Schedule, Speakers Announced for Second Annual Whale Shark Festival in Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Swimming with Whale Sharks and Other Ecotourism Adventures

Francisco Remolina, Director of the Yum Balam Preserve,
Headlines Academic Seminars

ISLA MUJERES, MEXICO – June 19, 2009 – Immerse yourself in the beauty and culture of Isla Mujeres, Mexico at the Second Annual Whale Shark Festival, as Ceviche Tours and the Department of Tourism of Isla Mujeres today announced the official Schedule of Events for this five-day celebration to be held July 15-19, 2009.



Sponsored by several environmental leaders, the Whale Shark Festival will showcase the achievements, traditions and environmental splendor of Isla Mujeres while championing the need to preserve a fragile marine ecosystem. Whale shark tours, swimming with whale sharks and other ecotourism adventures are some of the activities guests can enjoy. “The Festival will welcome thousands of visitors to Isla Mujeres, to take part in a myriad of family-friendly activities and enjoy the beauty and culture of this vibrant seaside town,” said Eyder Jahil Hoth Pérez, director of tourism for Isla Mujeres.

The Festival will feature an Artisans Exposition at Mainsquare, which will include displays of traditional dancing happening daily. Several local women’s artisan groups will display their works. There will also be an array of games for the whole family, a food court showcasing local flavors and traditional dishes from Isla Mujeres restaurants, and stands from Festival sponsors.

Francisco Remolina of the Comision Nacional de Areas Naturales Protegidas (National commission of Protected Natural Areas) and director of the Yum Balam preservation reserve, will headline the Academic Seminars. Dr. Remolina was key in forging new legislation to have the marine area north of Contoy all the way to Holbox Island declared a biosphere for the protection of whale sharks.

Exclusive Tours, Family-Friendly Activities
Guests can participate in a wide variety of exclusive family-friendly activities:

    • Tours of the Turtle Farm on Isla Mujeres 
    • 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
    • Trips to Contoy Island to tour the National Park, the most important nesting place of sea birds in all of the Mexican Caribbean, and the Bird Sanctuary
    • Swimming with whale sharks, the world's largest fish
    • Sport fishing charters, in-shore and offshore 

Swimming with Whale Sharks
Guests can swim with whale sharks, an endangered species and the largest fish in the ocean. They can also join an effort by Project Domino, a conservation program implemented by the Mexican government, to protect and preserve whale sharks by adding their underwater photos to Project Domino’s visual database of the unique markings, or spots, that can identify individual whale sharks. These markings allow scientists to track these graceful creatures. Images from the Project Domino regional database are shared with a global database from nonprofit ECOCEAN.

“Swimming with whale sharks is an unforgettable experience,” 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 Isla Mujeres.”

Academic Seminars and Film Showcase
From July 16-18, preeminent scholars on marine biology, sustainable ecotourism and Mayan Architecture will present sessions on their work. They will also showcase films about the area and preservation activities.

Filmmaker Jerónimo Avilés, known for his underwater work, will unveil his latest film on Mexican shark researcher Deni Ramirez and his activities in Baja. The film also features research efforts by the Domino Project.

Also, archaeologist Alfonso Morales from Grupo Plan, will present a conference on the Mayan Culture and Commerce in the Mexican Caribbean.

Additional confirmed speakers include:

    • MC Natalí Cárdenas, Cinvestav-Pronatura, Yucatán, Mexico. "Hábitat del TB, aspectos hidrobiológicos" 
    • Lisa Carne from Gladden Spit marine Reserve, Belize, Foto Id on Belicean WS.
      Biol. Rafael de la Parra, APFF, Yum Balam-Proyecto Dominó, Q. Roo, Mexico. "El Proyecto Dominó, 2003-2008"
    • Araceli Espadas from Grupo Plan, discussing the Community Projects from the Fundación Haciendas del Mundo Maya A.C.
    • Dr. Jaime González, Director, Parque Nacional Isla Contoy. "Whale Shark Population Estimates"
    • Dr. Rachel Graham, Friends of Nature, Belize. "Acoustic tracking array, Marine Meganet"
    • Drs. Robert Hueter and John Tyminski Mote Marine Lab, Florida USA. "Satellite Tracking, vertical and horizontal movements."
    • MC Dení Ramírez CibNor-Cicimar, BCS, Mexico. "Whale Shark Genetic Comparison between Baja and Holbox"
    • MVZ Francisco Remolina, Director, APFF, Yum Balam, Q. Roo, Mexico. “CARTEL Reserva de la Biósfera del Tiburón Ballena"
    • MC Oscar Reyes, Cinvestav-Pronatura, Yucatán, Mexico. "El Turismo y el comportamiento del TB"

These sessions will be held in the evening.

Whale Shark Festival sponsors include Ceviche Tours, Project Domino and the Department of Tourism of Isla Mujeres. Nonprofit partners include environmental leader Amigos de Isla Contoy A.C., which promotes the conservation of Isla Contoy, nature areas and regional projects of the Yucatan peninsula.

Booking Travel
Travel arrangements can be made through the Ceviche Tours Webiste ( Whale shark tours can also be booked on the Website; they are available now through September 17, 2009.

For a complete listing of activities, photos and more information, visit

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 “Cuco” Refugio 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