Swimming with Whale Sharks is an unforgettable & expensive experience – find out where to how to find a $64.00 tour on Isla Mujeres, Mexico & why it’s a risk you may not want to take…

Swimming with Whale Sharks Experience

It isn’t a whale, it isn’t a shark but it does resemble both & it’s the largest fish in the world!

Here at DIY Travel HQ, my Swimming with Whale Sharks trip started with a 1hr fast boat ride in very rough waters, out to the middle of the ocean. The captain starts looking for fins, when they’re spotted he drives closer & you jump straight in. It’s quite chaotic, a few sharks circling in the water & many boats & people circling around them.

Only 2-4 people can jump in at a time. I got about 4 jumps, seeing 5 whale sharks & a few more from the surface – sometimes there’s dozens, the day before there was 100!

But it all happens so quickly, I would love to find somewhere to dive & spend more time with them in the water, rather than jumping in & out of a boat for just minutes at a time.

Whale sharks come to the surface to feed on plankton, you’ve got to swim pretty fast to keep up with them – hence this shaky mess of a GoPro video…

Finding a Cheap Swimming with Whale Sharks Tour on Isla Mujeres

If you’re a budget traveller, a Swimming with Whale Sharks tour is probably going to be a significant expense.

You’ll come across vastly different prices while you’re shopping for whale shark tours, whether online or in person.

Don’t book anything online or in advance, as it’s a lot more expensive than what you can find once you’re on Isla Mujeres.

Isla Mujeres sign

Isla Mujeres is paradise, with or without whale sharks

Online, it’s hard to find a whale shark tour for less than MN$2000 pesos/$110 but there are cheaper options on the island.

The tours that are much cheaper may not be licensed operators, but that in itself may not be illegal, I’m not sure. You will probably be put in with another tour agency, probably reputable but for half the price – at least that’s what happened to me…

Apparently the price difference is a matter of fuel & how far out into sea the boat will go to look for the sharks.

If you’re looking to save money, it’s hard to know who or what to believe, especially as there’s no guarantee of seeing the whale sharks. Most agencies will agree to refund you 50% of the price if no whale sharks are spotted on tour.

It’s up to you if it’s worth it to take a risk with an unknown operator or to go with someone with a strong reputation & Tripadvisor reviews you can count on.

Whale shark tour boat

On board my Swimming with Whale Sharks tour boat

My Cheap & Dodgy Whale Shark Tour

Poc-Na Hostel offers whale shark tours for around MXN$1350 pesos – I went with an agency just up the road for a negotiated price of MXN$1200 pesos.

This tour agency had a proper shopfront & was run by a seemingly decent guy that spoke good English.

In the morning, I arrived at the agency & the man took me to the pier where I had breakfast with another tour group. When they all left for their tour, he then brought me to another tour group. Then they all departed on their boat & I was stuck waiting.

All of this made me feel really worried, uncomfortable & confused. The man kept telling me that my boat was running late. I ended up waiting for at least 30 minutes from when I finished breakfast with the 1st tour group.

Isla Mujeres pier

Most tours will include breakfast at the pier before heading out on the boat

I turned out that my tour was coming from Playa del Carmen. I was an add-on on a tour with an official company – I’m guessing that I paid at least half the price as the other customers onboard.

The rest of the tour ran smoothly, once the boat finally arrived. We went out very far to sea, to where many other boats were circling for whale sharks.

We were served a decent lunch of sandwiches & ceviche with crackers, with water, soft drinks & Corona. This was when the boat was anchored in Playa Norte so there was also swimming time.

You’re given a snorkel & fins but a wetsuit costs extra – don’t worry, the water is warm, it’s not necessary.

I was, however, told that there would a snorkeling stop on the tour, which there was not. If my boat was a local tour & not one originating from Playa del Carmen, I think there would’ve been snorkeling because there would’ve been time.

Lunch at Playa Norte

Lunch is also usually included in most Swimming with Whale Sharks tours

Know Before You Go

After a very shaky & uncertain start, I was happy with how my Swimming with Whale Sharks tour worked out, especially with the price. I paid only $64.00 to go out with a first-rate operator.

I’m not sure if this is how it always works, but I thought I would share my experience for other budget travellers looking to swim with whale sharks.

Tour price: MXN$1200 pesos / $64.00

Inclusions: Breakfast, snorkel, fins, lunch, drinks

Non-inclusions: Wetsuit (extra charge but not necessary)

Tour agency: Unknown. Walk straight down the road from Poc-Na Hostel for 1 minute & it’s on your right

 

1 Shovel

Impossible or illegal DIY travel

Feature image courtesy of Mexico Whale Shark

Visited in June 2016