7am the next morning we were up and ready for the whale sharks
. The area is a Marine Sanctuary and 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 dodgy as we headed out to sea and we passed through some heavy rain but thankfully came out the other side to clear blue skies and calm sea. It didn't take very long to spot our first whale shark, not surprising as we ended up seeing so many of them. They really are incredible and to finally see them after being in the right place at the wrong time in Australia and Thailand meant we were very very happy bunnies. We were the first ones to volunteer and jump in for a swim and snorkel and it was absolutely awesome. From the boat the sharks have big wide heads with huge mouths which they suck in 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. We swam with two different sharks and got so close we could have touched them. On the way back to the beach we saw a couple of pods of dolphins, some big pelicans nose diving down on shoals of sardines and a big flock of bright pink flamingos along the shore.
Lunch was included on the boat, and as us two happily tucked into our ham and cheese baguettes and can of coke, impressed as ever with a free lunch, 4 of the other 8 people on board were hurling off the back of it into the water. Yuk. A well needed afternoon siesta awaited for us when we got back - it is so hot here and the power of the sun is unreal. We ventured back out late afternoon when it had cooled down a bit and hired a golf buggy to have a look around the island...super fun swerving round the local dogs and kids in the road and cruising along the beach before sunset. We ordered some nachos and tacos and sat in the street being eaten alive by mosquitos - even though we were deet'd up to the eye balls. Another early start tomorrow as we want to catch the early boat / bus and try and make the onward journey to Tulum in a day without another unnecessary night in Cancun.
Even though we never intended to head north when we got back to Cancun, we read in Cuba about a tiny island called Isla Holbox (pronounced Holbosh) and that whale sharks gather here to feed on plankton in the warm water from July to September. It was too close to miss, so we just spent one very hot night in a 10 bed dorm in Cancun and caught a bus early the next morning up to Chequila to catch the boat to Holbox. It was by far the hottest bus journey we've had to suffer so far and good job it was only 3 and a half hours, although it felt much longer. The small ferry took about 40 minutes to reach the island, and it was like landing in paradise. There are no cars on Holbox, just golf buggies that cruise around on the sand roads, brightly coloured wooden buildings, and not a high rise hotel in sight. It's a tiny island, only 12km long and 1.5km wide, and huge pelicans and pink flamingos line the narrow Caribbean white sand beaches. No wonder the whale sharks choose here.