Swimming with Whale Sharks in Western Australia | The Bucket List Series

The Bucket List Series: A series of short, inspirational travel articles focusing on single bucket list experiences from all over the globe. The goal; to bring you the very best things that our fabulous planet has to offer.

Swimming with Whale Sharks, Western Australia

How would you feel about jumping in the open ocean with sharks? What if those sharks were the biggest in the world, regularly growing up to twelve meters long? Would you do it?

In the tourist town of Exmouth, where the red dust and rock of the Pilbara, Western Australia’s mining country, meet the impossibly blue waters of the Ningaloo Reef you can.

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Whale Shark Swim | The Vanabond Tales

What's a Whale Shark? And, are Whale Sharks dangerous?

Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the ocean but they are also gentle giants that feed on tiny plankton. From March until late July the coral spawn of the Ningaloo Reef creates a feeding frenzy that attracts massive congregations of whale sharks. And when they congregate here, close to shore, in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, you can swim with them.

The sharks regularly come to the surface in search of their tiny prey, meaning you don’t need specialized diving equipment or training to experience these awesome animals up close and personal.

Whale sharks have been around for millions and millions of years. They can grow up to 18 meters long and are believed to live up to 100 years.

Whale sharks are one of the world’s most incredible animals, yet very little is known about them. In fact, until the 1980s these elusive creatures had only been spotted a few hundred times. Just forty years later, it is now possible to swim alongside a whale shark in its natural environment and a must-do experience for your wildlife bucket list.

What's it like to experience swimming with Whale Sharks?

The swim is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and to interact with a whale shark in the wild is phenomenal. Jump in the water beside the beautiful and gentle whale shark as it cruises past you. You will be able to get closer than you ever thought possible to these creatures of awe-inspiring size and breathtaking beauty. You will also be seeing the sharks in nature, as opposed to in an aquarium or zoo, ensuring an authentic and ethical adventure.

Depending on the speed and direction the whale sharks are traveling in, you may have the opportunity to spend a few seconds or a few minutes with these inquisitive creatures. Finding yourself in the water beside these animals is a surreal and exhilarating encounter that must be experienced to be believed.

Swimming with the whale sharks is one of the most famous attractions on the Ningaloo Reef and one of the most amazing wildlife encounters in the world. It is a bucket list experience for anyone visiting Western Australia or anyone with an interest in the ocean.

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Whale Shark and Diver | Canva

Useful information for swimming with Whale Sharks?

To swim with the sharks you’ll need to join one of the whale shark tours that operate out of Exmouth between March and August. A small fleet of about ten tour boats takes small to medium groups between 15 and 30 people out every day of the season.

Whole-day tours take you beyond the Ningaloo Reef in search of surfacing whale sharks. Spotter planes patrol the skies, feeding location information back to boats maximizing the time you spend interacting with the sharks. You’ll also get the opportunity to snorkel on the reef, spot, and perhaps even swim, with huge manta rays, green turtles, and see migratory humpback whales breaching.

While no one can guarantee a wild animal will appear, because of their experience and resources, the whale shark tours have an extremely high success rate of spotting and swimming with the whale sharks. The tours are so reliable that if you don’t spot a whale shark tour operators will allow you to take another tour for free.

Children from as young as six through to seniors can experience swimming with the whale sharks. All you need is swimming ability, basic snorkelling experience, and a sense of adventure.

Whale shark tours are run by experienced operators with a vested interest in the environment and the well-being of the sharks. The whale shark tours are run to the highest environmental standards with the protection of the animals and the reef system the highest priority, because of this, it is forbidden to touch any of the marine life.

Groups sizes and numbers of boats are strictly limited. Tours are run with ecological principles firmly in mind. Guests go home for a greater appreciation of the incredible value and beauty of the reef system and its inhabitants.

If you’ve ever dreamed about swimming through the ocean with some of its largest and most beautiful inhabitants on our planet, this is your opportunity. The Ningaloo Whale Shark tour is a truly remarkable experience and Australia bucket-list-worthy adventure to add to your list!

About the Author

Eddie Kingswell is an Australian based travel writer for The Vanabond Tales. The Vanabonds Tales is a travel and van life blog with a focus on slow, self-directed travel. Eddie and his partner try to take the path less traveled, seeking out unique experiences, though they never shy away from a bucket list destination either. Their travel style is budget-friendly, outdoor-focused, and environmentally conscious.

Catch up with them on Instagram and Pinterest

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