Swimming with the whale sharks is a classic La Paz activity – it’s on every “best of La Paz” list and most of the La Paz t-shirts and hats, there is a statue on the Malecón, and the graceful giants show up in much of the local street art. Plus whenever you walk the Malecón, there are people ready to book you on the next whale shark tour. Charles was very excited to swim with the whale sharks, while I was personally more nervous, but all the more reason to try!
We had light hopes of running into whale sharks while we were sailing Ayala, but they concentrate in a small, protected area near Dunas del Mogote, where we do not go. So, we and our good friends on Trouble booked a morning trip with Buceo Carey.
The boats hold up to 14 people, but we were very lucky to just have one other person on the tour – a Dutch cyclist who had ridden down from Calgary named Remon. You can only have 5 people in the water with each whale shark, which meant that we each got to swim with every shark that passed!
Once we got out near the dunes, our guide would sit up on the top of the boat’s sun shade and scan the water for large dark shadows. The five of us sat on the edge of the boat in our wetsuits and on the guide’s command, slid in. As soon as the bubbles from entering the water disappeared, we were face-to-face with our first whale shark! It was an exhilarating experience – they are truly so big and it’s hard to contextualize until they are right next to you in the water. That first one was 6-8 meters long, which the guide said was small, as they can get to be over 15 meters! The biggest one we saw was 10-12 meters. They move methodically, gracefully, and it was so exciting to swim with them.