experienced manta rays at such close range and so many in number. Incredible! It was hard to tear yourself away from the spectacle below the surface of the water. Once on deck, a well-deserved one was waiting Ceviche, made from raw fish marinated in lime, coriander, onion and tomato. Around the boat, the spectacle continued with feasting whale sharks and manta rays jumping into the air and landing with a proper belly splash. What a day and what magical experiences!

Day 4 and 5.

Both days we snorkeled with whale sharks and manta rays, but one of the days came to offer something very special, something really extra. We were lying at the surface and photographing manta rays doing somersaults below us, when suddenly a group of about 10 mobulas swam past. We just enjoyed. What a lucky day!

A big thank you to Scuba Travel who made this trip an unforgettable adventure. Last but not least, I want to thank all of you who enjoyed to the fullest like myself and "never wanted to get out of the water". For those interested in a similar adventure in Mexico contact Scuba Travel here.

Text and photo by: Scuba Travel Ambassador Tomas Jansson