Swimming alongside the world’s largest fish, in the open sea, is a wonder-inspiring, humbling experience you’ll never forget. Here’s our round-up of the best places in the world to swim with them.
Travel bucket list idea:
Swim with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef
Exmouth, Western Australia, Australia|
The 260km-long Ningaloo Reef, off the western coast of Australia, is one of the world’s greatest reefs – many claim it rivals even the Great Barrier Reef. It’s also one of the world’s whale shark hotspots.
Whale sharks are gentle giants, feeding exclusively on microscopic plankton. It’s the perfect place to swim with them: the chances of an encounter are higher than possibly anywhere else, the reef is pristine, and it supports an extraordinary biodiversity of other marine life to ogle while you’re there. Also look out for turtles, dolphins, dugong (manatees), and rays.
Getting there & doing it
Tours leave from Exmouth or Coral Bay and transfers from your hotel to the boat are included. Only ten people may snorkel with the sharks at any one time, along with a shark spotter. Trips last a full day and include morning tea and coffee, buffet lunch, snacks and refreshments. All equipment is provided.
There’s no minimum age, but children must be comfortable snorkelling in the open ocean. If you’re susceptible, wear a T-shirt or wetsuit when you’re snorkelling; it’s surprisingly easy to get a burnt neck and shoulders.
Book the tour early on your trip, so if you miss out the first time, you can go again. Responsible tour operators have a no sightings policy, so if you miss out first time, you can go out again on the next available day for free.
When to do it
Whale sharks congregate here from mid-March to mid-August following the mass spawning of coral.
For a few weeks in late May or early June, humpback whales migrate north past the reef. Time your trip then – and see both.
Round-ups that include this experience