Could a whale shark swallow a human?

A whale shark is a fish and does not eat people

There is a lot of controversy on whether a whale shark can swallow a human due to its big size and huge mouth and probably because of the fact that although being a fish (the biggest in the world, not a whale), it is also infamously called a shark.

A whale shark has a huge mouth but can not swallow a human

It is true though that a whale shark has a mouth as big as 5 feet long, sucks in more than 600 cubic meters of water every hour while feeding. They swallow this incredible amount of water because they need to capture as much food as they can and their food is strictly plankton.

However, if you can’t take the picture of Pinocchio getting swallowed by a huge whale out of your head when you first encounter one face to face,  this information will ease your nerves a little bit because a whale shark simply can not swallow a human.

The obvious reason is because a whale shark has an esophagus that measures only a few inches across. So, physically it is impossible to be swallowed by a whale shark. Also, a whale shark knows what to eat and even if you are on their way they will just move and avoid you.

If a whale shark would swallow a human by accident it would spit it out

What if a whale shark swallows a person by accident? It has never happened before but according to Phillip Motta a researcher at the University of South Florida a whale shark will immediately spit you out.

He conducted several experiments such as throwing rice and Sargasso weed right in front of the whale shark’s mouth while feeding and it would immediately spit it as soon as it entered the mouth.

So, if you are still traumatized for watching Pinocchio being swallowed by the whale, you can be calm now, a whale shark won’t eat you and if they do swallow you by accident -which is quite unlikely to happen-, they will spit you out right away.

A whale shark is the gentlest creature you will encounter and swimming alongside them it is an experience you will never forget!

Would you like to see a whale shark live?

References

Akumal

Akumal beach: Land of the Turtles

Swim with free turtles at the Akumal beach in Riviera Maya

Have you heard of a land called the “Land of the Turtles”? That’s “Akumal” in the ancient Mayan language.

This small town nestled between Playa del Carmen and Tulum in the Riviera Maya in Mexico, is where you can find the largest population of wild-free-swimming turtles in the area, thus its name.

Eco-guides will provide you the best experience

Although reachable by many means, the best way to make the most of your visit to Akumal beach is by being comfortably taken to the place and let a certified eco-guide show you the bay who will not only do this, but take care of you and all your family members.

You will also see: sting rays, colorful fish, squids, seahorses, barracudas, groupers, spotted eagle rays, coral and sponges

Turtles move from one end to the other of the bay depending on the time of the day.

Therefore, guides have been certified for safety and solely to look and find for the turtles and other marine life that strive in the Bay, doing this every day, they know the bay by heart and know exactly where to find our shelled friends as well as sting rays, colorful fish, squids, seahorses, barracudas, groupers, spotted eagle rays, coral and sponges!

All just a few meters away from the beach.

Not a great swimmer, not a problem!

You don’t really need to be a great swimmer or snorkeler as you get to wear a flotation device, snorkel and mask and flippers included in the price.

While you open your eyes wide with surprise, the photographers in an unnoticeable way will make sure to capture the best moment when you are face to face with a turtle.

Once you are out of the water you will be hearing all the stories from everyone on how an incredible encounter it was!

See but do not touch: preserve nature!

When you visit Akumal beach though it is very important to keep in mind that touching them is a federal offence and the use of sun block is restricted, so try getting bio-degradable sun block or we strongly recommend buying a rash guard as many of the nature related activities in the Riviera Maya forbid the use of sunblock.

Akumal beach is undoubtedly a place to put on your bucket list when you are in the Riviera Maya! Go, enjoy nature at its best and always be ecologically conscious!

Some photos but the real thing is much better!

Would you like to swim with the turtles at Akumal beach?

Whale Shark

Where do whale sharks go after leaving Mexico?

Whale sharks stay in Mexico from May to September every year

After almost 5 long months of having our guests of honor in the beautiful and warm waters of the Mexican Caribbean, and as with all good things in life, everything comes to an end, and every year we have to say good bye to such incredible and beautiful creatures: the whale sharks.

Where do whale sharks go after?

Although whale sharks are found in many other locations around the world besides from Mexico, their territory encompasses the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. At least this is what we know from our observations because even though they are incredibly big, little has been known about their movements around the world’s oceans until now.

Science is still studying whale sharks

A new scientific publication in the Journal of Fish Biology from January 2013, suggests that based on past studies, genetic research, GPS tracking and identifying individuals by their spot patterns from tourist who upload their pictures to the internet, there is a significant connection between all whale sharks in the world and that they are part of a global meta population, a term that means that a group of spatially separated populations of the same species get to interact at some level.

Migrations of whale sharks across the world
Migrations of whale sharks across the world

As you can see, little is known about their migration patterns and consequently about their mating and breeding sites, however we do wish them a safe trip to where ever they might go, hoping we do get to see next year the same spot patterns and maybe new ones!

Would you like to see whale sharks live?

What do whale sharks eat?

Huge mouth, lots of teeth but taste for tiny food

Imagine being the biggest fish in the world. Now imagine yourself having huge jaws worthy of your size  lined with 300 rows of teeth.

