Just when I think my experiences can’t get any more amazing, Australia tops herself.! On my most recent visit back to Australia, I had the fantastic opportunity of making it to Western Australia. Given Australia is roughly the size of the United States, Western Australia often gets short changed by American travelers as it is an extra approximate 5 hour flight time to reach. However, I am here to tell you, it is so worth the extra time to visit Western Australia and my day with the Whale Sharks is one of the reasons.
Your swimming whale shark experience actually takes place in Exmouth, Ningaloo Reef. Ningaloo Reef is a World Heritage listed site along the north west coast of Western Australia lying on the East Indian Ocean, about one and half hour flight north of Perth. It is the world’s largest fringing reef and offers a plethora of water and coastal activities for the active adventure traveler to experience.
One of the coolest experiences for you to take part in is a swim with the whale sharks. Spend the day out in the ocean, in snorkel gear, popping on and off of your boat into the water to swim along these beautiful magnificent creatures. Between your spotter and your group guide, you will be sure to have an up close and personal encounter you won’t soon forget.
To give you an idea of how your day with the whale sharks will go, let me share my day with Exmouth Diving Centre with you. I highly recommend using this the company with their expert trained staff. You will even find a marine biologist among them to end your day with all the fascinating facts about the incredible sea creature you just swam with.
First, you will be picked up from your Exmouth hotel accommodations bright and early in the morning and then taken to where the boat is moored. They will then bring a small boat over to take you on board. Swimming with the whale sharks is limited to ten persons in the water at the time, so our boat had two groups of ten on board. Once on board you will head out to the open waters. While making your way out, you will be fitted with your wet suit, flippers and snorkel gear, followed by a briefing as to how the day will work including the safety precautions and rules of swimming with the whale sharks.
The first stop you make is actually a test swim. It’s run just like there might be a whale for the group to see. It all begins with Group One Ready. When you hear that call you slide onto your bottom to the back of the boat and wait for the Go! Go! Go! When you hear the cry, you then quickly get your rear in the water and start swimming. The test run is to ensure several things, including how to enter the water, is your gear fitting, and can you do it. I won’t lie, the activity is a bit more strenuous then you realize with getting in and out of the back of the boat. I was happy I had been preparing with daily workouts to increase my strength and endurance. But, no worries on keeping yourself afloat as the wet suits act as floatation devices and you can request one of those pool noodles as well.
Once the testing is over you get back on board and wait for them to announce a whale shark siting. They use a spotter plane above that finds the whales and then gives the captain the location. Once a whale is sighted the boat is off as fast as it can to the spot. Once there the drill and swim commences with “Group 1 Ready!”, “Spotter in!”, “Group 1 Go! Go! Go!” Let me tell you the thrill and excitement have the adrenaline pumping! I do have a bit of a fear of deep waters, but once in the water and seeing this incredible creature face to face, literally, my fears subsided and all that remained was pure joy for the opportunity.
Once group one has had their swim, they drop back and tread water until the boat circles round to pick them up, while group two repeats the process. The dive companies goal is to get everyone at least three good swims. We were very lucky the day we went out in June to swim with five whale sharks. In addition to the whale sharks we also swam with a manta ray, saw whales breaching, dolphins mating and a rare siting of a dugong with her calf swimming along side our boat. We had the “big five” as they say similar to if you are safari in Africa.
The best time of year to see the whale sharks in Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef is March to July. Despite that being fall and winter there, you will find the temperatures in the north west of this region to be quite nice. Temperatures are in the mid to upper 70s meaning you will get plenty of sun exposure and quite possibly return with a tan.
For more information on booking your swimming with the whale sharks and other coastal experiences in the region, please contact me at 1-844-386-3600 or click here to schedule a planning session.
Photos are from my experience and courtesy of Exmouth Diving Centre.
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Lisa Rossmeissl is the owner of Boomerang Escapes, a home-based agency located in Old Bridge, New Jersey with agents in TN, MS, and WI.
She has been a professional travel consultant since 2008 and specializes in Australia and the South Pacific. Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, and Cook Islands are among the specialist certificates she holds. Her agency’s focus is on creating custom itineraries with their client’s wants, desires, and budgets in mind. She and her planners believe in getting to know the traveler to ensure they have a vacation to remember. With each planner specializing in a different market area, Boomerang Escapes can offer a wide variety of leisure vacation planning.