By Tom Gillespie @TomGillespie1

MAJESTIC whale sharks swim in the Caribbean Sea as stunned snorkelers watch on

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Having a whale of a time! Ken Kiefer poses with the magnificent beasts

Characterised by their enormous open mouths, the gentle giants are the largest living cartilaginous fish in our oceans but pose no threat to humans. 

What lies beneath: The whales are dwarf a curious scuba diver

Texas-based underwater photographer Ken Kiefer captured the images while snorkelling near Isla Mujeres off the coast of Mexico.

A tiny fish is caught in the whale shark's enormous mouth

The shark enthusiast, who took the photos back in July, said: "Swimming with whale sharks is an almost overwhelming experience.

“Being in the open ocean with a shark that is as long as a school bus is a humbling and amazing event.

Open wide: The shark opens its jaws as it nears the surface

"There are times that you will be floating over the void and not able to see anything but the sunrays in the deep blue water, and out of the vague distance a huge shape will take focus gliding towards you.”

The sharks are enormous beasts - but are gentle giants

Adult male whale sharks are usually between 30ft and 40ft in length, but it is reported that some have been spotted as long as 46ft.

The animals have huge mouths which can grow to nearly 5ft wide and contain up to 350 rows of teeth.

The enormous fish are known as filter feeders, meaning they consume food by swimming towards it with their mouths open.

Two divers swim near the surface and watch the majestic creatures below

Despite their incredible size whale sharks live on tiny plankton and fish eggs.

According to Hong Kong-based NGO WildLifeRisk, hundreds of whale sharks are killed each year to be used in shark fin soup in countries such as China. 

Whale sharks are killed on mass every year for food

Ken said: “I believe that anyone able to swim side-by-side with this largest fish in the ocean would have a new appreciation for how incredible they are.

“It would change their perspective on the practice of shark finning.”