Five years ago, I saw a basking shark in the water while I was swimming at Black Brook Beach in Ingonish, Nova Scotia. It scared the crap out of me. I was petrified. I swam out of the water as quickly as possible and I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t running and screaming. It was a massive shark and it was within thirty feet from us. I didn’t go back in the water for a month. I was too scared. What I really was, though, was naive. I had so little knowledge of sharks and I thought they were all hungry man-eaters. Now, I’m more than intrigued by them. I’ve gone swimming with reef sharks and I’ve seen a number of them while surfing in Laguna Beach. I went diving with Galapagos sharks in Hawaii and their elegance mesmerized me. I snorkeled with whale sharks at the Georgia Aquarium and they moved like ballerinas with beauty and grace, but it wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted to witness them in their natural environment. One of the activities offered from Grand Residences Riviera Cancun is swimming with whale sharks in the ocean and I was given the opportunity to experience it yesterday. They are even more beautiful than I imagined. Rather than being afraid this time, I watched as the bus-sized shark swam toward me and I marveled at its beauty. My fear has gone and this is what’s left.
Our transportation arrived at 7 am and I was nervous. It was about a 45 minutes drive to the boat and another hour to the snorkel spot so I had plenty of time to process the situation. I was about to jump into the water in Mexico with whale sharks. Massive ones. Hopefully, they would swim towards me. Would I be aware enough to take photos or video? I wasn’t sure. Would I get too scared on the journey and back out? I’d done it before. Or worse? Would I do something stupid like panic and pass out? I’d done that before too. (I don’t know if you were reading along when I went to the aquarium to do it but I woke up out of the tank and surrounded my medics.) Now was my chance to redeem myself. I put it out of my mind and watched the waves crash against the boat.
When we arrived, I prepared to jump off the boat. I put on my mask and snorkel and slipped on my fins. I started the GoPro video immediately so I wouldn’t forget and I waited for the moment. We were told to jump and I shut off my panic brain and focused on every movement. I slid into the water and popped up.
Where was it? Focus! I put my head into the water, blew the water out of my snorkel and looked. Oh Hell! It was right next to me. What was I suppose to do again? It was moving too quickly. Oh yeah! Swim; fast! I tried to keep up. It was so beautiful and its movements were so smooth. It looked like it was hardly moving but it was quickly gliding through the water. I stayed with it for a minute before it moved on and I felt like I was alone in the ocean with it. Nothing else existed at that moment. It wasn’t aggressive toward me or concerned that I was there. Everything was calm and I realized I had stopped swimming and I just watched in awe. As it passed me, the fin brushed my arm and I had my “wow” moment that will stay with me forever.
I had one more opportunity to swim with another whale shark. When I jumped in the second time, its mouth was right in front of me and moving closer. I pulled my legs up so I didn’t bump into it and it was inches from me. The fin passed me and I actually had to back up. I started to cough because I realized I was holding my breath. I had to take my head out of the water and the snorkel out of my mouth but I calmed down quickly and went in for a second look. The bubbled had cleared and I could see it perfectly. It’s beautiful spots were bright under the water and its massive gills moved slowly creating tiny bubbles in the water.
The boat picked us up once the whale shark was gone and I sat quietly without chatting to the other guests. I had an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Some moments are too precious to put into words immediately. I was engraving every image into my brain, filling the deep crevices with this fascinating encounter.
Without Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, I wouldn’t have known this was possible and without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to experience it. The allure of their resort is undeniable but it’s opportunities like this that put it ahead of the game. Is swimming with whale sharks on your list? Have you experienced it here or somewhere else?