Isla Mujeres Whale Shark Swimming
Ixchel Beach activites: Whale Shark Swimming
Once you’re in Isla Mujeres you can easily find a tour guide to find the spot where the whale sharks are feeding. After about an hour of motoring, you will find yourselves in the middle of the ocean with barley land in sight and with three, four or more spreaded whale sharks slowly swimming.
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The whale shark, locally known as “Dominos”, is the biggest shark and the biggest fish. It is not a whale. It has a huge mouth which can be up to four feet (1.4 m) wide. Its mouth is at the very front of its head. It has a wide, flat head, a rounded snout, small eyes, five very large gill slits, two dorsal fins on its back and two pectoral fins on its sides. The spiracle is located just behind the shark's eye. Its tail has a top fin much larger than the lower fin. The whale shark has distinctive light-yellow markings (random stripes and dots) on its very thick dark gray skin. Its skin is up to 4 inches (10 cm) thick. There are three prominent ridges running along each side of the shark's body. This enormous shark is a filter feeder and sieves enormous amounts of plankton to eat through its gills as it swims.
The whale shark is up to 46 feet (14 m), weighing up to 15 tons with an average size of 25 (7.6 m) feet long. It is the largest fish in the world and females are larger than males like most sharks.
Whale sharks have about 3,000 very tiny teeth but they are of little use. Whale sharks are filter feeders who sieve their tiny food through their large gills.
This fish is a filter feeder that sieves small animals from the water. As it swims with its mouth open, it sucks masses of water filled with prey into its mouth and through spongy tissue between its five large gill arches. After closing its mouth, the shark uses gills rakers that filter the nourishment from the water. Anything that doesn't pass through the gills is eaten. Gill rakers are bristly structures (the thousands of bristles are about four inches long) in the shark's mouth that trap the small organisms which the shark then swallows. The water is expelled through the sharks five pairs of gill slits. The prey includes plankton, krill, small fish and squid. The shark can process over 1,500 gallons (6,000 liters) of water each hour.
The social group?
Whale sharks are solitary creatures. Groups of whale sharks have only rarely been seen.
Whale sharks live in warm waters and spend most of their time near the surface.
Whale sharks are found worldwide in the warm oceans from the equator to more/less about 30/40° latitude. They are not found in the Mediterranean Sea.
Whale sharks are viviparous, giving birth to live young. Newborns are over 2 feet (60 cm) long and are sexually mature at 30 years old. This is the age at which they are able to mate and reproduce.
Whale sharks are harmless to people and indifferent to divers.
It has been estimated that may live from a 100 to 150 years.
Other general data?
The whale shark is a docile fish who will not attack, even on provocation. Despite their impressive appearance, they are harmless to humans. They are mainly solitary in nature, they roam widely and are often difficult to find. The expedition from Isla Mujeres is an exceptional adventure. Being in the presence of these great creatures is a special privilege. Please look, take pictures, enjoy but as with many of the wonders of the ocean, please do not touch them or harass them in any way! For several years now, whale sharks have been coming to the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula to feed and mate during the months of May through October. Tourism based on whale shark watching has increased dramatically in the last few years and Government agencies have taken steps to protect these magnificent animals so that the species will not be harmed and so they will continue to return to Isla Mujeres area. For that reason there are strict rules against scuba equipment being used to view them in the area. Local guides have been trained to give tours that are as safe for the whale sharks as they are for their human visitors. Ask around at the docks or downtown Isla Mujeres for someone to take you to the whale sharks and be prepared to spend about five to six hours on the water with all that entails. Most tour guides will provide drinks and sandwiches. Of course, don’t forget to bring a hat and a sunscreen! Our Concierge is more than happy to assist you.
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