Let me first start off by saying swimming with Whale Sharks, WOW, this is definitely one of my favourite activities I have done to date. The feeling of swimming so close to these giants, has literally left me speechless. Secondly, you need to do this if you are ever in Coral Bay. That’s it, blog post over.
Seriously though, this experience is something that needs to be on everyone’s bucket list and the Ningaloo reef is one of the best places to do it. I went with Coral Bay Eco Tours, and the whole day was incredible. From the knowledge of the divers and the care they have for each swimmer, to the wildlife you see and the memories you obtain. The whole entire tour was amazing, and something I will remember for the rest of my life.
Now let’s get into the details to help you plan your next Whale Shark swim.
Table of Contents
But first…A few facts about Whale Sharks
- Did you know that Whale Sharks are the largest fish in the sea? The largest confirmed Whale shark was 18.8m, but most of the ones you will see off the coast of Coral Bay will range from 5.5-10m.
- Whale sharks are filter feeders, which means they can neither bite nor chew. They process more than 6,000 litres of water and hour through their gills. Their mouth can stretch up to 4 feet wide, but they only have tiny teeth, meaning their diet mainly consist of small shrimp, fish and plankton.
- They can be very old; some can live up to 150 years.
- Most of the Whale Sharks spotted in Coral Bay are male!
Why the Ningaloo Coast?
Previously I mentioned that the Ningaloo Coast is one of the best places to swim with Whale Sharks, and you are probably wondering why. I’ve stated this because of two reasons. Firstly, if you visit at the correct season (stated below), you are almost 99.99% likely to see these giants on your swim. Whale Sharks come along the Ningaloo Coast to feed, and there are sightings every year. Another benefit of booking a tour along the Ningaloo Coast, is most tours offer a “no sighting” refund. Where if you don’t see any Whale Sharks, you can book another tour up to 3 years (depending on operator), completely free.
Secondly, these tours are extremely ethical. Unfortunately in some places around the world, Whale Shark swims are not done in the best interests of the animal. Take the Philippines for example, there are a few places which bring the Whale Sharks close into shore, and crowd them with tourists. This isn’t good for the animals stress levels or wellbeing. In Coral Bay the tours are organised so both the swimmers and the animal stay happy. You are not allowed to crowd the animal, swim around its face or too close to it. I think this is a great reason to book a tour at Coral Bay. After all these animal are endangered and we don’t want to do anything else to contribute to this factor.
Best time to swim with Whale Sharks?
Whale Shark swims operate from March to August every year. You are most likely to see them during the middle of the season. However, that being said I was on the first swim of the season and was able to see one. I think it purely depends on how early they come into feed each year.
How much will it cost?
To swim ethically with Whale Sharks in Coral Bay, you are looking at around $350-$400 AUD (per adult). This seems like alot, however with each tour you are getting more than just a Whale Shark swim. You usually get food, beverages, some snorkelling, all your gear and a Whale Shark swim included in the package.
Which company to choose?
There are two companies that operate out of Coral Bay, Coral Bay Eco Tours and Ningaloo Reef&Dive. Each tour is similar, so it’s recommended you do your research and find one that suits you. I can recommend Coral Bay Eco Tours, as this is the company I went with. I have used them before for my Manta Ray Tour, and know they have excellent service.
Coral Bay Eco Tours – A short review
What an amazing experience! This tour has everything you want in a Whale Shark swim.
The instructors/divers are very knowledgeable, so you will learn something on your swim. Whether it’ll be about Whale Sharks or other marine life you will see on the day. They also care about every swimmer. Instructors will make sure your mask fits and that you are comfortable. If they see you with your head above water they will ask if you are okay, no hesitation. If your mask doesn’t fit, they will make sure you get one that does. It’s small things like that, which made me love this tour. They generally want everyone to have good time.
On the tour you get to experience two snorkel swims and your Whale Shark swim. The two snorkelling spots they take you to are incredible. You are guaranteed to see heaps of wildlife and coral. Wildlife I spotted includes reef sharks, stingrays, turtles and plenty of fish. Our group was also lucky enough to spot dolphins, Manta Rays, a hammerhead shark and tiger shark from the boat. All your snorkelling gear is included in the price.
The Whale Shark Swim
Prior to the Whale Shark Swim you are briefed on how to swim with them and split into two groups. Each group is about 10 swimmers, so you have heaps of space to marvel at these beauties. I was in group one so we were the first in the water. The onboard photographer jumps in first and keeps eyes on the Whale Shark. You are then given the all clear to jump in with your instructors, forming a line once in the water. From here you get your first sighting of the Whale Shark, and are allowed to swim with it. You must stay clear of the tail and the face, as well as a few metres from the shark at all times.
Once your groups time is up, and it’s time for the next group to jump in, you will huddle up and wait for the boat. The boat will pick you up, once given the all clear you will board the boat and repeat the process. On our tour we had about 4 different drops, which allowed plenty of time to get photos and to swim with the Whale Shark.
Lunch and everything after
After our swim we had lunch, which was rolls with different meat and salad choices. They also cater to dietary needs, brought me two gluten free options so big points there! It was also some of the best gluten free bread I’ve had.
At the end of the tour we were all given a glass of champagne to celebrate the amazing day we had just experienced.
A couple things that are worth mentioning. There is a onboard photographer to help capture your bucket list shots. It is an extra coast but is definitely worth it. If you have any fear of deep water swimming, don’t worry! I was a little worried, because I know what swims in the depths of the Ningaloo Coast. When you are actually in the water, you don’t even think about anything else but the Whale Shark. Also, the divers and spotters will look after you if they suspect you may be swimming with something else. You will always feel safe.
If you are looking for a once in a lifetime experience, then you need to book this tour! It is something that will stay with you for the rest of your life, and create a beautiful memory. Best thing I have done and spent money on to date.
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