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Swimming With Whale Sharks

Swimming With Whale Sharks

Ningaloo Reef

Booking a Whale Shark Tour - You can take a Whale Shark Tour from either Exmouth or Coral Bay during the March to August season, when the Whale Sharks cruise by Ningaloo Reef. Make sure you book early to avoid disappointment, especially during peak periods like the April and July school holidays. I've not heard a bad thing about any of the tour operators as they are all closely monitored by DBCA and other operators, so picking one is just a case of deciding what extras you want or what's available at the time. If one operator is full, they are likely to get in touch with the others for you, as the demand is so high that they don't really need to compete with each other. We chose Ningaloo Blue because they had excellent reviews and it was a good price for the whole day. This is not a sponsored post and I didn't received anything from Ningaloo Blue that a paying customer would not.

The Experience - Swimming with the Whale Sharks is a bucket list item for most people and the protected waters off Ningaloo Reef is one of the best locations in the world to swim with these gentle giants. Having visited Exmouth and Ningaloo in August of 2021, this trip was specifically booked to come back to swim with the Whale Sharks, as our first tour with Ningaloo Blue was one of those rare days where no Whale Sharks swam by. Ningaloo Blue provided a voucher for a return visit within two years, so we planned our return in 2023 for June and hoped for the best.

Booking the tour for the day after we landed, this was some fortuitus planning as a large swell rolled through the following day and turned the whole reef into one big washing machine. With a beautiful day forecast, we were picked up bright and early in the Ningaloo Blue bus, ready to be driven out to the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp where all the tours depart. The guides for the day talked us through what to expect, the rules around swimming with whale sharks and everything of interest about these fascinating ocean wanderers. Unlike the annual whale migration, there is no set migration path for whale sharks and for a reason still unknown to scientists, it's mainly the young males that tend to visit Ningaloo during this time of year. The reason for visiting between March and August is the abundance of food driven by the annual coral spawning that happens around April. Arriving at the boat ramp, I spotted a man dressed as Captain Jack Sparrow in a tender and had a little chuckle. As it turns out, this was Ken, our deckhand for the day, and when it came time to board the raft, I couldn't help but let out a "you must be the worst pirate I've ever heard of", because I am hilarious like that.

Boarding the proper boat, it was exciting to be back and hopefully this time we would get to swim with a Whale Shark (spoiler alert but we did). As we boarded I noticed a yacht parked at an odd angle in the water and this had happened a few days ago when a couple had run aground on the reef at night and only just made it back to shore. After a brief safety rundown, the actual captain got the boat started and we ventured out to the first swim of the morning, an introductory snorkel in the inner reef while we waited for the spotter planes to report back. Stopping after a short drive, we headed into the water, and it was nice to be back snorkeling after a few months off. The reef here is a few metres deep and immediately there were some cool finds including many Blackaxil Pullers, a Longfin Bannerfish and a Bluespot Butterflyfish. After milling around for a while, someone spotted a Loggerhead Turtle and this was the first time I had seen one. We were in the water for 20-30 minutes before we were called in and heard the exciting news that the first whale shark had been sighted.