In search of el tiburón ballena– the glorious whale shark – Isla Holbox is one of the places to go! To get the Holbox (pronounced “holbosh”) you fly to Cancun, drive through Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula to the town of Chiquila where you then take a ferry to Isla Holbox. Eli Martinez organized this trip for the purpose of seeing and snorkeling with whale sharks. Eli is the founder of Shark Diver Magazine and runs many shark expedition trips throughout the world. He has a love of sharks and a deep desire to educate people on the beauty and importance of sharks in our ocean ecosystems. I went on this trip with Kathy Cope who has devoted much of her diving to filming and doing shark education through her films and website.
The island of Holbox is very basic – no banks, no ATM’s, no post office, no traffic lights! It is just perfect! There are many very charming hotels on the island, but we stayed at the wonderful little hotel Holbox Dream – a delightful little paradise in the Yum Balam Reserve and easy walking distance to the boat docks and the many fantastic little restaurants and food vendors along the “streets” of the town. Every morning we would board Eli’s boat in search of the tiburón ballena. The whale sharks come to Holbox and surrounding waters and islands throughout the Sea of Cortez to feed on plankton rich waters which peak in the summer months – mostly June, July, and August.
The whale shark – Rhincodon typus – is the largest fish in the ocean – yes tiburón ballena is a fish not a shark. This filter feeder and can grow to be the size of a school bus and feeds on or near the surface. What an experience to “swim” and see these magnificent fish! Only snorkeling is permitted to spend your underwater time with whale sharks once they are close to the boat. This experience is something that I will never forget. For more information on whale sharks of Mexico, there are many websites, including Whale Shark Mexico.