Your guide to swimming with Humpback Whales in Western Australia.
WA is filled with many supersized icons: Australia’s biggest rock Mount Augustus, the South West’s towering Tingle trees and even a giant prawn hovering the skies in Exmouth. But, none can measure up to encountering the Godzilla of the sea, humpback whales.
Our prized coral utopia, Ningaloo Reef, is one of a handful of spots in the world where you can practice your freestyle strokes whilst swimming alongside an ocean great. The WA coastline attracts a massive migration with over 40,000 humpback whales journeying up and down the coast from Coral Bay and Exmouth each year.
In recent times, the dreamlike encounter of swimming beside a humpback whale – one of the largest mammals to roam the Earth – has become a reality.
Multi-award winning tour operator Ningaloo Whale Shark Swim is one tour company making the ‘bucket list’ experience possible, allowing people to have the splash of a lifetime on board their small group tours. Over its 22-year history, the multi-award-winning tour company has given over 50,000 people the chance to see the whale sharks and took 550 guests swimming with a humpback whale in 2019.
To give you scope of how big these enormous creatures are, they can measure up to 19 metres in length and weigh up to a whopping 40 tonnes, the equivalent of 28 cars! Now that’s one epic meet and greet under the sea.
Here we get into the nitty-gritty of how you can swim with humpback whales
What chance do I have to see the humpback whale?
To ensure that you are not going into the deep blue and seeing nadda, Ningaloo Whale Sharks flies its own spotter plane each tour, every tour, to help locate likely pods of whales to swim with. (The other pods often provide spectacular whale watching during the tours.)
The plane stays up for five hours finding whales, whale sharks and the very best of the sealife on the Ningaloo for guests to interact with, up very close and personal.
The more pods of whales the spotter plane locates, the more pods the tour boat’s skipper gets to check out to confirm they are good to swim with. It’s a numbers game, where the longer the tour is, the more plane time there is, the more suitable pods of whales found, the more likely guests are to swim with humpback whales. And have multiple swims with whales! (Did I mention Ningaloo Whale shark Swim’s tours are 10 hours long, significantly longer than any other operator?)
Ningaloo Whale Sharks tours are conducted from the West Coast of the Cape (Exmouth’s Tantabiddi boat ramp), where visibility is significantly better, to catch a glimpse of the whales in action. This also gives guests the chance to swim with a whale shark during their humpback whale tour should the opportunity arise, which isn’t normally possible for whale swimming tours leaving from the Gulf.
How are the tours conducted responsibly?
Let’s not try to scare off our giant ocean friends, shall we? Tours are conducted responsibly and sustainably by two in-water expert guides to ensure the safety of both swimmers and whales. The crew onboard the vessel are also fully trained and certified to conduct in-water interactions with humpback whales. Up to seven swimmers are allowed in the water at one given time and must maintain a safe distance as instructed by the in-water guides. Only snorkelling is permitted and no diving.
How close can I get to the humpback whale?
In-water guides will advise swimmers to be at least 30 metres away from the whales. Maintaining a safe distance from the whales allows these ocean greats to keep doing their thing in a calm environment and will enable you to have your chance to see a performance like no other. We don’t really get to swim with a whale, it’s very much up to the whale whether they choose to swim with us!
Above all, guest safety is the tour operator’s number one priority at all times.
Can I take photos of the humpback whales?
You sure can but don’t let you wanting to become a full-blown paparazzi get in the way of just basking in the majesty and beauty of the whales.
A professional photographer escorts each group on their swim to capture this amazing experience. It is one of those times where being present really outweighs fumbling around for the camera to get that ‘perfect shot’ – just let someone else do it for you while you get to enjoy this extraordinary moment in time.
When is the best time to swim with a humpback whale?
Start practising your scissor kicks now! The season kicks (or flaps) off in June and continues through to November annually.
What have people said about their humpback whale experience
Every experience is a different one, and no day is ever the same in Ningaloo Reef. People have described swimming with the whales as “such an incredible experience.” One lucky swimmer Marie got more than she bargained for, hitting the jackpot with swimming with two out of three of Ningaloo Reef’s larger-than-life residents in one go!
“We were very lucky not only to swim with two whales but also with six mantas that kept us company for more than half an hour, making the experience truly memorable.”
Each tour ends blissfully too, witnessing another one of WA’s greatest sights from the boat – the sunset over the Indian Ocean – making it one unforgettable day in WA.
Ningaloo Whale Shark Swim – Book your swim with the humpback whales today from $410 per adult and $380 per child.
Guest numbers are limited per tour, so bookings are essential.
Tour includes snorkel hire (mask and fins), wetsuit hire, morning and afternoon tea, gourmet lunch, free pick up/drop off accommodation pick up from Exmouth and more.
For more information visit their website ningaloowhalesharks.com.
All images supplied via Ningaloo Whale Shark Swim
This article first appeared on So Perth – How To Swim With Humpback Whales In Western Australia.
This is a sponsored post for Ningaloo Whale Shark Swim – endorsed by So Perth. We value your feedback so please contact us with any thoughts in regards to our sponsored post.