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Swimming with Mexico's Whale Sharks

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Swim and snorkel with the world's largest fish!

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The Yucatan: Drink It In

Just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula is a small island untouched by mass tourism. Peaceful Isla Holbox might go unnoticed entirely, except for some high-profile visitors that frequent its warm ocean waters each summer. Averaging 40 feet long and weighing 15 tons, the whale sharks' presence is hard to ignore. These gentle filter-feeders are actually not whales at all, despite their size, but the world’s biggest fish! We enter the water with them in pairs, alongside our Expedition Leader, for a low-impact, close-up encounter. If you’re looking for a fish tale to top all others, this is it!
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Travel Curator’s Insights:

    • Swim up close to gentle whale sharks on careful, low-impact encounters in warm Caribbean waters
    • Explore idyllic Isla Holbox, a traditional fishing community with streets of sand and few cars.
    • Visit Isla de Los Pajaros, teeming with frigates, flamingos, pelicans and more.


From $5,895 per person
Policies and protocols provided before you book.

July 2-7, 2023
July 4-9, 2023
July 9-14, 2023
July 11-16, 2023
July 16-21, 2023
July 23-28, 2023
Ask us for later dates.

July - August
Hover here for specific dates


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Trip Sustainability Awards 



Has eliminated use of single-use plastic bottles and straws



Has contributed more than $4.5 million to the WWF



Offsets all CO2 outputs from trips and office operations


Day 1: Cancun, Mexico / Puerto Morelos

Our whale shark tour begins on arrival at the Cancun airport, where you are met and transferred to our oceanfront hotel on the Riviera Maya. Enjoy a welcome dinner and orientation with our Expedition Leader this evening.

Accommodation: Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita

Day 2: Cenote Swim / Isla Holbox

After breakfast, we drive three hours north, bound for Holbox Island. En route, stop at a freshwater cenote, among the Yucatan’s most enticing natural wonders, where those who wish can enjoy a refreshing swim in this deep pool of crystal-clear water. Cenotes, fed by subterranean rivers, were sacred to the Maya as entrances to the mythical underworld, and their only source of fresh water in the jungle. Along the way, we stop in a Maya community for a picnic lunch. Once we reach the north coast of the peninsula, board a ferry for the short ride to Holbox Island, a tranquil haven known for its pristine beaches, white sand streets and abundant fresh seafood, the mainstay of the small fishing village of Holbox that is the only settlement on the island. Our hotel, set among gardens dotted with palm trees, fronts an inviting sandy beach.

Accommodation: Villas Palapas Del Mar


Day 3: Swimming with Whale Sharks / Isla de Los Pajaros

After a light breakfast early this morning, we set off in search of the whale sharks that migrate to these Caribbean waters each summer. We generally find them 20–25 miles offshore, so our boat ride can take up to two hours. Once we locate the whale sharks, we enter the water two at a time with our Expedition Leader, who helps us swim within arm's reach of them. These gentle giants aren't actually whales at all, despite their enormous size—they are the biggest fish in the world, reaching up to 45 feet in length and weighing some 15 tons. As filter feeders, they subsist on plankton that floats near the water's surface, and their distinctive gray and white patterned skin markings make them easily visible. To be in the sea with these enormous, placid creatures is an experience many describe as life-altering. Once we're back to Holbox Island this afternoon, we make another offshore excursion by motorboat to Isla de Los Pajaros, a protected mangrove island that is a nesting sanctuary for flamingos, pelicans, herons, frigatebirds and cormorants.

Accommodation: Villas Palapas Del Mar

Day 4: Swimming with Whale Sharks / Isla Holbox Tour

A second excursion offshore offers another wondrous encounter with the whale sharks. With a maximum of just eight guests in our boat, we have a peaceful, personalized experience that few visitors who come to see whale sharks experience. After lunch, set out for some further exploration of Holbox Island. Our guides have years of experience discovering the hidden corners of Holbox, and they know just where to take us to observe local wildlife and tropical birds in their natural environment, when afternoon weather conditions permit. Should we encounter one of the frequent squalls that sometimes move in later in the day, we'll focus on a cultural experience with the island's hospitable inhabitants.

Accommodation: Villas Palapas Del Mar


Day 5: Puerto Morelos

We leave the languid charms of Holbox Island behind this morning as we ferry back to the mainland to return to our beachfront hotel. Here, a submarine paradise awaits, with a chance to snorkel over the world's second-largest coral reef, located right in front of our hotel. This is the northern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef that stretches more than 600 miles to Belize, and this intricate underwater ecosystem abounds with diverse tropical marine life. Along with colorful coral and huge schools of fish, we're likely to see sea turtles, manta rays and sponges in the transparent Caribbean waters. Like most of the world's coral reefs, this fragile ecosystem is threatened by human impacts of pollution and global warming, and we leave more conscious of the critical need to protect its astounding biodiversity. This evening, we gather for a farewell dinner.

Accommodation: Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita

Day 6: Puerto Morelos / Cancun / Depart

Our whale shark adventure comes to a close this morning as we leave the Riviera Maya to transfer to the airport for departing flights.

Activity Level: This adventure does not require a high degree of physical fitness. However, snorkeling is a big component of this trip, with excursions offered nearly every day, and snorkeling is essential for the fullest encounter with the whale sharks. In order to snorkel with the whale sharks, you must be able to swim a minimum of 150 feet in deep water and moderate currents while wearing a required PFD (personal flotation device), which will be provided. The PFD will provide additional flotation assistance as you snorkel. We strongly recommend practicing snorkeling while actively swimming beforehand if you have limited experience. Our Expedition Leaders also provide instruction for those in need of additional snorkeling guidance.

If you choose to enter the water to swim with whale sharks, you must also be able to climb a four-rung vertical ladder that hangs over the side of the boat in order to re-board the vessel. Less capable swimmers and guests who are unable to climb the ladder can view the whale sharks from the boat, which is also an exciting experience. We travel in 23- to 29-foot open panga-style outboard motorboats, sometimes for hours at a time, to find and view the whale sharks. Due to the potential for bumpy seas, these boat rides are not recommended for pregnant women or travelers with back or neck injuries. In order to join this trip, you must be able to climb stairs, as our multi-level accommodations do not have elevators. Additionally, in order to participate in all activities, you should be able to walk unassisted for a minimum of one-half mile, as our itinerary includes several short walks.

Travelers should be aware that the heat and humidity may be very high, and roads may be bumpy.

Getting There & Getting Home: Plan to arrive in Cancun no later than 4:30 pm on Day 1 of the adventure, as there is a group orientation and welcome dinner at 6 pm. You are free to depart anytime on the final day.




Image by David Maunsell


Two people traveling in a room together. Rate is per person.

Rates from in USD:


Image by David Maunsell


As a solo traveler, a cost supplement will be added to your trip.

Rates from in USD:


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Swimming with whale sharks was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. They're huge! I hope you get to do it too.

Joy Martinello, Founder



What’s Included & Cancellation Policy:

Accommodations, services of professional Expedition Leader(s), all meals from dinner on Day 1 through dinner on Day 5, most alcoholic beverages, most gratuities, airport transfers on Day 1 and final day, all activities and entrance fees, all taxes, permits and service fees.

Travel to and from the start and end point of your trip, some alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, passport and visa fees (if any), optional activities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry and internet, etc.), airline baggage fees, airport and departure taxes (if any), required medical evacuation insurance, optional travel protection insurance.

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