Tiny Travel Essay: When Swimming with Sharks…

Photo taken by Deane Madsen
Photo taken by Deane Madsen

by Deane Madsen

“Take the Dramamine,” our new friends from the wedding party urged us, rolling the tube across the table. I’d just mentioned that my wife and I would be heading out into the Gulf of Mexico the next morning to swim with whale sharks. Based on their recent experience on the trip, our new friends suggested preparing ourselves… “definitely.”

I’m not a huge fan of taking medications before symptoms arise, but in this case, it seemed prudent to make an exception — the ceremony we’d flown down to attend would be later in the day, and we wanted to be sure we wouldn’t miss it with stomach trouble.

Cancun is a place full of spring breakers and partygoers of all ages, but it doesn’t have to be all frat boys and Señor Frogs margaritas by the yard. Swimming with the whale sharks was one escape from that kind of scene, but involved an hour-and-a-half boat ride across the Gulf on a flat-bottomed skiff. The kind of bumpy ride that churned stomachs as if we’d all been out until 3am… or that worsened the effect for those who had.

But when we arrived, we found a circle of maybe a hundred dorsal fins. While we put on our flippers and snorkels, our guide explained that no one really knew why the whale sharks gathered in the same place every year. We dropped gently into the water and found ourselves surrounded by mouths. Enormously wide mouths, skimming the surface of the water for plankton, the sharks’ food source.

That’s when everyone else we’d come with started puking. And pretty soon the whale sharks had taken care of that, too.

Take the Dramamine.