Island of Women Pt. 2

By the looks of this foreshadowing breakfast, I knew our second day in Isla Mujeres would be excellent. Grilled skirt steak, chilaquiles with avocado and crema, and there’s nothing quite like a slab of beans to start your day off right. Am I right? Coffee and orange juice. Al fresco seating. It was joyous; one of my favorite meals I’ve had in Mexico thus far. So simple, so fulfilling.

Afterward, we headed to the docks to hop on a whale shark tour — but the tours had all left hours ago, and it was only 9 a.m. After some finagling, we smooth-talked a captain into taking us. We paid a bit more for the private charter, but it would be worth it.

So while the captain went to fill the boat with gas, we hung around the docks for some beers with the boys, who were hauling in their catch of the day: barracuda!

It was time to set forth upon the sea. We loaded into the Mahache with Captain Fausto and his first mate!

The water was unbelievably choppy. This video doesn’t quite accurately capture the rollercoaster effect of the waves that day, but lucky for me, I am made of steel. Others would’ve been less fortunate, I’m sure.

It was a long, wild ride to the middle of nowhere to see the whale sharks. But as the engine slowed and we stalled, I stood up to see dozens of whale sharks basking around the boat.

We grabbed our snorkel gear and jumped in.

I was a little intimiated at first. The whale sharks were huge and they were everywhere around us — I had no idea what to do. But our guide took my hand and dragged me right into the path of one. “Go on, go on,” he called to me. I was breathless.

I followed each shark until it quickened its swim and advanced too far ahead to catch. But I’d turn around and there was another whale shark! And another.

I know it was wrong, but I touched one — and their skin is hard, almost plasticky. The guide said the biggest one he saw was 42 feet long!

I turned sideways and swam alongside one shark for a few minutes. Its eyes, which are located on the side of the body, turned to me and I looked right back. I looked into the eye of the whale!

It was the weirdest feeling. I felt so small, so out-of-body; and so overcome with emotion. I wanted to cry. I did cry. I can’t really explain why, except that I was alone, in the middle of the ocean, in Mexico, with dozens of mystical whale sharks, glimpsing something rare and beautiful. It was the culmination of my trip — dare I say my life? — to witness them.

Maybe it was hormones. But, just like with the snakebite incident, I thought about my life, about my family, and about my trip as a whole.

I am living. This, friends, is living.

It was definitely the adventure of a lifetime. If you have a chance to swim with the whale sharks — do it. And see Captain Fausto if you can.

He will change your life and then pour you a Sol.