Swimming with the biggest fish in the ocean is certainly something many people want to tick off their bucket list. Yet with Exmouth in Western Australia being one of the few locations around the world you can actually do it, it’s what brings hundreds of travellers to this remote beach town each year. So if you’re heading up to the Ningaloo Reef and fancy the idea of swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth, read on to find out when and why to go, what to expect, our top tour tips and overall experience.

When can you go swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth?

As the whale sharks in Exmouth naturally migrate there, you won’t find them in these waters all year round. Whale sharks can only be found around the Ningaloo Reef from March to August with peak season from May – June.

Why you should swim with whale sharks in Exmouth?

Although Exmouth is one of the most expensive places in the world to swim with whale sharks, it’s also one of the best places in terms of caring for their welfare.

Australia has very strict regulations when it comes to interacting with these gentle giants. All tour companies must have a license and make sure you follow a number of rules during your experience. These include swimming 3 – 4 metres away from the whale sharks among other regulations. These ensure that the whale sharks are not accidentally injured or stressed during the time spent with them. By choosing Exmouth for your whale shark experience you are giving your money to people who really care about these animals and help towards their conservation.

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What to expect from your whale shark tour?

Tours are a full day experience, so expect to be out on the boat by 8 am. Once you’re out in the bay, the spotter plane will head up in search of whale sharks in the reef. This can take as little as 10 minutes, sometimes over an hour or sometimes not at all. Remember, there’s no guarantee you will see them, but during peak season it’s really unlikely.

Once whale sharks have been spotted, the plane will radio the boat who will head over to their location. On the way, you’ll be given a full briefing on how to swim with them and each tour split into two groups of up to 10 people.

Once you’ve arrived at the location, groups will alternate between swimming with the whale shark and waiting on the boat. This is due to restrictions I mentioned earlier, though it also gives you time to catch your breath between swims. Time with the whale sharks usually lasts between 1 – 1 ½ hours depending on how quickly they are found.

What else do the tours include and who did we book with?

We booked our tour with Exmouth Diving Centre who I’d highly recommend. As well as the whale shark experience, our tour included visits to two snorkelling sites on the Ningaloo Reef, lunch and a glass of Champagne or beer on the boat ride back.

Our tour also included a videographer/photographer who took photos/videos of the group with the Whale Sharks. I especially liked this perk as it was a great way to capture the day! The champagne at the end was also a nice touch. The tour costs $400 per person and you can book it here.

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Top tips for swimming with whale sharks

  • Do your whale shark tour the first day you arrive in Exmouth. Tours can be cancelled due to bad weather and you don’t want to miss out.
  • Make sure to plan a few days in Exmouth just in case your tour is cancelled on your chosen day.
  • Make sure to eat a good breakfast before the tour, as there is A LOT of swimming involved.
  • To maximise your chances of seeing a Whale Shark, visit Exmouth during peak season, which is May – July.
  • Don’t spend too much time taking photos and just enjoy it! Only 1 in 3 million people get the chance to swim with these majestic animals. So make sure to take a moment to take it all in and have some fun!

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