Just off the tip of Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is a small island largely untouched by tourism, despite its proximity to Cancún. Isla Holbox might go unnoticed entirely, except for some unique visitors who come to its warm ocean waters each summer. Their presence is hard to ignore, since they average 40 feet long and weigh 15 tons. These are gentle whale sharks -- not whales at all, despite their size, but actually the world’s largest fish. Docile and unafraid, they allow us to swim close enough to observe the checkerboard pattern of pale yellow dots and stripes covering their thick gray skin.
Day 1: Riviera Maya, Mexico
We are met upon arrival at Cancún Airport and transferred to our hotel for the evening. We’ll enjoy a welcome/orientation dinner with our Expedition Leaders this evening.
Day 2: Cenote Visit/Isla Holbox
After breakfast, we take a three-hour drive north, heading to our island destination. Along the way we visit a freshwater cenote, one of the Yucatán’s most enticing natural wonders, where those who wish may go for a cooling swim. Cenotes, which are fed by underwater rivers, were sacred to the Mayans as entrances to the mythical underworld, and were their only source of fresh water in the jungle. Our journey continues to a Mayan community, where we have a picnic lunch under idyllic centenary trees at an orchid sanctuary. Upon arrival to the north coast of the peninsula, we board our motorboat for a short ride to Holbox Island. This tranquil island is home to the tiny fishing village of Holbox, which offers visitors unspoiled beaches, colorful side streets, and fresh seafood of all varieties. Our hotel, CasaSandra, rests on the outskirts of town on a blank expanse of white sand beach. Its design and décor are reflections of the owners’ passion for the arts.
Day 3: Snorkeling with Whale Sharks / Isla de los Pájaros
After an early breakfast, we’ll set off in search of the whale sharks that migrate to this area between May and September. We generally find them 20 to 25 miles offshore, so our boat ride can take up to two hours. When we find them, we’ll enter the water two at a time with our guide, who will help us to swim within arm’s reach of the sharks for several minutes at a time. Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world, reaching up to 45 feet in length. They spend their mornings feeding on plankton near the surface of the water, and are easily visible with their beautiful black and white coloring. To be underwater with these enormous creatures is an experience that many describe as life-altering. Giant manta rays and bottlenose dolphins may also grace us with their presence during our boat rides. This afternoon we take a motorboat to Isla de los Pájaros, a protected mangrove island that is a nesting sanctuary for hundreds of flamingos, pelicans, roseate spoonbills, frigate birds and cormorants.
Day 4: Whale Sharks / Island Tour
A second excursion offshore provides another magical encounter with the whale sharks. After lunch at the hotel, we explore the island Holbox-style – in golf carts! Our guides know just where to take us to observe local wildlife and tropical birds in their natural environment.
Day 5: Puerto Morelos / Riviera Maya Snorkeling
Bid farewell to Holbox’s charms this morning as we cruise back to the mainland by boat and return to the Azul Beach Hotel. A submarine paradise awaits, when we snorkel over the second largest coral reef in the world – located right in front of our hotel. This is the northern end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System that stretches more than 620 miles to Belize, an underwater ecosystem with countless types of coral and fish species. We encounter a dizzying variety of tropical marine life in iridescent colors; along with huge schools of fish, we’re likely to see sea turtles, manta rays and sponges in the impeccably transparent Caribbean waters. The fragile reef, like most of the world’s coral reefs, is threatened by human impacts of pollution and global warming, and we leave more conscious of the critical need to protect its astounding biodiversity.
Day 6: Depart Cancún
We’ll transfer to the airport this morning for our departure flights.
Dates and Costs
Jul 14 -Jul 19
Jul 21-Jul 26
Jul 28 -Aug 02
Aug 04 -Aug 09
Customized private departures can be arranged for this destination. Please contact us for more information and we'd be happy to assist you.
Single Supplement: $795
Prices are per person based on double occupancy and are given in US Dollars. 2014 dates and fees may change slightly.
Location of Adventure
Riviera Maya, Mexico
Group Size Limit
Approximately 15 Travellers
A very important feature of our trips is the limited group size as nature expeditions are best experienced with smaller sized groups of travellers.
Van and boat transportation between Puerto Morelos and Isla Holbox, accommodations, meals (except on Day 6), services of an Expedition Leaders, most gratuities, airport transfers on Day 1 and final day, permits and park fees, all taxes (except Mexico’s departure and airport taxes).
Travel to and from start and end point of trip, meals on Day 6, alcoholic beverages, some gratuities, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, etc.), airport and departure taxes, optional travel insurance.
Moderate / Flexible
To be in the water with the whale sharks you are required to swim a minimum of 150 feet. Less agile swimmers can view the whale sharks from the boat, which is also a wonderful nature experience. Snorkeling is easy to learn, and we expect that most guests have little or no experience.
This extraordinary expedition offers the unique chance to snorkel with the gentle whale shark. The little-known area we visit is one of the best places in the world to encounter these incredible creatures.