Where can you Safely Swim with Sharks in Australia?

Swimming with sharks is not everyone’s idea of fun – in fact the idea of encountering a shark is the very reason some people are afraid to go snorkelling.

But if you don’t have this understandable fear and can appreciate that not all sharks are aggressive, there are several places around Australia to safely see them.

We will mention up top that while the experiences we mention below are low risk and involve swimming with what are considered non-aggressive sharks, you should always be respectful of sharks and not touch them, impede their path or corner them.

Disclosure: Please Note That Some Links In This Post May Be Affiliate Links, And At No Additional Cost To You, We Earn A Small Commission If You Make A Purchase. Commissions Go Toward Maintaining The Snorkel Spots Website.

Coral Bay Shark
Coral Bay Eco Tours © Daniel Browne

Different Types of Swimming with Shark Experiences

There are sharks all around Australia and we couldn’t possibly name every reef where there is a chance of seeing them.

We have just included spots that are easy and relatively safe to snorkel or where there are professional tours.

The experiences listed below range from self-guided snorkels on coral reefs to guided tours that look specifically for sharks and tours where you are highly likely to see sharks.

Grey Reef Shark
Grey Reef Shark

Swimming with Sharks in Queensland

If you want to try some shark spotting somewhere that isn’t too intimidating, the Great Barrier Reef is a fantastic place to start. Not only are reef sharks considered to be generally safe to snorkel around, but they are easy to find, and there is plenty of other marine to look at between sightings.

Types of sharks you see – black tip, white tip and grey reef sharks are the most common. You might also spot leopard sharks, epaulette sharks, and wobbegongs although you might need the benefit of a guide’s knowledge to locate them.

Where to Snorkel with Sharks on the Great Barrier Reef

You can see sharks on the Great Barrier Reef everywhere from shallow lagoons to deeper parts of the outer reef. Good locations to see sharks include:

  • Southern Reef Locations: Lady Musgrave Island, Lady Elliot Island, Heron Island, Magnetic Island, Shag Rock near North Stradbroke Island.

To be honest, with over 130 shark species calling the Great Barrier Reef home, at any snorkel spots on the reef you could have a shark sighting.

Leopard Shark
Leopard Shark

Swimming with Sharks in News South Wales

One of the best places to swim with sharks in New South Wales is Julian Rocks off the coast of Byron Bay.

Part of Cape Byron Marine Park, Julian Rocks is about 2.5km off the coast so you will either need a boat or go on a snorkelling tour with one of the local operators (it is also one of the best dive sites in Australia).

A confluence zone for cool water and warm tropical water, the area attracts a huge range of marine life – including sharks. Snorkelling here you could spot grey nurse sharks, beautiful leopard sharks as well as turtles, rays – including manta rays – and big schools of fish.

Despite being off the coast, you can snorkel here on 3m – 10m of water.

Great White Shark
Great White Shark

Swimming with Sharks in South Australia

By and large you don’t want to encounter a shark in South Australia however there are two brilliant shark experiences you can have in S.A. – one for adrenaline junkies and the other with what is called the ocean’s friendliest sharks.

Swimming with Great White Sharks

Sharks are apex predators and great white sharks are at the top of the tree. There is only one way you want to be in the same neighbourhood as a great white shark and that is from behind the safety of a very strong cage – and that is what you can do at Port Lincoln.

Leaving from either Adelaide or Port Lincoln on the South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, experienced guides take you take you Neptune Islands Marine Park where you come face to face with great white sharks from the cage (or the boat if being in the water is a bit scary).

It is a full day tour where you could also see dolphins, sea lions and whales (over winter). You don’t have to be a qualified diver to go into the cage.

Port Jackson Shark
Port Jackson Shark

Snorkel with Port Jackson Sharks

You couldn’t get a greater contrast between ferocious great white sharks and Port Jackson sharks, considered one of the most docile shark species.

For several weeks over November and December dozens of PJs, as they are affectionately known, congregate under rock ledges to lay eggs in shallow water at Christies Beach.

Located at the southern end of Christies Beach, at low tide the ledges are only just covered in water to this is an easy snorkel you can either do on your on or with a tour group.

We have a comprehensive guide to snorkelling with the Port Jackson sharks which you can read for all the details. It took us a couple of goes to find them but once we did it was one of the msost fun snorkels we have had.

Guided Tour to see the Port Jackson Sharks

Experience Marine Sanctuaries (EMS) is a South Australian organisation that run guided tours of snorkelling spots around the state. All you gear is provided, and the tours are led by marine biologists.

EMS usually do Port Jackson tours each November or December, check out their website for details.

Black Tip Reef Shark
Black Tip Reef Shark

Snorkelling with Sharks in Western Australia

Much like Queensland, there are no shortage of places you see sharks when you are snorkelling.

For safe shark snorkelling you can’t go past Ningaloo Reef between Exmouth and Coral Bay. There is also another super safe shark experience you can have not far from the centre of Perth.

Ningaloo is also home to the biggest shark in the world – whale sharks. Snorkelling with them is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have.

Swimming with Whale Sharks

While their whale-like size, these filter feeding sharks are a spectacular sight. Seeing one emerge from the blue and swim towards you is one of the best snorkelling experiences we have had.

Whale sharks are migratory and are on Ningaloo Reef from April to September or October. You can only swim with them on a tour of which there are many options available from Exmouth.

Read what to expect on a whale shark swim here and read our whale shark FAQ guide.

Ningaloo Reef Sharks

Ningaloo Reef, whether you snorkel on it from Coral Bay or near Exmouth is one of our favourite places to snorkel around Australia and a great place to see sharks.

The drift snorkel at Coral Bay, Lakeside Sanctuary and the Turquoise Drift are excellent snorkel spots to see white tip and black tip reef sharks. Access is straight off the beach and there is plenty of room at each location to spread out.

Read our snorkel guides for:

Turquoise Bay, Lakeside Sanctuary and Coral Bay Drift

Coral Bay Tour

That’s right, the manta ray tour from Coral Bay is also an excellent tour for seeing sharks. Most manta ray tour operators at Coral Bay include a stop at a shark cleaning station.

Depending on the day you could a dozen or more reef sharks well below you swimming around the coral bommie. This is a great spot to see lots of sharks in one spot.

Our family did this tour and most of us loved it. It did freak out our 10 year old daughter whose screams through her snorkel could be heard across the reef. Fortunately, they must have been screams of delight. She is now a professional underwater photographer and dive instructor, thankfully we didn’t traumatise her for life!

Cocos Island
Black Tip Reef Shark

Snorkelling with Sharks on Cocos Keeling Islands

Did you know Cocos Keeling Islands are part of Australia? That’s right, you don’t need a passport to get to this incredible snorkelling location.

I don’t think we have seen as many sharks as we have on our snorkels around the Cocos Islands. From baby reef sharks in less than a half a metre of water to a school of reef sharks that paid us a visit has we hovered over a Manta Ray cleaning station, they were everywhere!

We could write several stories about snorkelling in the Cocos Islands (in fact we did, we’ll link to them at the end of this), it is an amazing place with some incredible snorkels.

The Rip on Direction Island and the drift around Pulu Maraya Island are amazing with plenty of reef sharks amongst a myriad of other fish.

Read more about the snorkelling on Cocos Islands and other things to do while you are there.

Steve Klein
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