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Travel bucket list idea:

Last updated: 24 June, 2023
Expert travel writer: Alex Robinson

The Mayan Riviera is one of the few places in the world where you can get close to a giant American crocodile and live to tell the tale. And as croc encounters take place in glass-clear water you’ll get some great pictures to prove it.

These are generally three day, two-night trips, leaving from the tiny southern Riviera town of Xcalak and travelling out to the remote Banco Chinchorro atoll biosphere reserve. The atoll’s eel grass-filled lagoon is home to the largest numbers of American Crocodiles on the planet. Overnight stays are in primitive fisherman’s stilt huts over the water with the crocs swimming around below.

As well as crocodiles, Banco Chinchorro offers a high chance of encounters with manatees, prolific fish life (including big tarpon) and astonishing stars. There are plenty of opportunities to snorkel over pristine reefs en-route, and you’ll catch invasive lionfish, which are used to feed the crocs. Some trips include optional scuba diving.

Swims with the reptiles are in clear water around a metre deep and a safety diver accompanies at all times armed with a big stick. According to local tour operators at least, the reptiles have too much food to bother with anything larger than a fish.


Price from: £850
Minimum age: 16
Age suitable: 16+
When: All year around
Duration: 3 days

Getting there & doing it

The only way is with a tour operator like XTC Dive Center and with advanced booking. Boats leave from Xcalak village 280 km from Tulum in the far south of the Riviera Maya. Expeditions take three days with two nights sleep-over in simple wooden fisherman’s huts over the water in the heart of the pristine Banco Chinchorro atoll. However you need to allow five days in case seas are rough and you have to wait in Xcalak. Big Fish Expeditions run longer 5-day excursions leaving from Cancun.

When to do it

The trip is only available from June through September. Crocodiles are there all year-round, conditions but mating and nesting periods mean that other months are not viable.

Who to go with: tour operators


Our writer’s recommended tour operators to book with

Big Fish Expeditions

Big Fish Expeditions


US-based tour-operator running crocodile-swimming trips from Cancun with full transfers, combination diving and lasting five days.

XTC Dive Center

XTC Dive Center

Xcalak, Quintana Roo, Mexico

Xcalak-based dive operator and specialist operator for crocodile-swimming trips in the Banco Chinchorro.

Destination guides


Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Mayan Riviera

Talc-white beaches, reefs teeming with life, ruined temples in misty rainforests – the Riviera Maya offers a family or romantic beach holiday with a dash of Indian Jones adventure.