I booked a whale shark expedition for $155 (including lunch and transportation from and to Playa del Carmen) with Squalo through my hotel in Cozumel. 3 additional people were also booked.When I was sent the email with the reservation confirmation,it was stressed to me many times by the people at the hotel how absolutely vital it was to be on time for the pick up at Playa del Carmen, so I got up at 5 am, took the 6 am ferry from Cozumel to Playa del Carmen and was at Senor Frogs, the official pick-up spot ,at 6:40 am sharp as instructed.The other three people were also there,all of us bleary-eyed but excited about the trip. After one full hour of sitting on the little ledge on the ground in front of Senor Frogs (no benches in sight anywhere), we realized they were not coming to pick us up.Not wanting to lose the opportunity to swim with these magnificent animals, after a few phone calls back and forth with our hotel, the four of us decided to take a cab to Cancun ,which we were informed had a cost of $25/per person. When we arrived at the place where the boats leave, we were engulfed in the chaos and total lack of organization that reigns there. Groups of people everywhere, nobody had any information on when we were actually leaving (had to wait for an additional hour) and I was actually told by a guy named Enrique, who seemed to be the "boss", that he didn't even have me on his list of reservations so that he had to check and see if I was going to be refunded for the cab expense. I tried to put this all behind me because again, this day was about the whale sharks. The place is also teeming with poor,skinny stray dogs that broke my heart. Apparently, the people that run this place do not feed them on purpose to ellicit donations from sympathetic tourists that of course, do not go towards the dog food they were intended for.If you want to help them, it's best to actually take some food with you and feed them, which is what I did or,of course, adopt them if you can.There was a female black Labrador who must have had at least 6 or 7 litters and I could put my hand around her stomach area and my fingers would touch.A small puppy limping...just all very sad and wrong.
I wanted to take a quick shower with my swim gear on to cool off before going on the boat, and I was told showers are locked.By the time we got back from the trip, they had run out of water,so be advised there is no place to rinse off the salt.
Finally on the boat, the trip to the whale sharks took a little over an hour in pretty choppy water in a small boat with that was going so fast that we hit every wave with a resounding thud that completely sucks the air out of you (not reccommended if you get seasick or if you like your spinal column to remain in it's place....definitely not reccommended for pregnant women!). When we arrived at the whale shark site, we were allowed to jump in three times for about 5 minutes each time to observe and swim with them. That was the absolute highlight of the day,something which I will never forget in my whole life: absolutely breathtaking and a beautiful experience. Time alloted with the animals was over pretty quickly and after enduring the same choppy ride back, we were taken to Isla Mujeres for some lunch and a dip in crystal clear blue water, which was the other nice part of the day.
Back on the pier, and after standing right next to this guy, Enrique,for over 20 minutes while he was on the phone with call after call in what was a very clear attempt to see if I would just go away (which of course,I didn't), he grudgingly gave me the refund for the cab ride (and for the other 3 people too). When asked why we were not picked up, no explanation was given. To top it all off, he called us liars because he said a cab from Playa to Cancun does not cost that (unfortunately, we did not think of asking the cab driver for a receipt, not that that should have mattered in light of the fact we were dumped by these people) and when I asked for additional compensation in the form of maybe a t-shirt or souvenir (or money) or something , he of course said no. But the lying accusation was certainly the worst part of this. We were brought back to Playa del Carmen in a van with 12 other people and no air conditioning in the back part (and this was August...unbearably hot) and we were dropped off last about 80 minutes after departing Punta Sam ,which was about 20 minutes more than what it took us in the cab going. The only reason I am giving this place 2 stars is because the guide and the captain of the boat were so nice.
So, to sum it up,the animal encounter and dip in the sea were the best parts but my advice if you want to do this trip, is arrange it yourself. Find a means of transport to Punta Sam in Cancun ( where the boats leave from) and back (there is even a bus that is affordable, but if you are 4 or more p[eople, cab rides are usually the best way to go), and then just hop on the first boat available so you don't have to wait. You will save yourself time and also the possibility of being insulted by unreliable, rude and unprofessional people.Stay away from Squalo,you will enjoy your experience infinitely more.