Adventure, Caribbean, Destination, Featured Adventure, Mexico

Swimming With Whale Sharks – A Huge Bucketlist Item Complete

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Five years ago, I saw a basking shark in the water while I was swimming at Black Brook Beach, along the Cabot Trail 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.

Traveling to the Whale Shark Location in Mexico

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.

Swimming with a whale shark. The first jump.

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.

The fin of a whale shark in Mexico

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.

Whale shark swimming towards me

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 fin of a whale shark

A whale shark in Mexico

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 wild animal encounters bucketlist? Have you experienced it here or somewhere else?

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34 thoughts on “Swimming With Whale Sharks – A Huge Bucketlist Item Complete

  1. Jacqueline says:

    Wow, they are such beautiful creatures! I think it would take my breath away too and I would totally forget to breathe! I love that shot of the whale shark coming directly at you. What a once in a lifetime experience!

    1. Lesley says:

      Luckily, I just had the camera turned on because he was coming at me as soon as I jumped in the water. I wasn’t even sure if I knew to point the camera. Just luck 🙂

  2. Oh wow…it touched you?! So happy for you to get over your fear and enjoy such an experience. Maybe I will have that opportunity someday too. But the fact that it touched you is crazy! I’m not typically scared of things, but I think it would make me uncomfortable.

    Thanks for sharing that experience so the rest of us might be able to get over the same fear!

    1. Lesley says:

      I don’t think it would have made you uncomfortable. It happened so quickly and it was so gentle that it wasn’t scary. I hope you get to experience it and find out for yourself.

  3. Neil says:

    I went swimming with whale sharks in Cancun a couple of years ago and it was one of my favorite travel experiences ever!!

    1. Lesley says:

      How many did you see, Neil? I hear that in Australia, it’s even more amazing. I want to do it again.

  4. Kayla says:

    Such an awesome experience! I’ve done it in Thailand and it was one of the best experiences of my life.

    1. Lesley says:

      What was it like in Thailand? Did you get in by yourself? How many did you see? I’d love to hear more.

  5. Lisa says:

    I’ve always wanted to do this. I remember reading about your experience at the aquarium and I wondered if you would ever try again. You should be proud.


    1. Lesley says:

      Thank you, Lisa! After that, I thought I might give up. Thankfully I kept trying because it was worth it. Now, I want to try more.

  6. Elle McLean says:

    Booked and ready to go! I didn’t even hear of this hotel before but now it’s all I think about. This is amazing – both swimming with the sharks and the property.



    1. Lesley says:

      The hotel was almost as amazing as swimming with the whale sharks. It’s in my top ten favorites in the world.


  7. Julie says:

    I would still pass out. This is awesome! Good for you. I love your control of fear.

  8. Julz says:

    Wow, sounds amazing! I added it to my list.

  9. Anisa says:

    I love hearing that you conquered your fears! Very inspirational!

  10. I’m not that big on snorkeling and diving, so I might skip swimming with the sharks, and instead just look at your photos and pretend I’ve done that 🙂 I am glad you overcame your fear of these beautiful animals, however. They’re so misunderstood. Far, far many more sharks are killed by humans, than humans killed by sharks. Remember to never eat shark soup!

    1. Lesley says:

      I feel like I’m addicted now. I want to experience more in the ocean and learn more about how I can help.

  11. Great photos! Sounds like an incredible experience. I would absolutely love to do this with my kids very, very soon.

  12. Beth Blair says:

    Talk about bucket list AND fear concuring. I’m impressed. 🙂 Your photos turned out fabulous, too!

  13. Claudia says:

    You are very courageous! I don’t know if I could do the same. They are beautiful creatures and your photos show them off very nicely!

  14. Wow! That looks like an unbelievable experience. Such beautiful creatures, but I’m not sure if I would want to be face to face with one.

  15. Kath says:

    Amazing experience. I have gone swimming with manatees but what a totally different experience. I would be like you, holding my breath or breathing so fast I would have to get out! Thanks for sharing.

  16. I am determined to snorkel with whale sharks in the Philippines– this post made me want to do that even more! Love your photos, love your description. See you soon! 🙂

    1. Lesley says:

      It was so nice meeting you today. Stay in touch 🙂

  17. Brock says:

    Wicked. This is also something that I simply must do. I have seen the majority the photos of this of the coasts of the Philippines. I assumed that I would do it there when I visited (no schedule, yet). Man, this sure looks fun! 🙂

  18. Allison ( says:

    What an amazing experience!

  19. I have had a long term dream to swim with whale sharks and your article has re-inspired me to plan a visit. In my case the closest option is Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia, and I probably need to wait for my children to get a bit older before we will be able to do this as a family trip. Thank you for the inspiration!

  20. BonBon says:

    YAY…. congratulations!!! YOU’ve watched the most fascinating and graceful shark on earth:) I did the opposite the first time I went swimming with whale sharks; I couldn’t stop watching them and actually jumped out of the boat even everyone were all on-board already. I am crazy I guess:) LOL… BUT thanks for this post. I will be writing about my experience soon:)

  21. CestLaVibe says:

    Amazing! Would love to do this someday.

  22. Nasir says:

    Hi Lesley.
    Thanks for sharing your lovely experience with us thru this beautiful post. Deep sea diving really a whole new world of meditation. Thanks again & images are awesome, great 🙂

  23. David Jones says:

    I have never tried this but i would love to do that.
    Thanks for sharing this interesting information with us

  24. Woww, it’s amazing, Great!

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