Swimming alongside a whale shark has been on our bucket list ever since we discovered our passion for snorkelling, diving and the underwater world in Asia. The Ningaloo reef is renowned worldwide for its visiting Whale Sharks that routinely return each year like clockwork to feed on the plankton at the time of coral spawning. Luckily we were in the area at Whale Shark season and debated for a while as to whether we would fork out the rather large fee. It was one of the most expensive things we have ever done on our travels so far but after speaking to Captain Bill of Kings Whale Shark tours, he gave us a bit of friendly backpacker discount and we were booked on the boat for the following day.
There were about 15 of us on the boat and a real mixture of people, we were split into 2 groups and set out for the great big blue. After having a practice snorkel and getting used to being in deep water we all got back on the boat and waited for the spotter planes to tell us when they had Whale Sharks in sight. We didn’t have to wait very long. Within 20 minutes we had zoomed across the ocean to where the first whale shark of the day was swimming. The first group jumped in and had their first 10 minute swim and we eagerly jumped into the water afterwards, we lined up and all of a sudden, he appeared, a huge great big 9 metre whale shark slowly sauntered on past us. After he passed we swam round the back of his ginormous tail and swam alongside the underwater giant for ages. He swam so slowly and calmly that we often had to stop swimming otherwise we would have overtaken him. It was an unbelievable moment that we will never forget. To get to swim alongside the biggest most gentle and calm fish in the sea was incredible. Our time was up and we had to tear ourselves away from him and hop back on the boat. However we had about 10 more snorkels with 4 more whale sharks before the day was up. Each and every snorkel was an awesome experience, the sharks were so curious they actually circled around to get a good look at us small fish following them around, although the Australian guidelines state that a 6 metre distance must be kept at all times, more often than not, the whale shark would suddenly turn and provide a very personal experience, being eye to eye to these magnificent animals is something we will never forget.
We were lucky enough to have two volunteers from Ecocean on-board, the only whale shark research and tracking organisation in Exmouth, who were an absolute wealth of information and interest to all of us, eager to answer any questions we had about the big fish and other sea animals in general, they really enhanced our trip and made it worthwhile.
The afternoon was spent snorkelling in the turquoise coral shallows spotting reef sharks, turtles, colourful fish and even an Octopus! An absolutely amazing day that will stay with us forever.