A weekend of whale sharks
Two of our volunteers, Hazel and Dan, spent their weekend on a great adventure snorkeling with whale sharks! Read about their experience here:
Having being with GVI Pez Maya a month now, the current volunteers were rewarded with a three day weekend while the newbies arrived and settled in. We took the opportunity to experience one of the must-do things whilst in Mexico: swim with the whale sharks of the Yucatan Peninsula.
Every year between May and September these gentle giants of the sea congregate off the coast to feed, and are met with lots of enthusiastic tourists wanting their moment to swim with these beautiful behemoths.
We were greeted in Cancun with a friendly reminder that we´re in Mexico, as our hotel was not able to find our reservation. Panic started to ensue as the receptionist informed us that they had no available rooms and that all other hotels in the area would also be fully booked. However upon showing him our email confirmation of our booking, ten minutes later he mysteriously had a room for us. We were then able to relax for the evening and enjoy such amenities as electricity, WiFi and running water.
An early start was in order the next morning as the tour operators were scheduled to pick us up at 6:50am. As our watches ticked past 7:30 we grew increasingly paranoid, especially given the previous days events. Two or three other tour collectivos came and went, each one raising our hopes and crushing them again just as quickly. Eventually our transport did arrive and then we were on our way.
When we arrived at the crystal clear waters just off Contoy Island, it took a few seconds to actually realize what we were seeing fifteen feet from the front of the boat; an eight metre juvenile whale shark named Pacho who left us all on the boat scrambling for a better view. Before we knew it they were everywhere! The boat circled around looking for the best position to drop us into the water right alongside them. The view as we snorkeled alongside them was just incredible. Then when we thought it was getting away from us a sudden turn allowed us to get closer than we´d have liked at times; particularly to the tail! We took turns with the others on the boat to get up close and personal with the sharks so that they wouldn´t feel swamped by too many of us descending upon them at once. The next shark we swam with was a 12 metre spotted monster, happily cruising along at a gentle speed that was easy for us to keep up with; allowing us to swim in his wake for several minutes.
Our final encounter was the most exhilarating. The shark slowly circled around with us alongside him; completely unphased by our presence. It all came too soon when it was time for us to go back on the boat; but the blow was softened by the fact that we then got taken to Contoy Island to snorkel on their unspoiled reef, and then to relax on the beach at Isla Mujeres. The setting couldn´t have been much more perfect, the white sand contrasted beautifully with the turquoise ocean and the azure cloudless skies.
After what seemed like no time had gone by at all we hopped on a bus to head back down to Playa to rendezvous with the other volunteers, ready for the next week of diving and adventures in Pez Maya. We exchanged stories about our respective weekends, then sleepily piled into our collectivo home; ready to meet the new members of our Pez Maya family.
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