After a week in Cancun, but before getting down to the business of studying [which is really why I am here] I headed north to an island off the coast from Cancun called Isla Holbox (pronounced Holbosh). It is one of the less visited islands near Cancun. Attractions include the flora and fauna, flamingos, dolphins, fish, and numerous enormous whale sharks that frequent the surrounding waters. After two buses and a boat ride over to the island I strolled down the sandy streets in search of my accommodations for the weekend. My boat captain had a friend of a friend who owned a ‘guest house’ here. I have learned that unlike in England, in Mexico, or at least around Cancun ‘guest house’ really has no meaning. It could actually be a house or it could be a thatched cabana or anything in between.
I wasn’t on my own for very long. Who do I run into but Tito and Juan who I had met in Cancun as part of the party crowd. [Also friends of friends of the boat captain] They were with two new friends, Juli and Adriana, drinking tequila in a beachside restaurant–which means I was soon sitting at said beachside restaurant also drinking tequila. All of them are from Spain, and boy do I love the Spaniards. One thing is for sure, Spaniards sure know how to have a good time. I found my room [a cabin, but surprisingly clean and cozy and wired for electricity], and then returned to join them. I made plans to join them the next day to swim with whale sharks and check out the underwater schools of fish.
The area is a Marine Sanctuary and it’s really well managed – the boats that take you out to spot the sharks are tiny, with 10 people maximum, and only 2 people are allowed in the water with them at any one time. The weather looked a bit sketchy as we headed out to sea. We passed through some heavy rain, but thankfully came out the other side to clear blue skies, calm seas, and lots of fish. It didn’t take very long to spot our first whale shark, not surprising as we ended up seeing so many of them. I [and another girl–not my new Spanish friends] were the first ones to volunteer to jump in for a swim and snorkel around. It was absolutely awesome. From the boat the sharks have big wide heads with huge mouths which they suck in the plankton through while slowly swimming along the surface. As soon as we were in the water next to them we realised they are just like enormous 20 foot sharks with a fin and big tail surrounded by at least 50 smaller fish up to a foot long themselves.
I joined them for breakfast the next day before heading out with them on the boat. I had no preconceptions about what it would be like to swim with a shark but after that first breath taking experience of swimming alongside this large, spotted, vegetarian beast looking straight into it’s eye and seeing it’s breath released from it’s gills, I was in awe! They seemed to be everywhere swimming lazily around us and quite happy to be in our company. It some instances they would circle back to swim with us again and again. Although my first dive was thrilling, my second was a once in a lifetime experience. My guide told me to swim in one direction. Suddenly, though, through my mask I saw this massive whale shark swimming toward me. Together we began to swim side by side. I quickly turned my body to move up along side of it. It was so incredible to have the opportunity to swim next so close to this beast.
And for those worried about me, whale sharks are vegetarian.
just another tranquil Caribbean island