Dive: Isla Mujeres and Whale shark snorkeling
I had heard about the whale shark experience for years and never gave it much thought more than, “I’m sure it’s cool. It’s also $100.” Out of budget out of mind. I was wrong. YOU HAVE TO SWIM WITH WHALE SHARKS. It’s one of those skip-meals-take-out-a-loan-charge-it sort of expenses. IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND. Do it. And you should probably do it from Isla Mujeres.
There are lots of places along the Caribbean coast that offer whale shark tours for upwards of $200 — that’s because they aren’t located near to the sharks feeding ground. Isla Mujeres is ground zero when it comes to these giants. The plankton that results from the algae blooms off the coast here appeals to the palate of the whale shark the way a plate full of succulent grilled meats and fresh vegetables at a summer barbecue would appeal to yours or mine. They love it, they crave it and they come in droves every May through September to skim the surface and eat it. And we get to enjoy and observe them extremely up-close and personal.
Sea Hawk Divers shop owner Ariel says the sharks have always come to these waters but the commercialization of their migration is a recent development over the last decade. A few of the sharks are tagged with a sort of homing device so the more than a hundred boats that come from all over the Mexican Caribbean coast can find them each morning. From Isla Mujeres, it is generally no more than 30-45 minute boat ride from shore.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you want the best whale shark experience, locals say to come in August — that’s the best month.
Dive Isla Mujeres
Diving in Isla Mujeres is definitely a treat, and particular to the Caribbean diving experience. The Museo Subacuático de Arte is quite a site to see — a population of life-size statues under the sea, it’s hard not to be impressed. And it is something unique to the diving experience of Isla Mujeres. The reefs here are vibrant and something to enjoy — sea turtles, sting rays and loads of fishies to admire. There are several dive sites to explore here — although we missed it, Media Luna is supposed to be quite impressive with a series of tunnels and caves to penetrate.
Prices vary on the island when it comes to diving and whale shark touring. You’re likely able to get a whale shark tour for around $65usd at the low end of the spectrum. Things to consider are what the tour offers (Lunch? Wetsuit or life jacket? gear? Shade on the boat?) The ride out to the sharks can be 20 minutes or and hour depending on the day. And depending on the weather that day the ride can be enjoyable, or pure torture for those prone to sea sickness. Expect to spend time on the idle boat while your tour takes turns in groups of 2 or 3 entering the water at a time — rocking in the swells of the open sea can take its toll on a sensitive stomach.
Diving prices are comparable at around $70 to $100 for guided fun dives. If you plan on doing both, try to strike some deals with diving one day and seeing the whale sharks another day. You should be able to come up with some prices under $150usd total — food and gear included.