What would you eat? Tuna? Dolphins? Turtles? Maybe sharks?

Whale sharks do not!

Their “pray” get trapped in a rake-like structure called the pharynx. The amount of water they can filter is 1,500 gallons (6000 liters) per hour!

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Whale sharks eat plankton

Despite their size and their huge mouth and teeth (which are about 3mm in length) whale sharks get crazy about the tiniest – even microscopic and base of the ocean’s food chain – microorganisms.

These microorganisms are mainly phytoplankton, zooplankton and other small crustaceans such as krill. Whale sharks consume these tiny organisms by sucking water into their mouths and filtering it through their gills in a process known as filter feeding.

What’s on whale sharks menu

Phytoplankton

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Some meaty zooplankton?

Students studying grass at the Turfgrass Science Complex.

Or a delicious cloud of krill?

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Whale Shark

International whale shark Day: 30th August

Did you know the whale shark has an International Day celebrated around the world?

Hey come on! It’s the biggest fish in the world we are talking about! There had to be a special day for such an incredible creature!

The whale shark day was created in 2008

Well, the story goes like this…  in 2008 during the International whale shark Conference that took place in Isla Holbox in Mexico, it was decided that there should be a day dedicated to celebrate the whale sharks species in order to promote its conservation, educate the public and create awareness of its vulnerability.

This decision was made –believe it or not- by representatives from over 40 countries that came to the conference to share their findings and research about the biggest fish in planet.

The whale shark is in Mexico on their international day

August is gone now though and the whale shark season is almost over. However, if you are in the area for the first two weeks of September you will still be able to admire these incredible creatures of the sea before they continue their migratory path to the waters of the rest of the world.

So now you know it! Don’t forget to celebrate the International whale shark Day next year!

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Whale shark species description

Common name:

  • Whale shark

Scientific name for whale shark:

  • Rhincodon typus Smith, 1828.

Family:

  • Rhincodontidae

Physical description:

  • Broad flattened head head with a large mouth, about 300 rows of small teeth in each jaw and several gill slits on the sides.
  • Teeth are just 3 mm in length.
  • Eyes are small and located behind the mouth on each side of the head.
  • Have a unique pattern of stripes and spots that identify one individual from another resembling a checker board.
  • Have two dorsal fins, the first one being larger than the second one.

Feeding:

  • Filter feeds on plankton and krill (small shrimp-like crustaceans) by gulping in vast amounts of water. They do this by swimming forward with mouth open or by standing in vertical position sucking in nutrient rich water.

Reproduction:

  • Ovoviviparous (internal fertilization and produce live young)

Size:

  • Can reach 15 meters and weight 18 tons.

Geographical distribution:

  • The whale shark is highly migratory undertaking trans-oceanic migrations of more than 6,500 km.
  • They love the tropical and warm temperate seas and inhabit both deep and shallow coastal waters and the lagoons of coral atolls and reefs.
  • They are commonly observed in Mexico, Australia, Seychelles, Philippines,  Mozambique, South Africa and other regions of the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea.

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swim with free Whale Sharks

Tips to prevent sea sickness and enjoy watching the Whale Shark

Did you get sea sick before? Don’t worry.

You have booked your tour to go watch and swim with the incredible Whale Shark in the Riviera Maya, you feel really excited as you know this will be a lifetime experience.

However, you have been told that the ride may be a little bumpy depending on the weather conditions.

Don’t worry!

There are things you can do to prevent sea sickness

  • Avoid caffeine. Do not drink coffee for at least 24 hours before getting on the boat.
  • Eat light. Avoid greasy, acidic or heavy foods.
  • Avoid alcohol the night before getting on the boat and once you are on the boat.
  • Sleep well during long good 8 hours.
  • Drink water and stay fresh.
  • Avoid smells. Particularly stay away from diesel smells and exhaustion smoke.
  • Don’t focus your attention on the boat’s movements.
  • Don’t read, use binoculars or cameras for any great length of time
  • Look at the horizon but do not stare at it.
  • Take the Dramamine pills given by our staff before getting on the boat.

What is seasickness/motion sickness?

Motion sickness is the discomfort and associated vomiting induced by a variety of motion conditions aboard ships, aircraft, vehicles, on swings or amusement park rides, and sometimes in elevators.

It is not an actual “sickness” as it is a normal response of a healthy person without having any particular functional disease. However, symptoms may vary from individual to individual.

What causes it? It originates in the vestibular apparatus located in the inner ear by sending signals that are translated in a different way that the sensation felt visually kinetically.

In other words, your brain gets puzzled from what is happening outside causing a sensorial mismatch.

Relax: it is the peaceful Caribbean sea!

We really hope these tips come on handy and that your trip to swim with the Whale Shark is a memorable experience during your stay in the Mexican Riviera Maya!

Anyway, most boat trips on the Caribbean sea are as calm as they can be.

At the minimum chance of bad weather the boats are forbidden to go to the sea and the tours are postponed. Security is always first!

