9 Common Questions about Swimming with Whale Sharks

One of the most popular experiences on a nature lover’s bucket list is swimming with whale sharks. It is an incredible experience; one we have been lucky enough to have.

Friends often ask us about it, so we have put together a quick guide to answer the most common questions we get about swimming with these amazing creatures.

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Whale shark

Where can you Swim with Whale Sharks in Australia?

The only place in Australia to swim with whale sharks is on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia. Most tours are run from Exmouth (1200km north of Perth), a smaller number of tours also run from nearby Coral Bay.

Whale sharks are occasionally spotted on Australia’s east coast but not in great enough numbers to run tours.

When can you Swim with Whale Sharks in Australia?

Whale sharks are migratory and arrive along the Coral Coast in March and are around until the end of September. The closer your tour is to the middle of the of the season, the better chance you are of seeing them.

Tour operators have different refund policies if you are unable to swim with a whale shark. These vary over the season so check what the deal is before booking.

Is Swimming with Whale Sharks Easy?

How easy swimming with whale sharks is will depend on the conditions (which are generally pretty good) and your swimming ability and confidence.

The initial part of the whale shark swim involves getting into the water ahead of the whale shark and watching it swim towards and past you. It is a magic moment and a great way for younger swimmers or less confident swimmers to see whale sharks.

After it has passed you, you can swim after it or alongside it – if you can keep up!

This is a more demanding part of the experience. Despite how slowly the whale sharks appear to be moving, you will need to be good at using flippers and fit enough to keep pace with the whale shark.

Keep in mind you will be swimming in the open water and might have to contend with a lumpy ocean too.

Is Swimming with Whale Sharks Dangerous?

Swimming with whale sharks is not dangerous. Even though they are the biggest sharks in the world (yes, they are sharks, not whales), these docile filter feeders are no threat to humans.

The biggest danger posed by whale sharks is being swiped by their huge tails. But if you stay the recommended distance away you will be safe.

The bigger risk is not being realistic about your swimming ability or fitness level and getting into trouble in the water.

Can Kids Swim with Whale Sharks?

Yes, most tour operators allow children to swim with whale sharks. It all comes down to the child’s swimming ability and confidence in the water. On our tour we had 6 – 8 year olds in the water with their parents having a great time.

Each operator has slightly different about the age children can swim with whale sharks.

Whale Shark Exmouth

How much does it Cost to Swim with Whale Sharks?

Prices vary but you can expect to pay $450 – $500 for an adult whale shark swim.

Depending on the operator, there are also price options for children, observers (if you are not getting in the water) and families.

Generally included in the price is your snorkelling gear, meals, transfers to the jetty and maybe a photo package. Most tours also include a couple of snorkels on the reef.

Tours are not just about the whale sharks. From the boat we also spotted humpback whales, turtles, manta rays and dugongs. It was a fantastic day of wildlife spotting!

Should you Book your Whale Shark Swim in Advance?

Whale shark tours are one of the most popular activities in Exmouth and Coral Bay so once you know your travel dates you should book ahead. During June and July, tours can book out for weeks in advance.

How long do you Swim with the Whale Shark?

Every whale shark experience is different. It will depend on how many there are, how long they feel like staying at the surface, and how fast they are swimming.

For our swim, we were dropped in front of a whale shark 5 or 6 times, with each swim lasting for between 3 and 10 minutes. That was plenty for us as swimming alongside the whale shark was hard work!

Is Swimming with Whale Sharks Ethical?

Swimming with whale sharks in Australia is a highly regulated and ethically managed experience. There are strict guidelines for how you interact with the whale sharks including how close you can get, not feeding them and not obstructing their path.

Steve Klein
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