The season was extended as a result of research conducted by Project Domino, an initiative sponsored by the Mexican government dedicated to the study, preservation and tracking of whale sharks in the waters surrounding the Yucatan; and data contributed by guides of Ceviche Tours, a US-based ecotourism travel agency that provides sustainable ecotourism to the indigenous peoples of Isla Mujeres. Data showed that the season in Isla Mujeres can be extended without interfering with the migratory and feeding habits of whale sharks, the largest fish in the world and an endangered species.
This announcement comes as Isla Mujeres plans their second annual Whale Shark Festival slated for July 15-19, 2009. The Festival will be a five-day extravaganza that showcases the achievements, the traditions and the environmental splendor of this fishing community while championing the need to preserve a fragile marine ecosystem.
“Swimming with whale sharks is an unforgettable experience. We are thrilled to offer guests of Ceviche Tours’ whale shark tours two additional weeks of ecotourism adventures,” said John Vater, who co-founded Ceviche Tours with his wife, Adriana, and longtime friend and Isla Mujeres native Luis “Cuco” Refugio and his family. “The Whale Shark Festival will be a tremendous opportunity for travelers to participate in ecotourism adventures and to immerse themselves in the culture of this vibrant island community.”
“The Whale Shark Festival is a true celebration of the culture, heritage and the beautiful marine habitat that make Isla Mujeres the Jewel of the Yucatan Peninsula,” said Eyder Jahil Hoth Pérez, director of tourism for Isla Mujeres.
Whale Shark Festival sponsors include Ceviche Tours, Project Domino and the Department of Tourism for Isla Mujeres. Nonprofit partners include environmental leaders ECOCEAN, a renowned marine conservation organization; and Amigos de Isla Contoy A.C., which promotes the conservation of Isla Contoy, nature areas and regional projects of the Yucatan peninsula.
Swimming with Whale Sharks
Visitors to Isla Mujeres and guests of the Whale Shark Festival can swim with whale sharks, an endangered species and the largest fish in the ocean. They can join the worldwide effort to protect and preserve whale sharks by adding their photos to ECOCEAN’s international Whale Shark Photo-Identification Library Project, a visual database of the unique markings that allow scientists to indentify – and track – individual whale sharks. The Project incorporates a worldwide network of ecotourism sites, with regional databases (including that of Project Domino) connected to the global Photo Identification Library.
By contributing their excursion photos of whale sharks to the Library, guests take part in the important efforts to identify, track and protect this endangered species as “Citizen Scientists.”
At the Festival, guests can participate in a wide variety of family-friendly activities, including live music, traditional dancing, and visiting booths and displays by local artisans. Tours of the Turtle Farm on Isla Mujeres are also available, as well as private excursions to Boca Iglesia, the first church built in North America (in 1517). Snorkeling, diving adventures to the reefs and wrecks surrounding Isla Mujeres; sport fishing charters, in-shore and offshore; and opportunities to swim with whale sharks are some of the exciting water activities available.
Children will also participate, enjoying projects where they explore the reefs, fish, and learn about the local bird population and conservation efforts.
From July 2-4, 2009 preeminent scholars on marine biology, sustainable ecotourism and Mayan Architecture will present sessions for the academic community as well as the general public.
For photos and more information, visit www.whalesharkfest.com.
About Ceviche Tours
Ceviche Tours is a US-based ecotourism travel agency that provides sustainable ecotourism to the indigenous peoples of Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Founded by John and Adriana Vater of Spa Adriana in Huntington Village, NY, with longtime friend and Isla Mujeres native Luis Refugio “Cuco“ Sanchez and his family, Ceviche Tours works with the indigenous islanders of Isla Mujeres to help preserve their culture and maintain the integrity and beauty of the surrounding marine environment. Through education and photo identification efforts, Ceviche Tours joins the worldwide effort to protect and preserve whale sharks. As participants on our whale shark tours, guests are invited to be part of those identification and tracking efforts.
For more information, please contact www.cevichetours.com.