Swimming with whale sharks: when, where and tour prices

LAST UPDATE in March, 2014

Do you like whale watching and want to see something even more excited?
It is time for you to step into water. This time I want to talk not about whale, but about biggest fish in the world – whale shark. I will show where and when you can see it.
What is whale shark
Places for a swim with whale sharks
Time for swimming with whale sharks
Tour prices in Australia
Can you scuba dive with whale sharks

Whale shark at Ningaloo reef, Exmouth, Australia

Whale shark at Ningaloo reef, Exmouth, Australia

What is whale shark

One of the first appearance on big screen of this fish was in documentary about Kon-Tiki expedition from South America to South Pacific. Kon-Tiki was the raft used by Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl. In his book about this expedition whale sharks were mentioned as sea monsters.  I can just imagine what they were thinking when they met this fish similar to shark and which can grow more then 10 meters long.  But despite its size, the whale shark does not pose significant danger to humans, feeding on plankton and small fish. Only thing people should be careful – unintentional blows from the shark’s large tail fin.

Check this video if you are wondering what is that whale shark and should you take a swimming with whale sharks tour.

Are you interested? This video shot in Cenderawasih Bay in Indonesia, but one of the best places to swim with whale sharks is in Western Australia, Ningaloo reef.  It is not a cheap attraction, but is really worth it and you would love to go again and again.

Best places for a swim with whale sharks

I hope I didn’t scare you and you are ready to jump into water :) Next question would be: where can you do it? There are couple places in the world you can do it. Occasionally whale sharks can be seen by scuba divers in Thailand, but nobody can promise you will see one. There are whale shark snorkeling tours in some Caribbean countries and also in Mozambique, but probably best place to swim these giants is Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.  At Ningaloo Reef tour operators use whale spotting planes and it makes big advantage comparing with other places in the world as it gives you more chances to see whale shark.

Best time for swimming with whale sharks

Whale shark season in Ningaloo Reef starts in April and last until July. The time frame can slightly vary each year. Whale sharks can come in late March and stay until August, so it is better to contact operator of your choice to check what is situation.  Thought all tour companies have very high rate of whale sharks spotting, but sometimes weather conditions are not the best to go out to the sea, so it is good to have couple spare days in case tour will be canceled on particular day. Make sure you have some sea sickens medicine to make sure you have good day out in the sea, as otherwise it can ruin your swim with whale sharks experience as it did happen with Jade.

Tour prices in Australia

Most tour operators located in small town Exmouth and couple of whale sharks tour operators are in Coral Bay, 150km (100 miles) South of Exmouth.

Here is a list of whale shark tour operators in Exmouth (for tours in Coral Bay go to Coral Bay whale shark tours page) in alphabetic order:

All prices are in Australian dollar. Now most companies offer repeat tour voucher valid for the next three years. Before you could use that voucher only during current season in case you don’t see whale sharks on your first tour.

Tour Operator Adult Child Video/Photo No sightings policy
Exmouth Diving Centre $385  $299 $60 In the unlikely event no whale shark is sighted on your tour we do offer repeat tour on any available spot within the next 3 years.
King’s Ningaloo Reef Tours $385 $270 $60
Ningaloo Blue Dive $395 $255 $60 If you don’t see a Whale Shark go again for FREE!
Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim (previously Ningaloo  Dreaming) $380 $270 FREE photos of your day In the very unlikely event you don’t see a whale shark on your tour, we will take you out again free of charge on the next available tour.  If you can’t make that, we’ll give you a voucher for a whale shark tour valid for the next three years.
Owns and operates own spotter plane. Offers a Best Price guarantee for your tour.
Ningaloo Whaleshark-N-Dive $390 $270 $50 Second trip at no charge on the next available whale shark tour. Offers a non-transferable voucher valid for the next 2 years.
Ocean Eco Adventures $410 $275 FREE tour DVD Offers repeat voucher is valid for a three year period if they can not use it in that season. Ocean Eco Adventures is also conducting research on the Ningaloo Marine Park on every cruise that clients can get involved with.
Has own spotter plane.
Three Islands Whale Shark Dive $385 $265 FREE CD of Photos from the day and a Best Of Ningaloo DVD Free repeat tour on next available day or transferable repeat tour voucher valid for the current and following two seasons or downgrade to ‘observer’ and receive partial refund.

* there is no published prices for the current season yet.

Swim with whale sharks tour prices are very similar so probably main factor of choosing tour operator will be seat availability on preferred day. Or it depends where you are staying and do you want to do any additional activity. Because these tours are not very cheap read carefully refund sections as all companies have different policies. But most companies start offer voucher for another tour valid for three years in case of no sighting of whale sharks that day.

Also you can check some operators reviews on Tripadvisor or on PlanBookTravel. Personally I was on tours with Three Islands Whale Shark Dive (they had best price in Exmouth) and Ningaloo Reef Dive in Coral Bay. I was happy with service I got and can recommend both companies.

All prices are good on time of publishing of this post. I tried to contact each tour company for latest information, but please visit page of each tour operator for up to date prices as it can be changes done at the time you’ll read this post. Let me know if you find any incorrect or outdated information here.

Can you scuba dive with whale sharks

Unfortunately you can’t do it.  Occasionally in Thailand scuba divers can see whale sharks, but these are rare cases. The swimming with whale sharks tours is the best way to see these creatures and Australia is one of best place in the world to go on these tours.  So check tour prices above.

But if you still keen to dive with whale sharks you can do it in Atlanta aquarium which has diving with whale sharks program.