Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the ocean. They can grow to over 50 ft in length! Despite their size, these graceful creatures are commonly known as the ‘gentle giants’ of the ocean.
When you see Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres for the first time in their natural environment, it is sure to be ‘love at first sight’. You will be surprised by their amazing size and beauty.
Even with their massive size, there is much that scientists have yet to discover about these mysterious and quiet creatures. Actually, some of their habits and biology are still unknown to this date.
-"Whale Sharks are huge!"-
Thanks to the touristic attention to the Whale Sharks in Isla Mujeres & Cancun, in addition to the recent media coverage, more studies has been conducted revealing interesting discoveries. For example, marine biologists recently discovered that this giants are able to survive at far deeper depths and beyond previously suspected.
- "Whale Sharks dive deep into the ocean!" -
By using sophisticated satellite tags on this gentle giants, scientists indeed recently made an incredible discovery, that whale sharks can live in depths of nearly 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) in other words the gentle giants are truly masters of the deep.
Firstly in order to understand the their habitat, above all we must understand how this gentle giants feed to survive on Isla Mujeres. Whale sharks are filter feeders similarly to whales and despite their size they are particularly harmless to humans. They mostly eat by straining only the tiniest of ocean organisms specially, such as plankton, from the water.
It is common to see whale sharks ‘hoovering up’ generally plankton, fish eggs, small fish, squid and different sorts of shrimp. Whale sharks are only one of three known shark species that filter feeds in this way, other sharks like the basking shark and the megamouth shark are known to perform their process of filter feeding in a different way.
A whale shark’s method of filter feeding deals mostly with suctioning water into their mouths at high velocities while remaining stationary for instance. The food then enters through filtering pads that in this case cover the entrance of their throats. These filtering pads are full of millimeter-wide pores that act like a sieve for the most part, allowing consequently water to pass through while finally capturing the desired food particles.
These gentle marine creatures will generally roam around the globe alone, however whale sharks in Isla Mujeres & Cancun have been known to gather in large numbers from time to time but in very particular places. The giant fish is primarily pelagic, not only meaning that they live in the open sea, but generally not in the greater depths of the ocean.
Worldwide, most of the whale sharks have been sighted in the waters surrounding over 100 countries and have a broad distribution usually between latitudes 30°N and 35°S in tropical and warm temperate seas, both in oceanic and coastal waters. They congregate in feeding areas, often undertaking long migrations to finally reach areas rich in food sources.
Other hot spots for viewing these sharks are Mexico Pacific side, Belize, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, the Galapagos, Honduras, South Africa, Mozambique, Seychelles and India being Mexico in Isla Mujeres one of the most important congregation.
Like other sharks, the reproduction process takes a lot of time mostly because the slow metabolism. Like great white sharks, the whale shark is ovoviviparous, meaning that the egg remains within the body and the females give birth to live young. Moreover, there is evidence that suggests that whale shark pups are not all born at once. Scientists have suggested that females are able to retain sperm from one mating session, and as a result produce a steady flow of pups subsequently over a long period of time.
Their skin has a set of stripes and dots on a dark gray background. In Brief, just like human fingerprints, each one of them has their own unique pattern of dots that make them one of a kind.
Whale Shark Facts
- Similar to the fingerprint of a human, the pattern of spots around the gill area are unique to each individual allowing researchers to identify individual sharks.
- The only known predator of the whale shark is humans.
- The mouth of the whale shark is massive, reaching a width of approximately 1 meter (over 3 feet).
- Only 3 shark species (the whale shark, the basking shark, and the megamouth shark) are filter feeders, straining their prey from the water column.
- They can reach a length of 40 feet or more and weighs 20 or more tons.
- The whale shark can have between 300-350 rows of teeth at one time.
- Females can have up to 300 shark pups at one time!
- Whale sharks can live up 100 years of age, but don’t become sexually mature until their early 30’s.
Scientific name: Rhincodon typus
Mass: 19,000 kg (Adult)
Conservation status: Vulnerable (Population decreasing)
Length: 11-12 m
Lifespan: Up to 70 years
Whale sharks live long lives (estimates say 70+ years), mature late (not producing offspring until 30+ years of age), and give birth to relatively few offspring during their lifetime. As a result, whale shark populations are particularly at threat from human exploitation.
Threats to the whale shark include habitat loss which results in loss of prey species, coastal development resulting in marine pollution, collision with boats, and disturbance or harassment by boats and divers engaged in irresponsible tourism activities.
The biggest threat however, is the trade of body parts (particularly their fins) which are used in traditional Chinese medicine and oriental gastronomy.
Protect the Whale Sharks
These animals play a crucial role in sustaining our world’s ecosystem. Without these gentle creatures eating all of the plankton and microorganisms that they do, our aquatic food chain would be all out of whack. Besides that, these creatures are absolutely breathtaking to look at. It would be a shame to rid this world of such a wondrous fish.
Whale Shark Snorkeling
Snorkeling with whale sharks and mantas in Isla Mujeres, Mexico
Nature lovers, families and adventure travelers.
Ask for our custom and private departures for groups.
Isla Mujeres & Cancun, Quintana Roo, México
May 15 – Sept 15
6 – 8 hours
Whale Shark TourVisit the Whale Sharks and learn about them in this amazing experience
3-5 Group $135 USD P/P
7-10 Group $125 USD P/P
Shared Trip 10 People Max
All the Equipment Included
Private Whaleshark TourLevel up the experience and take our Private Whale Shark Tour
up to 1-6 Private Group $1000 USD P/G
up to 7-8 Private Group $1100 USD P/G
All the Equipment Included