Whale Shark Adventures
The Night Before
When we arrived in Cancun we looked at what tours we could do on the weekends to experience some of the cool things the hottest tourist spot in Mexico has to offer.
One of the tours we found made all of our jaws drop: swimming with whale sharks. We checked the price and decided to keep scrolling through the other options. When we had gone through the list, we talked about what really appealed to us, the limitations of time, and also how much we wanted to spend, and what that would mean about our housing choices in Guatemala.
We knew we were going to go to Chichen Itza, which left us one more weekend. We never decided what we would do, until the Thursday before our second weekend Mom and Dad told us that we would do the whale shark tour.
It was what we had all wanted to do most, and made Friday really hard to sit through, knowing we would get up early on Saturday to go swimming with the largest sharks in the ocean.
Now it’s Friday night, and I don’t think it will be easy to fall asleep with the anticipation of tomorrow morning.
The Next Day
It was early. Not that early, only 5:30, but I wasn’t used to waking up at that time, so it took me a second before the christmas morning vibes hit me and got me to jump out of bed. We packed sandwiches for lunch, the gimbal, the phones, and swimming essentials. We were out the door by 6:05 and when we got to the ground floor the van was already waiting for us. It was still dark out, with the sun just peeking over the horizon behind some buildings, and our driver started on the route to the hotel zone.
It was over half an hour before the next people got picked up, another ten minutes to the last pickup, and half an hour more from there. When we finally got to the marina, we got some coffee cake and cantaloupe, listened to the rules, and hopped on the boats.
The ride out to the conservation area was choppy, and there were times we bounced into the air and slammed down onto the seats, and sometimes spray would come right over the hull and douse us, but it was fun and I wasn’t getting sick at all. When we finally got into the area where the whale sharks are typically spotted, the driver slowed down to a crawl, and the boat started getting tossed around in the waves. We were all kept occupied for a while looking for dorsal fins or tails, but eventually eight of the nine people on board, excluding the driver and his assistant, started feeling nauseous.
After crawling around for ten minutes we saw a cluster of boats and moved over towards them and joined the queue to get in the water. Because so few whale sharks had been spotted this season, only two people per boat were allowed in the water at one time, and then we had to get in the back of the line.
The waves eventually had all four of us and another person heaving over the edges of the boat while we waited our turn to get in the water. After a half hour wait and hearing all about how amazing it was from the people who went first, Mom and I got in the water. After looking around in confusion for a second, the first mate guided us forwards a bit until the whale shark was swimming right towards us.
It was only a few feet under, and we could see it perfectly in the crystal clear water. The first mate then reminded us to swim, as hard as we could. While the whale shark was lazily wagging its tail, we had to devote all our energy to swimming to stay within visual range for more than thirty seconds.
It was a gorgeous creature. It had the dark blue skin with white spots, and the sunlight filtering through the surface sent rays of light down onto its back, making it look ethereal. It was impossible being sick on the boat minutes earlier when I was in the presence of this great creature, and for a while I forgot to swim too. It was so amazing, I didn’t want to get back on the boat, I just wanted to stay in the water with it for hours.
Despite my desire to swim forever, I had to get back on the boat, where I immediately felt sick again. I curled up on the bench and drifted off to sleep, waiting for our next destination.
Turns out the tour included more than just the whale sharks. I woke up when we reached Isla Mujeres (Women’s Island), and we dropped anchor along the line of other boats. The water was the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. It was the picturesque Caribbean ocean; teal water, crystal clear, no waves, with the finest white sand I’ve ever felt.
We played around on the beach and in the water for half an hour before we got called back to the boat. As we climbed on board, we were given a plate with fish ceviche, a heaping mound of guacamole, and chips. After playing in the ocean for a while I felt good enough to scarf it all down, then snack on Mom and Brenna’s, before the captain asked the boat if we wanted to go snorkeling. We all wanted to, and he followed it up with “Small reef or shipwreck?” It was unanimous: shipwreck.
It was only a five minute ride before we saw the spire and small rise of decaying metal. As we hopped in, the first mate threw the leftover fish ceviche in, and all the fish hiding in the wreck swarmed out to feast. It was cool being around this boat from the 1980s, sitting here as a refuge for fish. After getting our fair share of video, it was time to head back.
When we got back to the marina, we got our micro sd card from the GoPro, an adapter, watched one of our boatmates get his drone out and fly it around, and then got back in the van to head back.