Thanks to their predictable migration up the east coast of Central America and Mexico, getting in the water with whale sharks is easier than ever. The species, which can grow to 29,000 pounds and 40 feet long, follow seasonally high concentrations of their favorite food, plankton, and resorts and towns along their path roll out the red carpet. The fifth-annual Whale Shark Festival (whalesharkfest.com), June 21-24 on Isla Mujeres off the coast of Cancun, combines daily snorkel tours with parades, scientific presentations, kids events and other festivities. CONTACT: delfindiving.com
Can’t make it to Isla Mujeres for the festival? Here are some other Caribbean whale-shark hot spots:
UTILA, BAY ISLANDS, HONDURAS
Giants frequent the Bay Islands year-round, but March to June and August to September is prime time. PADI Five Star IDC Utila Lodge offers snorkeling trips. CONTACT deepblueutila.com
GLADDEN SPIT, BELIZE
Sharks arrive in March and usually stick around until June. PADI Resort Splash Dive Center in laid-back Placencia can make it happen.
ISLA HOLBOX, MEXICO
This sleepy island on the north coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, around the corner from Cancun, offers another interaction opportunity . Scores of local boats depart for the shark’s feeding grounds each morning. CONTACT holboxwhalesharktours.com