Australia // Going on a whale shark tour as an observer
In our previous blogpost about whale sharks we described what it’s like to actually swim with these gentle giants! To find out more about this unforgettable adventure check out our report!
But if you’re not too keen on swimming in the deep waters with the world’s biggest fish that doesn’t mean you can’t join a whale shark tour! Most tour operators offer the possibility of going on a whale shark tour as an observer. That means you basically get everything that the “whale shark swimmers” get except, you guessed it, swimming with the whale shark :-) You can still join the morning and afternoon snorkels at the Ningaloo Reef, and you get to see the whale sharks from up close (without being in the water). A cheaper option, but nevertheless very rewarding!
We chose to go on an observer tour with the award-winning and experienced Ningaloo Whalesharks company. Here’s an overview of the awesome day we spent on board of the “Westcoaster”, the Ningaloo Whaleshark’s 17m of floating fun!
Rise ‘n shine it’s whaleshark time!
Our trip started off with a 45 min drive from Exmouth to the Tantabiddi boat ramp where the “Westcoaster” was anchored. The jolly Ningaloo Whalesharks crew welcomed us on board with a tasty coffee and a short introduction about what we would be doing during the day.
Just like most tour operators we started off with an amazing morning snorkel in the Ningaloo Reef, where thousands of fish were surrounding us as soon as we jumped into the crystal-clear turquoise water. We swam around the stunningly beautiful coral for about half an hour and climbed back on board for the next part of our trip.
Our skipper manoeuvred the boat past the reef into the open sea, the playground for the amazing whale shark. In the meantime the Ningaloo Whalesharks’ spotter plane had taken off to guide us on where to find a whale shark.
As we were making our way further south along the Ningaloo Reef it soon became clear how abundant the sea life is around here! Hundreds of fish literally jumping out of the water, sea turtles drifting around and best of all, a group of about 30 dolphins came to say hello! Apparently they were in a playful mood because soon enough they were swimming and jumping all around our boat! Soooooo awesome!
All hands on deck!
Suddenly, the skipper’s radio came to life. Apparently the spotter plane’s pilot had seen a whale shark nearby. We immediately left the dolphins and set course towards the whale shark while scanning the water surface for any sign of this magnificent giant. The glare from the sun didn’t make it easy but when we suddenly spotted the first big dark spot just below the water surface we felt like a couple of overexcited Jacques Cousteau’s!
The first group of swimmers got ready and jumped in the water once the skipper had turned the boat around to cross the whale shark’s path. In the meantime the second group of swimmers got on the back platform and jumped in the water after the boat had made another circle in the water.
We were following the whole process from the top deck, all the time keeping an eye on the magnificent whale shark making its way along the Ningaloo Reef.
After a while the whale shark thought “show’s over folks!” and took a dive. Instantly our skipper began chatting with the spotter plane pilot again in search of the next whale shark and luckily for us there was another one nearby!
The two groups took another few rounds of swimming with the whale shark until they all got too hungry and climbed back on board for a delicious buffet lunch the crew had been preparing in the meantime!
Time had come to say goodbye to the whale sharks and make our way back towards Exmouth, but before setting foot back on land the skipper threw out the anchor near the Ningaloo Reef so we could have another great snorkeling adventure!
Big thanks to the awesome Ningaloo Whalesharks crew for making this an unforgettable day!
- Joining a whale shark tour as an observer costs AUD 250 pp or AUD 200 if you’re accompanying a swimmer. More info on www.ningaloowhalesharks.com
- The ocean can get quite rough so don’t forget to take medication in the morning if you’re prone to motion sickness.
- The crew is taking pictures of the whale sharks and all the swimmers throughout the day. These are available for AUD 50 at the end of the day.
- If more action is what you’re after go on the tour as a whale shark swimmer! More info in this blogpost.