Diving Oceans

Swimming with Whale Sharks in La Paz, Mexico

Imagine the thrill of swimming alongside one of the largest creatures on Earth: the whale shark. La Paz, Mexico, offers a unique opportunity to witness these gentle giants up close. In this article, we will delve into the world of whale sharks, their characteristics, and why La Paz is considered one of the best destinations to spot them.

The Majestic Whale Shark

The whale shark, scientifically known as Rhincodon typus, belongs to the Rhincondontidae family. Despite its name, it is not a whale but a fish. These remarkable creatures are non-predatory and feed by capturing suspended food particles in the water.

Measuring an average length of 40 feet and reaching a maximum size of around 65 feet, the whale shark is the largest fish in the world. They weigh up to a staggering 20 tons, making them second only to whales in size. Astonishingly, these magnificent creatures can live for an average of 70 years and sometimes even surpass 100 years.

One of the most striking features of the whale shark is its gorgeous skin. The dorsal surface displays a distinct coloured pattern with light spots and stripes that create a checkered appearance against the darker background. This unique skin pattern is a fingerprint, enabling scientists to identify specific individuals.

Understanding the Diet

It is fascinating to note that despite their immense size, whale sharks primarily feed on plankton. They utilize their filter-feeding mechanism to consume large quantities of water. By moving slowly near the ocean’s surface and utilizing their gills, they process over 6,000 litres of water per hour. This allows them to extract and consume massive amounts of plankton by vacuuming water into their mouth and filtering it through their gills.

Although plankton forms the bulk of their diet, whale sharks occasionally consume larger prey such as mackerel or squid. Furthermore, their diet can include phytoplankton and macroalgae, showcasing their versatility in food choices.
The complex dietary preferences of whale sharks are just one aspect of their intriguing nature. Individuals can report whale shark sightings by capturing photographs and submitting them to the SharkBook database to contribute to scientific research and track their movements. This photo-identification library aids in identifying and gathering valuable information about these incredible creatures.

Reproduction and Growth

Whale sharks exhibit an intriguing reproductive strategy known as ovoviviparity, a unique combination of egg-laying and live birth. Within the maternal body, the embryo undergoes development encased within an egg, which remains sheltered until hatching occurs internally. Subsequently, the female whale shark delivers an impressive brood of up to 300 live pups into the watery expanse. Unfortunately, the precise duration of their gestation period remains elusive, leaving a gap in our understanding.

Upon entering the world, the offspring manifest dimensions of approximately 20 to 23 inches in length and a weight hovering around 2.2 pounds. It is widely posited that maternal care occurs within the vicinity of their birthplace. Yet, the sight of baby whale sharks proves exceedingly rare, akin to unearthing a hidden treasure in the ocean’s vastness.

Migration and Habitat

Whale sharks are known for their extensive migratory patterns, covering distances of up to 8,000 miles. While they roam across vast areas, specific locations offer predictable opportunities to observe groups of whale sharks. Their migratory behaviour is closely tied to the availability of food.

Whale sharks thrive in water temperatures ranging from 82 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. However, they can endure prolonged periods in deeper waters with temperatures as low as 50 degrees. These adaptable creatures navigate through diverse temperature ranges for food and suitable environments.

Regrettably, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers the whale shark an endangered species. Their population faces significant threats from fisheries that target them for their fins, liver oil, and meat. Despite these challenges, conservation efforts are underway to protect and preserve these remarkable creatures.

La Paz: A Whale Shark Haven

The Bay of La Paz in Mexico is a haven for whale sharks due to its high biodiversity. Spanning 1615 square miles, this national protected marine area is adjacent to La Paz Island and the Espiritu Santo National Park. The management of these areas is overseen by the National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (CONANP).
The best time to spot whale sharks in La Paz is from October until April. Their migration aligns with abundant food and tidal solid currents near the channel connecting the bay with a coastal lagoon. The exact timing of the season may vary slightly from year to year, and it officially commences with at least five whale shark sightings within the protected marine area.
Whale shark migration and aggregations are closely linked to areas with high primary productivity and nutrient upwelling zones. These regions often coincide with phytoplankton blooms or fish and coral spawning. Some whale sharks display fidelity to specific sites, returning to the exact locations for several years.


Swimming with whale sharks in La Paz, Mexico, is an awe-inspiring experience that offers a glimpse into the remarkable world of these gentle giants. As the largest fish in the world, whale sharks capture our imagination with their distinct characteristics, from their unique skin patterns to their filter-feeding behaviour. However, their vulnerable status reminds us of the importance of conservation efforts to protect these magnificent creatures for future generations.


Whale sharks can reach lengths of up to 65 feet and weigh up to 20 tons, making them the largest fish in the world.

Whale sharks filter large amounts of water, consuming plankton, phytoplankton, macroalgae, and occasionally larger prey such as tuna or squid.

You can report your whale shark sightings to the SharkBook database, which helps scientists study and track the movements of these incredible creatures.

Yes, whale sharks are considered an endangered species due to threats from fisheries and the demand for their fins, liver oil, and meat.

The best time for whale shark sightings in La Paz is from October until April, aligning with their migration patterns and food availability.

We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By agreeing you accept the use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.

Close Popup
Privacy Settings saved!
Privacy Settings

When you visit any web site, it may store or retrieve information on your browser, mostly in the form of cookies. Control your personal Cookie Services here.

These tracking tools are strictly necessary to ensure the functioning and provision of the service you have requested from us and, therefore, do not require your consent.

Gdpr acceptance / rejection
These cookies store the choices and settings decided by the visitor in compliance with the GDPR
  • wordpress_gdpr_allowed_services
  • wordpress_gdpr_cookies_allowed
  • wordpress_gdpr_cookies_declined

Technical cookies
These cookies are set by Google's recaptcha service to identify bots to protect the website from malicious spam attacks and to test whether the browser is able to receive cookies.
  • wordpress_test_cookie
  • wp_lang

Decline all Services
Accept all Services
Open Privacy settings