Isla Holbox, located northwest of Cancún above the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula, with its northern shore facing the calm, green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, is for most months of the year a sleepy island with sandy streets and shell-covered beaches. But offshore, an estimated 800-1400 migrating whale sharks seasonally congregate where the waters of the Gulf and the Caribbean converge. Scientists don’t know where they come from or where the whale sharks go when they leave, but this annual wonder has earned Isla Holbox the designation of being the world’s top spot to swim with whale sharks.
If you were to ask avid snorkelers to choose one fish with which to swim, the vast majority would undoubtedly answer “whale shark”. And this is true for us, too. Weighing in at 21.5 tons and reaching sizes of up to 40 feet, these docile and curious filter feeders are not whales at all. They are the world’s largest fish and what magnificent gentle giants they are! Whale sharks are widely distributed in nutrient rich tropical and warm temperate seas throughout the world and for the last several years we have been quietly searching the oceans for the destination that combines the greatest likelihood of swimming with whale sharks with the least amount of travel. We now think that we have found the perfect location-Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo, Mexico.
Isla Holbox (pronounced “ila-holebosh”-“x” in Mayan is pronounced “sh) is located northwest of Cancún above the tip of the Yucatán Peninsula. With its northern shore facing the calm, green waters of the Gulf of Mexico, it is for most months of the year a sleepy island with sandy streets and shell-covered beaches. But seven years ago it was discovered that an estimated 800-1400 migrating whale sharks, generally considered solitary animals, congregate offshore each May through September, feeding and mating where the waters of the Gulf and the Caribbean converge.
While our program centers on snorkeling with whale sharks, we will complement our trip to Isla Holbox with a visits to Ek’ Balam, a pre-Columbian archeological site and the colonial town of Valladolid. Ek’ Balam, Mayan for ‘black jaguar’, was at the height of its importance as a city during the Late Classic period (600-900 AD).
Species great and small
Holbox Island and its surroundings make up the Yum Balam National Reserve which was established in 1994 to protect the whale sharks and many other creatures that inhabit the reserve, including jaguars, white-tail deer, manatees, turtles, flying fish, orcas, manta rays and dolphins and marine birds. We will explore Isla de los Pájaros (Bird Island), a protected nesting ground for hundreds of flamingos, frigates, herons, egrets and spoonbills.
Individual flight arrivals in Cancun. Our program begins at the Cancun Courtyard Marriott with an evening orientation, followed by dinner and overnight at the hotel.
After breakfast, we travel by bus to Chiquila to board a ferry for the 20 minute crossing to Isla Holbox. After checking into the Villas Paraiso Del Mar, our home for the next three nights, we have lunch. In the afternoon we visit Isla de los Pájaros and practice our snorkeling skills as needed. After a whale shark orientation, overview of responsible snorkeling practices, including special concerns relevant to whale sharks in the Yum Balam National reserve, we have dinner at the hotel.
For two days in the early morning, we will board our private boat(s) to visit areas inhabited by whale sharks. Each day’s destination will be determined upon the location of whale sharks in the feeding grounds. After returning to the resort in the mid-afternoon, we will enjoy an interpretive session with Sea for Yourself staff, followed by dinner.
Following breakfast, we transfer from the resort to the dock for the ferry ride to Chiquilla. We will then travel by bus to tour the Mayan site Ek Balam, followed by lunch. In the afternoon we tour the town of Valladolid. Afterwards, we return to Cancun where we check into the Courtyard Marriot. This evening we celebrate with farewell drinks and dinner.
After breakfast, we transfer individually to the Cancun airport for our return flights home.
For those requesting a single room an additional supplement of $TBD will be added to the tour cost. Please be advised that single space is limited and subject to availability.
If you wish to share a room we will do our best to find a roommate for you. If, by the time of departure, a share cannot be found and space is available, you will be charged a single supplement.
The tour fee includes…
All group bus, and boat, most meals as indicated in the itinerary, accommodations in resorts and hotels as specified, all snorkeling activities, cultural and natural history excursions, local taxes, group gratuities to resort/hotel staff, services of the trip leader including any needed snorkeling lessons and biology lectures.
The tour fee does not include airfare, air upgrades, departure taxes, medical immunizations, medical expenses, visa and passport fees, accident/baggage/cancellation insurance, individual transfers, excess baggage charges, meals not specified in the itinerary, dishes and beverages not part of included meals, alcoholic beverages, laundry, telephone or fax charges, room service, Sea for Yourself staff gratuities, rental gear, SCUBA diving activities and other items of a personal nature.
Other terms and conditions exist, please see all the information listed in the download section.
Although we are acquainted with air routes to and from Cancun, we do not issue airline tickets. The airline you select may depend on your individual city of departure, and preference for travel times. While we are happy to share our opinions and past experiences with you, we suggest working with your local travel agent or the airline directly.
During the program, our base in Holbox will be the hotel “Villas Paraiso del Mar”. For more information on the hotel please go to: http://www.holbox-island.com/holbox-island/bienvenida.html
Deposits & Payments
A deposit of $850, plus a signed, completed reservation form confirms your registration for this trip. You will be notified when your space on the program is confirmed. Final payment, plus single supplement, if applicable are due 4 months prior to departure.
This program will be enjoyed by intermediate level snorkelers and will include open water snorkeling where you cannot see the bottom. Our trip leaders will gladly provide any needed snorkeling instruction, from floating to free-diving. Whenever possible, we will seek out protected waters for our excursions, but at times the surface may be choppy due to wind, especially on the days we visit the whale feeding grounds.
Temperatures in the areas we’re visiting during the month of July average in the mid-80’s. Although we have selected this month because of the greatest likelihood of snorkeling with whale sharks, in the tropics, there is always a chance of rain. Water temperature during this period ranges between 78-80°F. While the temperatures are warm, nature preserve regulations that all snorkelers swim with a floatation device. This can include a vest or wetsuit.
Sea for Yourself provides participants who are U.S. or Canadian citizens with limited medical, accident and evacuation coverage under our group travel insurance policy. We highly recommend the purchase of optional baggage and trip cancellation insurance; information will be sent to registrants. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions may be waived with the prompt purchase of travel insurance.