Of the many exhilarating natural world experiences one can enjoy around Western Australia, swimming with whale sharks has to be right up there with the best of the best. Indeed, it’s a bucket list item for many of us (including everyone in the Perth Is OK! office), and the next few months is the only time to do it!
Ningaloo Reef, off the coast of Exmouth in WA’s north west, is home to one of the world’s largest whale shark congregations each year from March to July during the annual coral spawning that takes place 7-10 days after the full moon in March/April. Whale shark swimming tours typically operate from mid-March through to June around Coral Bay, and April through to July from Exmouth, with a shoulder season in August to September (when sightings are still possible, but less likely).
Image: Coral Bay Eco Tours
Heading on a whale shark tour to Ningaloo last season offered a 96% interaction rate (the highest in the world), and most operators have a no sighting policy, meaning you can jump on the next available tour for free if you miss out (pro tip: head on a tour at the start of your trip in case you need to do this). Many operators also have great on-board photographers to capture some life-changing moments with the world’s largest fish, along with undertaking strict eco-tourism practices to ensure minimum impact and future research efforts are maintained.
If you’re thinking of heading to this spectacular part of the world and want to swim with whale sharks, we recommend you book your tour first and build the rest of your stay around that. You can visit THIS LINK to do so right now, and check out four of the best Whale Shark Tour Operators in the region below:
As with all operators Exmouth Dive & Whale Sharks Ningaloo offer all day tours, with a guarantee in effect from March 1 right through til August 1, and a range of different tour options. They have a couple of deluxe tour options valued at $450 that include photo and video, and according to their website their spotter planes are in the air longer. Their boats also get out onto the water the earliest, including the beautiful Blue Strike, the biggest on the reef with huge viewing platforms on both decks – get booking HERE.
Coral Bay Eco Tours’ whale shark swims run for around 8-10 hours, kicking off at 7.30am before heading out to some coral reef gardens for a morning snorkel featuring fish, reef sharks and many more marine species. Once you completed you’ll embark to the outer reefs where spotter planes will have found the big fish for you to enjoy! Similar to above, tours $450 for adults, $380 for children and a discounted family package as well. They don’t offer a guarantee for these tours, so best get booking during peak season HERE.
3 Islands begins with an introductory snorkel on the inner Ningaloo Reef before heading to the whale sharks on the outer reef, starting at 7.45am and finishing around 4-4.15pm. If you’re not a confident swimmer or prefer to just tag along as an observer on the boat, 3 Islands also offer an Observer Tour costing $250, while swimming for adults is $425, children $315 and seniors $370. All come with complimentary food and drink on the day, plus professionally taken photos are also free of charge – book HERE.
Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours are one of the longest running Whale shark Tour operators in Exmouth. They operate their whale shark experiences from April to July to ensure sightings are highly likely (their guarantee offer ends in June), and like 3 Islands they’ll also stop for a Manta Ray swim if they’re spotted. Tours are all inclusive and they have their Marine Biologists on hand to answer all your questions. Their pricing is also a little different in that there are discounted rates, the more people you book on! If you’ve got a big enough group of friends together the price starts at $400 (11-20 swimmers), and goes up to $445 for 1-4 swimmers – book HERE.
For more information on whale shark tours on Ningaloo Reef and other operators, head to the Australia’s Coral Coast Website.