Last month I was lucky enough to tick off one of my bucket list activities – a swim with whale sharks!
Most people don’t know Australia has a second reef on the west coast – Ningaloo Reef isn’t well known and at only approx. 250km in length is much smaller than Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, but this is the world’s largest fringing coral reef meaning from Coral Bay (a pretty village approx. 1 hour from Learmonth Airport) you can snorkel right from the beach without having to take a lengthy boat trip.
My whale shark swim trip was with a company called Exmouth Dive and Whalesharks Ningaloo. They also offer humpback whale swims (in season), as well as snorkelling and diving day trips. On the whale shark tour it’s a maximum of 20 guests, so there was plenty of space aboard the boat. An early morning start at 7.30am, the boat first goes to a snorkelling spot within the lagoon and not too far from the shore (you can always see the shore in the distance unlike the Great Barrier Reef). The reef here is superb, a huge range of fish and corals, turtles, and a couple of harmless reef sharks. The reef was definitely as good, if not better than the Great Barrier Reef. (No coral bleaching has taken place on this reef due to the water temperature being slightly cooler). We did a guided snorkel here for about 45 mins. After that it was time to head out to deeper water beyond the reef for the whale sharks. Spotter planes are used to find the whale sharks and when one is sighted half the group get into the water, and wait for the whale shark to swim past. You can then swim alongside it or behind it for as long as you can (the larger ones can be fast!). Throughout the day we saw 3 different sharks from 4-6m in length, and got in the water 7 times to swim with them.
A photographer gets in the water with you as well to take pictures which were included in the price of our trip. The crew on this trip were superb – very knowledgeable and great fun, lunch was good, and we were back on land by approx. 4pm.
This was an AWESOME experience, I felt very humbled to be swimming with these incredible gentle giants, and it’s definitely something I’ll never forget. Please note Ningaloo Reef doesn’t have any pontoons so you should be comfortable with swimming in deep open water.
The whale sharks only visit Ningaloo Reef at certain times of year – please see below – but there is lots of other marine life you can see at other times.
Whale sharks – March to June
Humpback Whales – July to November
Mantas – May to Novermber in Exmouth, all year round in Coral Bay
Snorkelling & Diving – all year round.
Thank you Tourism Western Australia for a fantastic trip.