Whale Sharks & Giant Mantas Snorkel at Isla Mujeres, Cancun Mexico July 2021
Travel restrictions limited but did not cancel our Whale Shark trip last year, but this year still felt like a welcome return.Travel restrictions limited but did not cancel our Whale Shark trip last year, but this year still felt like a welcome return.
I had three group trips this year: My first group was a family of wonderfully fun, positive, and active people. It was a first visit for most of them and it was exciting to see them experience the magic for the first time. My other groups were a mix of new faces and returning guests
I schedule our trips at the peak of the season. In July the weather was great with smooth water, great visibility and hundreds of whale sharks which were easy to find each day. Some people don’t believe that there are 100 – 150 whale sharks in the area at this time of year, but it is true and so multiple boats in the water is not really and issue as there are plenty of sharks to go around. We also get out early and stay later than most other boats so my guests get as much time in water as they want.
At least one day with each group the crew were able to find small schools of mantas. Like most days, we had encounters to ourselves with no other boats near us. The mantas did their ballet of loops and plunges and sometimes formed trains as they opened their mouths to feed as they swim.
This trip is great for all levels of photographers: phone photographers who take topside images and some in water using waterproof bags, GoPro videographers, compact cameras in underwater housings, and those with full underwater rigs and multiple cameras.
I like to keep in mind a list of images capturing angles and behaviors of the whale sharks
Wide Mouth front facing and ¾ angle
Wide mouth feeding side view
Shot from above, shot from below
Any of the above with multiple whale sharks in the frame
A split shot taken near the surface with the boat in the background
From the tail looking forward to the head
Mouth closed, close up of body parts
Other Behaviors: “bottle feed” or vertical feeding position
Close ups of the water and bubbles rushing into the mouth
Advanced: Silhouette shots
Tip: Watch the tail and snap the shutter when the tail is showing in full
Topside Photography is also a good way to add to the storytelling
Whale shark mouth and fin above water with boats in the background
Details of the spot pattern on their back
The island from the water
Quirky buildings, murals, cultural décor around town
Public art displays
Food, drinks, local fishermen
How this Trip Works
The whale sharks arrive in large numbers every summer to feed on the abundant supply of plankton and bonito eggs. For me it was an incredible experience to be in the warm blue water with these beautiful and graceful creatures. On several peak days hundred whale sharks would congregate in the space of a couple soccer fields. I have photographed whale sharks in locations around the world (Honduras, Mozambique, Western Australia), but never had the experience of being in the water with such a large aggregation and the large individuals who seemed unfazed by my presence.
Our boats leave from Isla Mujeres, just a short walk or golf cart ride from our beachfront hotel. The 10 passenger boats are comfortable for our small groups and they are fast, provide shade and storage, and smooth while cruising. Our boat captain and crew were excellent at finding whale sharks each day, sometimes just a short 40 minute boat ride. Sandwiches and snacks are on the boat with us so we are set to spend most of the day at sea. Regulations require we depart the whale sharks between 2pm – 3pm, but this gives us plenty of time to enjoy our swimming. After long day on the water we would head back to Isla Mujeres but not before eating some ceviche freshly prepared while we were busy with the whale sharks. Once back at the hotel, we have a relaxing time in the hotel pool , a cleanup and download , and a delicious dinner out in town at one of many great restaurants.
One afternoon we took the golf carts to the opposite end of the island where they have a zipline, a scenic park, and iguanas. There are many shops to pick up snacks and drinks. Each night we had a delicious meal at restaurants ranging from Mexican tacos to pizza, Mediterranean, and Cuban. After our 4 days on the whale shark boat, some of the guests returned to Cancun and did scuba dives in the Mayan cenotes and toured some of the ruins.
This trip packs in quality encounters with an easy access destination that has great accommodations and local color and many things to do if guests wish to add onto their trip or include family members. We will be returning next year in July: Check my website for dates and available spaces.
Details for all of my Trips
http://www.gregorysweeney.photography/?p=3333 Great things about Isla
http://www.gregorysweeney.photography/?p=5215 Photography Guide
http://www.gregorysweeney.photography/?p=3704 What you need to know