I made a trip to the other side of Australia in the hope to Swim with the biggest fish in the world, The Whale Shark and explore the UNESCO World Heritage listed, Ningaloo Reef.
Generally speaking, being on a boat in the open ocean, rocking side to side makes me want to hurl after only 5 minutes. This was no different, standing on the side of the boat taking in deep breaths of fresh air to try and hold back the vomit. Then the adrenalin took over, my best friend Bianca called me and said it was our turn to jump in the water. I was pumped, ready to get in and swim alongside the amazing whale shark. There were 8 of us in the water, 4 people positioned on either side of the whale shark. I was swimming ahead of the others, looking to my side at this magnificent creature; there was nothing else in my line of sight but him. I remember feeling completely relaxed and in awe of what I was experiencing and so thankful for that moment. It was the end of April, the water was still warm and I could have swam with him all day.
We did our day trip through 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive. I can’t speak highly enough of this company. We spent the whole day out on their boat, sailing in the lagoon of Ningaloo reef and out in the open sea. Apart from our whale shark swim we stopped three times throughout the day at different snorkelling spots, while the 3 Islands spotter plane was up looking for some big fish. We were lucky enough to see and swim with some of the following;
- Hammer head shark
- Leopard shark
- Manta Rays
- Humpback whales
- Spinner Dolphins
- Plenty of fish
We were also provided with a buffet lunch and drinks.
Whale Sharks are protected in Australian waters under both state and federal law. It’s important to be conscious of their health, safety and happiness while visiting their home. 3 Islands limited the number of people in the water at any one time with the whale shark, ensuring we never touched the animal, got within 3 meter or restricted their normal movement or behaviour. I think everyone on the boat respected this and was more than happy to follow the crew’s instructions.
5 facts about the Whale Shark;
- Whale Sharks aren’t a type of whale or a shark, they are actually the largest fish in the world.
- They are filter feeders and sieve plankton through their gills.
- Whale Sharks regularly swim close to the surface but can dive to depths of 1000 meters.
- Whale sharks have a mouth that can be 1.5m wide, although their throat is only the size of a human fist.
- A fully grown whale shark can reach up to 18 m in length but commonly individuals seen at Ningaloo are 4 – 12 metres long.
Whale Shark tours at Ningaloo reef run from March – July each year, I have been told that April/May is the very best time to visit.
Any activity you do involving wild animals can of course be unpredictable. The chance of you seeing a whale shark (or many) is highly likely on Ningaloo, but if not 3 Islands do offer partial refund or a repeat tour voucher (Details on their website). This actually happened to us the first time we went (mid – July). Well we saw one but it was so deep down you had to almost squint to see it. The experiences I’m referring to here are from our second trip when we used our repeat tour voucher.
Although our first attempt was disappointing, we seriously still had an amazing day! Snorkelling in some of the best spots in Australia, from the boat we saw Humpback Whales, Dugongs, and a Hammer Head Shark. Then to top it off when we came across a large group of Manta Rays, we were able to jump in and swim around with them. That alone was such an incredible experience. They were so intrigued by us, they’d swim so close then barrel – roll right in front of us.
In a world full of zoos and aquariums, there’s something magical about spending time with an animal in it’s natural habitat. I highly recommend adding this trip to your bucket list, it’ll be a day full of surprises…. Hopefully seasickness isn’t one of them.
Give yourself time after your swim to explore the area, check out my blog on Exmouth (the gateway to Ningaloo reef)