By Alex Navarro
Welcome to Baja, it is great that you are here during the month of October because it is the beginning of the whale shark season near La Paz. The season ends around May.
Going swimming with whale sharks is something I have wanted to do for a long time. My son went with his school last April and they had a wonderful time. There are many great excursions and tours to go see the whale sharks so let me tell you all I have found about these trips and also all I have learned about the whale shark in general:
- The whale shark´s scientific name is Rhincodon typus, it is the largest species of fish and they live in all of the world´s tropical seas.
- They can weigh up to 20,000 pounds, be over 62 feet long and live over one hundred years.
- A whale shark can have over 300 eggs.
- They are filter feeders feeding mostly on plankton, krill, and small fish and shrimp.
- Whale shark´s mouths can be 5 feet wide and has hundreds of tiny teeth, and 20 filter pads.
- A juvenile whale shark can eat up to 50 pounds per day
- Their tough dark grey skin has light grey or white
- spots and stripes which are different in all whale sharks, and they have a white belly.
- Touching the whale sharks is prohibited and swimmers must stay approximately 9 feet away from the body and 12 feet away from the tail.
- With an average swim speed of 3 mph and their enormous mouths and hundreds of teeth, whale sharks are no danger to swimmers as they are very gentle.
- To swim with whale sharks, it is recommended to know how to use a mask, snorkel and fins, and be a good swimmer.
- Good swimmers as young as 8 year old kids and people up to 85 years can enjoy this amazing experience.
- Sunblock is allowed only if it is reef-safe.
- Underwater cameras are permitted, but with no flashes or lights. Use of drones is prohibited.
- Those who don't want to swim can buy a special ticket and enjoy seeing the whale shark from the boat.
- Take a sporty swimsuit, a wind breaker, a change of clothes and towel, and expect your shoes to get wet. For phones bring a waterproof bag or ziplock bag.
- If you are in La Paz a tour can cost about $70 USD which will include water and sodas, snorkel gear, wetsuit, boat ride, insurance, taxes, and shark conservation bracelet.
- You can book a private boat tour for up to 6 people for about $400 USD.
- Most tours running out from Los Cabos to La Paz are about $200 USD per person and take about 2 hours of drive time each way.
- There are luxurious tours on large boats that can cost over $300 usd per person including transportation, and amenities like chef on board, lounge chairs, etc; and small support boats for approaching and swimming with the whale sharks.
- The boat part of a whale shark seeing tour lasts usually about 2.5 to 3.5 hours.
- Tours can be cancelled due to weather or governmental regulations. Once approved into the whale shark feeding zone, it takes approximately from fifteen minutes to an hour to find whale sharks.
- The government restricts the number of swimmers in the water with a single whale shark to six.
- The time limit in the whale shark feeding zone is 2 hours per each group of six swimmers.
- Life jackets must be worn at all times
- People with respiratory problems, limited mobility, neck or back problems and pregnant mothers are not allowed.
- When the captain or crew spots a whale shark, you will be told when to jump in the water. You will jump in the whale shark´s path and swim along with it. Some sessions can be one to three minutes long or longer. Many times you will see them feeding too.
- The whale sharks´ nickname is the "gentle giants".
This is some basic information I researched on whale sharks and swimming with them. Now I am really very excited about hopefully doing it this season. Maybe I will do a multi day trip and check out Isla Espiritu Santo and Balandra Beach too. These are two great spots near la Paz on my to do list of Baja Adventures.
I hope you have great vacation here in Cabo and if you feel like doing something really adventurous and get out of town, maybe swimming with the whale sharks will be the unforgettable choice!