Guarantee your place to watch and swim with the Whale Shark

 

Akumal

Please use biodegradable sunscreen to preserve aquatic life

Bring biodegradable sunscreen in your travel bag to Mexico

You decided to spend your holidays in the beautiful Cancun – Riviera Maya area, you are packing your bag and probably wondering:

– What should I take to Mexico?

Please bring biodegradable sunscreen.

Most of the attractions that involve getting wet, either in the Caribbean ocean (including the whale shark tour!) or the fresh water sinkholes (cenotes) , ask visitors to wear biodegradable sunscreen.

All sunscreens, blocks and oils wash off your skin when you are in the water, even the biodegradable ones. The difference between the biodegradables and the regular ones is that the biodegradables will be decomposed within a couple of days and the Non-biodegradable sunscreen takes a long time or never to decompose. Even products that degrade rapidly in water remain in the system long enough to cause damage to marine flora and fauna they come in contact with.

How to use the biodegradable sunscreen?

To avoid any pollution and to protect the natural gifts we recommend our clients to apply the biodegradable sunscreen long before the activity (like in your hotel room) and not just before entering the water. First of all it will work better and secondly we avoid any waste. We also recommend our clients to protect themselves with (long sleeve) t-shirts (rash guard), had, caps, sunglasses, towels. We will ask our clients, before entering in the cenotes, to take a shower to make sure chemicals from lotions, make up, sunscreen and deodorant don’t get introduced to the crystal clear water.

The oils and chemicals that compose non-biodegradable sunscreen kill corals and marine animals

The reason is that non-biodegradable sunscreens come off your skin in the water, and the chemicals and oils stay in the surface of the water column to later settle on corals and even marine animals, which eventually will kill them.

Imagine that every person that comes to the Riviera Maya puts on sunscreen then multiply it by the millions of tourists that visit the area each year; it results in tons and tons of sunscreen being washed into the ocean that ultimately accounts as one of the leading causes of coral bleaching and membrane mucus problems in marine creatures.

Your individual actions like using biodegradable sunscreen makes a significant difference!

Please have in mind that your actions make the difference and try to stay ecologically conscious regardless of where you go in the world.

Would you like to see whale sharks live?

Contoy and Mujeres Islands

Fun activities in Playa del Carmen and Riviera Maya

Playa is one of the biggest settlements of the Riviera Maya.

Experience the thrill of the small town of Playa del Carmen. Playa, as the locals call it, is a beach side town located on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the biggest settlements of the Riviera Maya.

How to reach Playa del Carmen

To get to Playa del Carmen from other cities in Mexico and internationally, you usually fly to Cancun airport and then transfer to Playa, which is only an hour’s drive.

Playa del Carmen stretches from the beach near Paradisus hotel and beyond, however the tourist zone is near the center of Playa and in the area along the coast.

Most tourist buses pull into Playa turning off the highway at Benito Juarez Avenue and drive to the downtown bus station which is located right on 5th Avenue.

The ferry quays to Cozumel are located just in front to the bus station. The “Quinta Avenida” is the main street that runs parallel to the ocean and it is really close to the beach.

Fun activities to do in Playa del Carmen

Snorkeling

A popular activity all along the beaches of the Riviera Maya.

Even though all beaches in Mexico are public, some require fees to enter and use the facilities.

Going on a snorkeling tour has many advantages:

  • You do not need to buy and carry equipment;
  • Guides will take you where there is better water visibility;
  • Guides will show you hidden animals and where coral growth is better;
  • All entrance fees are included.

The tour to Akumal will take you to swim with the turtles in their natural environment!

Kitesurfing

Kitesurf the beaches of Tulum and also Playa del Carmen.

Scuba Diving

Amazing dives all along the Riviera Maya! Diving lessons and professional diving guides are found in the best dive spots in Quintana Roo.

You’ll see many options around in Playa de Carmen.

Watching and swimming with the Whale Shark

The main attraction of them all: Going on a tour to watch the majestic Whale Shark!

This is an experience you cannot let pass by any chance.

In fact, you should actually book it online before coming to Mexico because:

  • You get a 10% discount;
  • You ensure your place;
  • You may re-schedule your tour to another day if you need before your holidays are finished.

This will definitely be the highlight of your vacations and you will be going home not only with great memories in your head, but also with many pictures with whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, turtles and fish!

Come to Playa del Carmen, Riviera Maya, Mexico and experience an adventure of a lifetime!

Check out our whale shark video!

A video is better than words to show you how is a whale shark tour

We wanted to show you our new edited video in which you will see exactly how our whale hark tour is conducted and therefore have a better picture of how we do!

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, but despite their size, whale sharks are completely harmless to humans!

Whale sharks are now very used to our presence and seem comfortable with us.

So, when you come to Mexico’s Riviera Maya, make sure you don’t miss the whale shark experience during the peak season of May to September!

We guarantee you will have a great time during the whale shark tour and afterwards you will love the paradise island of Cozumel where you will have a delicious tropical meal!

Our whale shark snorkeling adventure tour will definitely become the highlight of you vacations!

Guarantee your place and get 10% discount

Experts on whale shark watching