Updated: Sep 2, 2019
G'day Legends, in this blog we are going to take you through the process of swimming with a whale shark.
They are harmless (unless they hit you with their tail) and swimming with them is a relatively safe task. The only place in Australia where you can swim with them is on the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. The tour operators do a great job of getting you up close while still leaving them swim in peace.
So you have a lot of options with tour operators in Coral Bay and Exmouth. We are not biased and not paid to tell you which company to go with. In that being said do your research and find out which boats are getting the most Whale action! At the same time some tour operators offer a great all round service which could include jumping in with mantarays, turtle spotting etc.
Another important thing to keep in mind is if you want any photos or videos of your time with the whale sharks. If you're after a good quality photography then this could also change your path of chosen tour operator.
Something to be aware of is the cost of swimming with them, the full day tours generally consist of a return bus trip to the boat ramp, lunch, snacks, champagne and more. Every tour operator has different rates and deals going on so once again do your research but don't let money steer your happiness.
Weather and swell! The combination of these two, may make or break your experience onboard and in the water. The operators take you behind the Ningaloo Reef so you're essentially in the deep blue. So the swell can vary depending on a lot of conditions, so it's best to pick a day that has low swell and low wind. The advantage of this is you don't get seasick and it makes visibility in the water really good! The best app we have found is Willy Weather, it works all over Australia and we have found it to be very accurate. Note; we visited during 'peak season' and managed to secure a spot with our chosen operator 5 days out.
Ok so you have selected your tour operator and picked a beautiful day to go for a swim! Next you will pick out a wetsuit and a snorkel kit, the operators will help you with this and you can also BYO but it has to be a full sleeve wetsuit. Once all of this is sorted you're good to go for your selected date.
With all that said, we did our research and choose Coral Bay Eco Tours with our photographer being Naomi from In-depth Imagery.
Ready, Set, GO!
The morning of the swim you will get picked up and ushered on to the boat were you will go through the safety aspects. Your first stop will generally be a snorkelling location and let's be honest, anywhere on the Ningaloo Reef is beautiful.
Once the operators know you can swim and not freak out it's time to commence the whale shark operation. The tour operators have a spotter plane, yes a plane in the sky and they use this to spot the whale sharks. It makes the process go a lot faster so you get to swim with as many as possible. Once the spotter plane finds a whaleshark (can take hours in some cases) it will let the boat operator know and that's when you will suit up and get ready to jump in!
The boat will drive in front of the whale, approx 50meters or so and the skiper will give the all clear to jump in. You will be sat on the edge of the marlin board at this time suited up ready. Plop! You're now in the deep blue with no safety nets/cages, this can be very scary for some people who have a fear of real sharks! All that aside you will be swimming in a group with the operator awaiting the sight of the whale. Once the whale is in sight you will then begin to swim with it, in a calm fashion.
This is were you may be lucky and the photographer will get you a snap of you and the whale. It is an amazing experience! And a must do if you have the opportunity. Once the whale has dived down you may have to climb back aboard and wait for another whaleshark or let another group to have a go. The amount of swims will depend purely on the whales, if there's lots of whales about you could be in the water all day with multiple swims! Just remember these are wild animals and even if you only get just one swim, it will leave you smiling.
Time to relax
Once all the chaos of the swims have calmed down it's time to venture back to the mainland. On route back we had afternoon tea and champagne! (No beers unfortunately haha). It's great cruising back and chatting to everyone about how awesome it was, while soaking in the afternoon sun.
The great thing about these tours is you never know what you will see and do. On our tour, we saw multiple turtles, a tiger shark, dolphins, 2 whale sharks, a mantaray, a few passing humpback whales and all the fish and bird life you could imagine being out there.
Hope this helps you out when organising your trip. If you have any questions leave a comment below and make sure you keep an eye out on our YouTube channel for the full video.