Trip Report: Whale Sharks and Mantas 2021

Snorkel with Whale Sharks Mexico

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.

Whale Shark Snorkel
Whale Shark Front view with mouth closed

Details about my next Whale Shark & Mantas Trip

swim with manta Mexico


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

snorkel with whale shark Isla Mujeres
Whale Shark Side View

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.

swim with whale sharks Mexico
Guest enjoying the whale sharks
Isla Mujeres Whale Sharks

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

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