In July 2020—while the rest of the world was stressing about Covid—my best friend Jaymie and I headed to Mexico to swim with the whale sharks.

Little did I know I’d encounter one of the ocean’s most otherworldly creatures as well.

Whale Shark Tour With Amancay Freediving

The tour we did with Amancay Freediving ran totally smooth. We met the tour group in the morning, drove to Cancun, had a light breakfast and boarded the boat.

The Bumpy Ride Out to the Whale Shark Spot

The ride out to where the whale sharks feed took about 1.5 hours and, unfortunately, it was really bumpy. Jaymie and another guy in our tour ending up getting extremely seasick. Jaymie took Dramamine before the tour, too! Once I started feeling sick on the boat, I took dramamine and fortunately made it through without feeling too nauseous.

woman freediving with whale sharks and camera in cancun mexico

Photo by @Mari_Free_to_Flow

Swimming With Whale Sharks

The rules for swimming with whale sharks are 2 people from each boat in the water at a time, no touching and stay at least 16 feet away.

The crew wanted to make sure everyone on the tour got to swim with the whale sharks, so everyone on the boat was suited up and prepared to go in. As soon as a whale shark was in sight, our instructors were like “Now, now, now! Get in the water!” and Jaymie and I were like “Wait, what? Now?” so surprised by how quickly everything was happening!

two women swimming with a whale shark in cancun mexico

Once we got in, sure enough a HUGE whale shark was swimming by! We were having so much fun swimming alongside it but also SO out of breath from the swimming, choppy water and excitement.

swimming with whale sharks in cancun

The tour continued like that with groups of two. You spend a couple minutes in the water, then get back on the boat and another group goes.

Jaymie and I continuously joked about how we expected this super natural, serene experience swimming with the whale sharks and it’s not like that at all.

Swimming With Manta Rays

While I was waiting to go back in on the boat, we started seeing bright white patches underwater and it took me a second to realize it was manta rays flipping and showing their white undersides.

underside of manta ray in cancun

Photo by @Mari_Free_to_Flow

I jumped in the water as soon as it was my turn and I could not believe my eyes. These huge, angel-like manta rays were swimming all around and coming so close. At one point there were 3 together swimming in a circle forming a ring! Mantas are so curious they will swim directly at you and come pretty close, then dip down at the last second. It’s absolutely mind blowing.

manta ray on whale shark tour in cancun

Photo by @Mari_Free_to_Flow

There was a moment when I was underwater and a manta was coming right towards me and it felt like the whole world stood still. I’ll never forget that moment.

swimming with manta rays in cancun mexico

Photo by @Mari_Free_to_Flow

Honestly, I cannot accurately express what this experience means to me. Seeing manta rays up-close underwater pierced my soul.

I had to fight back tears when I got back on the boat because the experience was so hard to process. They are the most majestic creatures I’ve ever encountered and I truly think they are angels!