Swimming with the whale sharks was something that had been on my bucket list for YEARS so when my partner suggested we visit Exmouth to swim with the whale sharks as an early birthday present, you can be sure that my response was a big, fat, YES!!!
Whale sharks are actually sharks, not whales and are referred to as ”the largest fish in the ocean” – no big deal swimming with them or anything guys! Here’s a few fun facts for you – it is estimated that approximately 300-500 whale sharks make their way to the Ningaloo Reef each year, the majority of which are male averaging 5 metres in length. Whale sharks are fully independent from birth and they do not breathe air so don’t need to come to the surface to breathe. In the wild they can live over 100 years however sadly in captivity their average is only 3 years.
Before I booked my whale shark swim, I spoke to other people I knew who had been out with the whale sharks and conducted some of my own research. There are several different companies that do the whale shark swims in Exmouth however there is one that resonated with me most. I decided to book with Ocean Eco Adventures for a few reasons:
- they are very conscious of their impact on the environment and the Ningaloo Reef
- they have an eco-rating of 120%
- they recycle cans (unfortunately nothing else is recyclable in Exmouth due to a lack of facilities & processing)
- they are actively participating in the research of whale sharks to learn more about their behaviour and how to better protect them
- a portion of every tour ticket sold goes towards research into the whale sharks
- they cater to vegan diets
If you have decided to do a whale shark swim tour, I highly recommend booking your tour for earlier in your trip in the unlikely event that you do not see/swim with a whale shark. This will give you the opportunity to head out again if you wish.
I had an incredible day on the water with Ocean Eco Adventures. This is what my day looked like:
- At 8.25am I was picked up from my accommodation, Ningaloo Lighthouse Holiday Park and driven to Tantabiddi to board our boat for the day.
- Once on board, we were taken to a snorkelling spot called Nudie’s to get familiar with our snorkelling equipment. We saw two turtles and lots of coral and fish.
- After our first snorkel, it was time to head further out to where the whale sharks normally hang out. Whilst we were cruising, we saw humpback whales breaching in the distance and a huge loggerhead turtle. Note: humpback whale sightings are seasonal.
- It took a little while to find a whale shark however once we did, it was straight in the water with no time to waste. It is a little chaotic getting your snorkel/flippers on and getting down to the marlin board to get into the water but it works!
- On the day I went out, there was only one whale shark spotted on the reef the entire day. This particular whale shark was sighted in the bay area near the Vlaming Head Lighthouse which I’m told is very rare. This whale shark was approximately 7 metres long and swimming quite fast.
- We managed to get three swims in with this particular whale shark and it was incredible! It’s very surreal to be waiting in the water for the largest fish in the ocean to swim past. I thought I would be scared but I wasn’t, they are so incredibly peaceful and I was in awe of their size and beauty.
- After our swims, we had lunch which for me as a vegan was a few different salads with bread and fruit kebabs and champagne to end the day.
- By this time, it was about 4.00pm and time to head back to Tantabiddi and then back to my accommodation.
It’s important to note that all tours are slightly different depending on water and weather conditions, and the time it takes to locate and swim with the whale sharks. Some tours will stop for an additional snorkel in the afternoon and snorkelling spots vary.
I would suggest taking a jumper and/or a warm change of clothes as the breeze on the way back in can be cold, especially when you have been sitting in a wet suit for most of the day.
The Ocean Eco team capture pictures of the day which is included in your ticket price however if you want to capture pictures and videos of your own, I highly recommend taking a GoPro.
At the time of doing this tour (July 2020), the cost was $439.00 AUD per adult to swim with the whale sharks. This included pick up and drop off at my accommodation, all hire equipment, photos, food, drinks and of course, the whale shark swim.
On our tour, we were reminded that these beautiful animals are in fact wild and being able to swim with them is an incredibly special and unique experience. It was truly a privilege to be able to swim with the largest fish in the ocean and see them in their natural environment.
If you are going to swim with the whale sharks, I highly recommend heading out with Ocean Eco Adventures – I had an unforgettable experience.
You can read my complete guide to Exmouth here.