SNORKELING IN MEXICO: WHALE SHARKS
FACT: Despite being built as big as a bus, the whale shark also was endowed by Mother Nature with speed. See them in action in La Paz, Mexico.
BEHIND THE SCENES: Whale Sharks in La Paz, Mexico
By Tara Bradley
Here in the warm waters of the Sea of Cortez, you’ll lose any Jaws-fostered fear of sharks. When the massive fish comes into focus, you hear your breath quicken through your snorkel and feel your adrenaline pumping — whale shark! Luckily for snorkelers, it’s possible to have in-water encounters with Tiburónes ballena on the surface while they feed. A filter feeder, the ocean’s largest fish hungrily inhales clouds of fish eggs, plankton, small fish and squid. But you have nothing to fear: Everything on a whale shark’s menu is so small that you can barely see it, and its tiny rows of teeth play an almost nonexistent role in its feeding.
Boats that operate out of La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur, have guides who are experts at spotting the sharks as they glide just beneath the gleaming surface of the water. Our guide from SunRider Tours is the first to spot the sharks on the horizon.
We slip into the water, and after a rigorous snorkel-swim, we find ourselves in the wake of a feeding frenzy. Just as I settle into lazily floating alongside one of these gentle giants, it gives a flick of its tail and is quickly out of reach, diving down into deeper water.
That’s when the dance begins. We take turns getting our one-on-one time as they appear and disappear. Below, I see one glide up from the depths.
Kicking with all of my might, I finally approach it. Within moments it is gone. Despite being built as big as a bus, the whale shark also was endowed by Mother Nature with speed. By the time we’re back on the boat, we’re breathless — from trying to keep up and from being blown away by the beauty of it all. sunridertours.com