Who: All Ages. Families, Kids.
What: Annual Whale Shark Festival.
When: July 20-22, 2018
Tip: Time of greatest aggregation of whale sharks.
Where: Isla Mujeres, Mexico
How: Cancun airport then Ferry to Isla Mujeres
Why Responsible: Learn about whale sharks & the traditional local culture, history, cuisine.
The 11th Annual Whale Shark Festival on Isla Mujeres, Mexico is just around the corner! John Vater, co-founder of Ceviche Tours, a responsible whale shark ( and other marine!) experience provider, shares insights on how the festival came to be, why the whale sharks are so important - and what's his favorite don't-miss part.
The Full Moon Signals the Largest Congregation of the Biggest Whale Sharks
Roberta: Why is the festival held in July? Aren't there whale sharks around Isla Mujera all year?
John Vater: The Festival is scheduled around the largest groups of whale sharks (of the year) being in the Azule area, the new Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve off Isla Mujeres. The full moon in the summer months triggers the spawn of tunas and bonitos in the bluewater off Isla Mujeres and brings groups of hundreds of whale sharks to feed on the eggs of these species.
John Vater: Throughout the season there are whale sharks in the Isla Contoy National Biosphere Reserve, (but they are) mostly juvenile males, 7 males to every female and much smaller in the area north of Contoy island. Also north along the Yucatan is the Yum Balam Reserve, this area is known as the Green Water, it is plankton-rich water from the Gulf of Mexico, where the upwelling of colder water causes a major plankton bloom that the Whale Sharks feed on. This water is usually reduced in visibility due to the plankton but does hold whale sharks, manta rays and a variety of other rays.
Small Isla - BIG Festival!
Roberta: Is all of Isla Mujeres involved in the Festival?
John Vater: The Whale Shark Festival is a (whole island) community event with residents, businesses and tourists getting involved.
Some of the most important work is the Environmental Education of the children of Isla Mujeres and visiting families. This work is the focus of our good friend and NGO sponsor Catalina Galindo of Amigos de Isla Contoy who does several events during the festival to inform and educate the visitors and the local population on the need to preserve and protect the areas marine ecosystem.
The Festival is a Whole-Family Affair!
Roberta: Can you tell us about some of the special Festival activites?
John Vater: Isla Mujeres is chock full of activities for the entire family that are focused on Sustainable Eco-Tourism. (Some of the events are) Tours of the Turtle farm on the Isla, Reef Snorkeling tours, and Catch and release big game fishing. The Underwater Museum is an example of how Isla Mujeres is giving corals a fresh start where there had been damage to the reef from Hurricanes.
Roberta: What is your “Don’t miss” advice for Festival visitors?
John Vater: Swimming with whale sharks in the crystal blue waters off Isla Mujeres, of course!
(And) The nightly events in the Plaza in the center of town include Great Isla Culinary exhibitions from the best Chefs on the Island, Traditional Dance shows and Live music all 3 nights. This coupled with the presentations every night by World Renowned Biologists, and Nature Photography exhibitions ensure that there is something for everyone at the Festival
It's All About the Kids
Roberta: What do you personally (John Vater) love most about the Festival?
Seeing the children participate in the tours. When you witness a youngster spot their first Whale Shark and jump into the water to swim with them, they do the same thing every time as they look through their mask and realize just how magnificent these creatures are, you hear a trumpeting through their snorkels like a baby elephant!
A Note from Roberta: John Vater is passionate about salt water, the animals that live in it and the people who live with them. Read his interview here.
This is Fun! Ecotourism is a Family Affair. An Interview with John Vater.
Isla Mujeres, Mexico
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