The regulated activities of whale shark watching and swimming in the Mexican Caribbean have contributed to diversifying the income of the coastal communities of Holbox and Isla Mujeres. The National Commission of Natural Protected Areas is the agency in charge of regulating tourism in the three areas of concentration where this species lives from March to September.
Since 2002, fishermen in the region have given notice of the large presence of whale sharks, so the news became special, which is why they started ecotourism with one of the largest animals and inhabitants of the tropical waters of the world. Up to 2015 there is registered sighting of 1,115 specimens in the area. From June to August is when the concentration is higher, so you can safely carry out unforgettable experiences under water.
In the area of Holbox and Chiquilá, within the Area of Flora and Fauna Protection Yum Balam and the Whale Shark Reserve and to the north of Isla Contoy, within the Biosphere Reserve of the Mexican Caribbean, around 500 specimens of sharks have been reported, which arrive to this region for feeding purposes.
Although it is a shark that can measure up to 18 meters long, it is a harmless fish and does not represent any danger for those who swim with it. It is actually quite affectionate and usually playful. Whale sharks are subject to special protection by Mexican authorities, so their use for consumption is prohibited. Tourism has allowed the use of this species for the communities, without impacting their populations and assuring its permanence for many more years.
To carry out the sighting and swimming activities, the service providers receive training and are obliged to comply with a strict management program, which establishes the number of visitors per day, the prohibition of approaching less than five meters, the use of sunscreen, disturbance of the species, etc.
The best places in Mexico to dive with the whale shark are the north and east coast of the Yucatan peninsula. Mainly the boat trips are carried out north of Cancun, in Isla Mujeres, Isla Contoy, and Holbox, due to the density of tourism since they are the main points where the tourism of the Riviera Maya is concentrated.
CONAP is in charge of the surveillance of the three Protected Natural Areas where the sighting of the species occurs; a vast marine territory of 700 thousand hectares protected by the Yum Balam Biosphere Reserve, the Tiburón Ballena Biosphere Reserve, and, since 2017, the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve.
The whale shark is completely harmless to humans, so there is a swim with this species in different parts of the world. Ecuador, Indonesia, Belize, Thailand, Honduras, Costa Rica, Tanzania, the Philippines, Maldives Mozambique, and Mexico are some of the countries where this species has been observed.