Ningaloo Reef Whale swimming

Since 2016 it has been possible to get in the water and swim with Humpback Whales here at Ningaloo Reef. We traveled to Tonga a few years ago to do this as it was then one of the few places in the world that this was allowed and we had an amazing experience. After this, a whale watching boat was just not the same for us. We decided to try it again here in Australia. It was the end of the whale shark dive season and we told there were not many whale sharks around and the humpbacks were in full swing coming and going on their annual migration.

waiting to board
Steve waiting to board the boat with his lucky whale shirt on.
whale swim boat
This was our boat for the day with Ningaloowhalesharks. It was a really well run trip that we would recommend. They are one of the whaleshark boats that is now doing the swim with Humpbacks trial.
inside the whale boat
We were given stinger suits and short wet suits and all gear required. Don’t think the stingers suits were required for stingers but they did help you keep warm!
Frogman ready to go and looking cosy.

We warmed up in the sun between dives. Water temp was only 20deg C. This may be warm to some people but we admit we are wimps! Too much tropical diving!

The day started with a snorkel inside the reef where the conditions are more gentle. The wind was blowing and there was a 1 metre swell but we were told the conditions were amazingly good. I’m glad we didn’t have the usual big swell. I drugged myself up with seasick tablets but there were a few people feeling sick on the boat once we got outside the reef. We had a quick look at some coral bommies and the staff saw how everyone was performing with their gear and ability etc.  M

whale swim photo
Steve and I doing water ballet. They don’t give you weights so it is hard to dive down.
There were a lot of sting rays on the bottom.

puffer fish

guitar sharks
Very unimpressive go pro Guitar Sharks
cow tailed ray
Spot the Cow tailed ray hidden in the sand.
bull ray
Bull Ray half hidden under a bommie thinking we can’t see it.
maddy swimming
Me diving down to look under a ledge but without weights it was hard to stay down. M
First wildlife spotted were a number of turtles. We were told it was turtle mating season at the moment. Then a pod of 7 bottle nose dolphins came and swam at the bow for a while.


sea snake
Olive sea snake coming up for air
a bloody seabird
Finally! A new bird! A wedge tailed shearwater.
our spotter
Then the boat headed out through a gap in the reef to the open ocean where the whales roam. The spotter plane goes up looking for the whales and talks on the radio to the boat who talks to the whale spotter in the water with a radio in their hand. We stay close to the person in the water with the radio and the plane tells us where the whale is and which direction to swim to connect with it.
fancy fins
All the staff on this boat were fantastic at their jobs. You could see they loved the sea and were having fun but keeping it safe. One has the radio and the other a camera waiting for the OK from the plane to jump in. The are both wearing free diving fins so they can swim fast.
ready to go
It was pretty hectic (and fun) jumping off the back of the boat into a swell as the boat was moving on the open ocean. We all had to jump in at the same time, keep together and swim like crazy to keep up with swimming whales. Here we are waiting for the signal to jump in.
grey haired man
Steve modelling the dive gear!
return to boat
This photo makes it look flat but it wasnt!
its behind you
The spotter is in the water and sights the whale and lets us know the direction its traveling and which way we must swim. You can see the dorsal fin behind the spotter. But this isn’t a humpback, it’s a whale shark which we just happened to find out there this late in the season. We were told we were pretty lucky. M
shark coming
A juvenile Whale shark just swimming along not seeming to notice the 9 people in the water with it thrashing away on the surface! It had the most beautiful blue and white spots!
maddy and whaleshark
VERY EXCITING being this close to a whale shark but trying hard NOT to smile or you get water in your mask!

behind sharkIt was all pretty amazing and made us forget why we were there. What was amazing is how totally comfortable they are with a bunch of people swimming along next to them watching them eat. At times we had to be careful it didn’t come too close to us. Once all the groups had seen it, they let us get in for another swim with it!

side shark

beside shark
It was swimming slowly for a whale shark but you still had to kick pretty hard to keep up.
When they finally spotted a  humpback that was appropriate to get in with, it was all a bit of  an anticlimax. The whales you are allowed to swim with here are busy migrating and on the move the whole time. You jump out of the boat in the path of the whale and hope you get a glimpse of it swimming around or under you. You can just make out the form of this one which saw us in it’s path and swam under us. These guys do not move slowly so many people did not even sight it.

Had we know the limitations with humpback whale swimming in Western Australia beforehand, we would NOT have booked. We would recommend people do this in Tonga where you are allowed to interact with settled mothers and babies who are relaxing. Interestingly in Tonga you are NOT allowed to be dropped in a boat in the path of a moving whale like you are here. We know from our experience in Tonga that if a whale is not happy with you near them they just don’t hang around. They are the boss. M

Having said all that, we had an amazing day with the whale shark and other wildlife and we highly recommend a whale shark swim to everyone to do at least once in your life. It is unforgettable! M


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