Isla Mujeres lies a short distance from the popular tourist town of Cancun on the northeast coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. This is where the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico meet, and where the Yucatan current brings vast quantities of essential nutrients. Between May and September each year, whale sharks migrate to the area to feed in its plankton-rich waters. Over 250 species of fish also live in the waters around Isla Mujeres and Isla Holbox and it is considered one of the most bio-diverse regions of the Atlantic Ocean.
Whale sharks aren’t whales at all. They belong to the family of sharks, and are the largest fish on Earth. However, they are largely docile creatures that don’t pose a threat to humans. Though they have been known to travel great distances, whale sharks are actually slow swimmers barely making upper speeds of 5 kmph. As a result, swimming with whale sharks has become a huge tourist attraction in Mexico.
Whale sharks love warm waters. In the area around Isla Mujeres, visiting whale sharks (rhincodon typus) tend to swim in fairly shallow waters, close to the surface. Because of this, they are prone to injury from tourist boats. Their numbers have also been harmed by targeted fishing, as bycatch in nets and they are now endangered and protected animals.