Updated: Feb 25
Our most recent group trip to Socorro struck gold near the end of their vacation, when one of the dive teams had an awesome and completely unexpected whale encounter. Any dive involving two enormous humpbacks within arms reach has got to go down in history, but this encounter was even more memorable because it was completely out of the blue!
Best Whale Swimming Spots
Bluewater trips like Socorro regularly spot whales from a distance on the surface, but to be sure of an encounter one needs to visit one of very few places in the world where swimming with whales is managed in a safe and controlled environment. Moorea in French Polynesia, and San Ignacio on Mexico's Pacific coast are prime examples of such whale swimming destinations. Because whales are migratory, they return to the same stretch of coastline year after year, often to mate and give birth. This offers up fantastic opportunities to encounter and photograph groups of whales and calves in fairly shallow and sheltered coastal waters.
Swim With Whales Safely
As with all whale species, Pacific grey whales and humpback whales (those found in San Ignacio and Moorea, respectively) are protected by various international agreements such as the International Whaling Commission. And while interacting with whales one on one may seem harmless compared to the trauma of commercial fishing exploits, populations and individuals are at their most vulnerable after long a migration and with new young in tow. This is why recognised operators will only ever allow swimming and snorkeling with whales rather than scuba diving - when they've had enough, the whales can dive out of reach of well-meaning tourists.
So while a chance underwater encounter with a gentle giant is possible, it's certainly unlikely unless you target a specific whale swimming destination. And by using an official operator you can immerse yourself in an amazing experience, safe in the knowledge that both the whales and the participants remain safe and well.