A trip to Baja California in late autumn through spring offers a chance to swim with the world’s largest fish: whale sharks. These animals can grow to the size of a school bus, but, they are harmless to humans. Here’s what you need to know to plan an unforgettable, eco-friendly encounter with these gentle giants.
When to Go
Whale sharks migrate through Baja California Sur and the Sea of Cortez from October to April, often congregating in the sheltered and nutrient-rich waters of the Bay of La Paz to feed on abundant plankton and krill. Most peninsula whale shark tours depart from La Paz, Cabo San Lucas, or San José del Cabo. How to Go
Organized tours ensure a safe and responsible way to swim with the whale sharks, plus the best chance of sightings thanks to expert crews and tracking systems. After catching a catamaran or other boat out to sea, you’ll wait for your captain’s signal to jump in once a whale shark is spotted nearby. Because the animals tend to feed in shallow waters, it’s possible for even novice snorkelers to experience the thrill of observing them beneath the surface.
Things to Know
- Growing up to 40 feet (12 meters), whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean. However, these toothless vertebrates feed mainly on plankton and are not considered dangerous to swimmers.
- To help with conservation, the Mexican government requires all those who enter whale shark territory to secure a permit, usually worn as a bracelet and provided by tour operators.
- Most tours provide all the gear you need, including a snorkeling mask, fins, and a wet suit for your comfort. Though the water may be warm in October, it gets downright chilly during the winter months.
- Tours range from a few hours to a full day, with some providers adding stops in the town of Todos Santos for lunch and a visit to the legendary Hotel California.