Off the western coast of Australia lies one of the country’s most magnificent natural sites: the Ningaloo Reef. Part of the larger Ningaloo Coast, the Ningaloo Reef is one of Australia’s protected World Heritage Sites. The reef is known for its stunning biodiversity, with over 700 fish species and a host of endangered sea turtles. It’s close to the coast, too, so it’s much more accessible than other reefs like the Great Barrier. And one of the most amazing parts of Ningaloo Reef is its seasonal gathering of whale sharks—the largest in the world. If you’re heading to Australia, you can spend a day snorkeling with these magnificent creatures.
Diving with whale sharks
Get ready for an unforgettable experience. Companies based in Exmouth, West Australia, leave daily for tours of Ningaloo Reef and scuba diving with whale sharks. Guides will take you out on a boat to see the reef, where you can snorkel between the fish darting around. Then, a spotter plane will help find whale sharks which you can swim with.
Expect to swim with the whale sharks for 15 minutes or more. Guides will be in the water with you to help you make the most of your experience underwater. These gentle giants are bottom feeders, eating tiny fish and krill, and they’re very friendly. They have no problem swimming with humans and often come right up to see you.
Planning your experience
Since whale sharks don’t stay at Ningaloo Reef year-round, plan your trip between March and September when they are most abundant. Most tours don’t run outside of those times, but the ones that do don’t guarantee that you’ll find any whale sharks.
When you’re looking at tours, make sure you pick the one that’s right for you. Different tours offer different guarantees—from good weather guarantees to good swimming guarantees to seasickness guarantees. Picking a tour that offers you a good package ensures that you’ll have a good snorkeling experience no matter what.
Don’t forget to bring the right equipment, too. You’re going to be spending a day on the boat, so bring lots of sunscreen and a sweatshirt. It can get chilly when you’re out on the water, so it pays to be prepared. Most importantly, bring an underwater camera. Some companies offer rentals or video footage, but bringing your own camera ensures that you can capture pictures of your adventure.