Sea Breeze Resort
Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef / Western Australia
Give us a call, we'd love to talk to you:
+61 (0)8 9949 1800
The ultimate guide to swimming with Whale Sharks at Ningaloo Reef
When is the best time?
The later in the season you book, the more value you get with better chances to get ‘bonus’ Manta Rays and Humpback Whales! While the temperature is getting colder, the water temperature never gets below 22 degrees Celsius in the lagoon and 24 degrees Celsius in the ocean! If you can, try to avoid the school holidays. Regardless, the best experience and value for money are reflected in our Whale Shark Packages.
Can I swim with a Whale Shark?
Almost everyone can swim with the Whale Sharks! The owners’ daughter, Nami, was the youngest ever, when she was only 3 years old! On the other hand, the oldest Lady, aged 93, swam with a massive 9m Whale Shark that came straight towards her! You don’t have to be a scuba diver or Olympic swimmer. Advise the crew of your level and ability and you will be looked after for the best possible experience.
Scuba diving or Snorkelling?
Over the years, Sea Breeze Resort tours have developed from scuba diving to snorkelling to ensure the best interaction and time with the sharks! While Whale Sharks are fish and do not need to come to the surface for air, those on the surface and can be seen quite easily by just floating on the water! If you are a good swimmer however, you will have more time with the sharks and can position yourself in the best viewing angle.
Snorkelling allows you to swim longer and faster, meaning you are able to have maximum time with the Sharks! As water absorbs light, especially the colour red with only 3 meters of water to fully absorb, the best viewing and colour of the shark is near the surface.
Some operators have chosen to combine scuba diving with Whale Sharking. This has proven unsuccessful as scuba divers have their dive cut short when a Whale Shark is sighted just minutes into their dive! Snorkellers have not been happy waiting at anchor for the scuba divers to finish their dive. Therefore, this type of tour is not recommended. Treat the diving with the respect it deserves and the Whale Sharking as a very special day of its own and you will get the most out of both!
How does it work – a Whale Shark Tour in a nutshell
Guests are picked up at 7:40am by a small tour operator bus from Sea Breeze Resort and then transferred to the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp at Ningaloo Reef. From here you are ferried by small tender boats to the Whale Shark boats (usually converted Cray boats 30-70ft long). Following the safety briefing, you are taken to a nice snorkel spot in the lagoon to check out the coral reef!
The crew will check your snorkelling skills and make sure everyone is comfortable in the water. This snorkelling is done on great sites with very old coral bommies (formations) and a great density and diversity of marine life.
Once everyone has ‘cooled off’, a Whale Shark Interaction Briefing follows morning tea before travelling from the lagoons out into the Indian Ocean! At around 9:30am the first planes are up to search for the Whale Sharks! At the back of the fringing Ningaloo Reef, Dugongs, Manta Rays, Humpback Whales, Turtles, Dolphins, Eagle Rays and of course the big and beautiful Whale Sharks are often sighted! On a great day, within minutes, the spotter plane finds a Whale Shark and you get the chance to snorkel alongside them! Only a maximum of 10 passengers are allowed in the water at one time, plus a dive master and videographer.
Once everybody is happy or worn out, lunch appears on deck and the search might continue for more Whale Sharks or Mantas and Humpbacks. Sometimes the wind picks up and the skipper decides to ‘nick’ back into the lagoons to go for another snorkel, rather than face the wind and waves for 2 hours. Usually the tour finishes back on the mooring around 1500 (3pm) and back in town around 4pm!
Tip 1: If you take your camera along, don’t use it during your first swim! Enjoy the first time focusing on the sharks not on your camera. You risk ruining your photos and your experience! With the experience and excitement of the first run out of the way you can now take an even better photo.
Tip 2: Buy the Video! It is a great ‘documentary’ of this day. Tell the videographer at the beginning of the trip that you are interested and they will ensure that you are covered in the video. All is filmed in HD so you get a great quality DVD to show your friends and family back home!
What if I don’t see a Whale Shark?
Plan enough time in Exmouth to take advantage of the Non-Sighting Policy! Ningaloo’s operators put so much trust in their operations to almost ‘guarantee’ you a swim with these gentle giants that they have a Non-Sighting Policy.
Sometimes there are no Whale Sharks on the surface and the day passes by without a sighting. So the tour operators now offer anyone on board another day out for FREE! Please note that Observers (people who have been booked on board for the day out, but not to swim with the Whale Sharks) are NOT eligible for the free re-run. This ‘free’ run is only available to the next available spot, which may not be the next day so plan enough time for this possible re-run. However, if you are unable to take the next available spot, you can get a voucher for later in the season or the following season.
All operators are only allowed, under their license, to operate with a maximum of 20 people (2 groups at maximum with 10 snorkellers in the water at one time). They may add a dive master and videographer so a maximum of 12 people all up in the water at one time. This ensures that the Whale Shark interaction is controlled and has minimum impact on the sharks.
Owner & Managing Director
These tips have been exclusively compiled for you by Axel who has been living and working in the tourism industry at Ningaloo Reef for the last 18 years.