Whale Of A Time: Ningaloo’s Humpback Experience

There are some incredible options out there for those who enjoy getting their blood pumping FAST…bungy jumping, sky diving, abseiling…just to name a few. But an experience that is equally fascinating as it is jaw-dropping (and less terrifying!) is swimming with some of the largest marine creatures found in Australia.

I’ve been lucky enough to brush shoulders with manta rays and come eye-to-eye with reef sharks but to swim with a whale in my own backyard has always been a pipe dream until recently.

WA’s world heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef hosts a yearly migration of over 30,000 humpback whales – the largest known population in the world. In October last year the Department of Parks and Wildlife gave a small number of tour operators the green light to offer visitors the chance to swim with the majestic mammals (as if whale sharks and manta rays weren’t enough already!)

The tours have started this month and will run until the end of November in Coral Bay (11.5 hour drive from Perth) and Exmouth (13 hours by car or a 2 hour flight from Perth) and if you think it’s one of those tours where you’ll be fighting for a spot, think again. Only ten swimmers can swim with the whales each excursion and just five are allowed to swim with the whales at any one time. Yup, a seriously VIP experience! You’ll be dropped in ahead of the whale because unless you’re Ariel, there’s no way you’d keep up, and it’s up to your new found friend to come and say hello – luckily the gentle giants (size wise they range from 12 – 16 metres) are super inquisitive and rather enjoy eyeballing strangers.


Cover image: Rory Hodgkinson and Prue Wheeler, Ningaloo Discovery. Above image: Visit Ningaloo

Of course, whales are wild animals and like an African safari expedition you’re never guaranteed a sighting although besides the humpback whales most of the tours also incorporate swimming alongside whale sharks and manta rays (not to mention turtles and other marine life) so you really get the crème de la crème Ningaloo experience.

If you’re keen to say hi to a humpback on Ningaloo the list of operators can be found on the Australia’s Coral Coast website here. And even if whales and marine life don’t float your boat, we better mention that the weather in Coral Bay and Exmouth is a balmy 25 degrees plus at the moment and seriously, we’ll jump at the chance to defrost after all this cold weather!

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Top image: Ed Cardwell, visitningaloo.com.au. Bottom image: Jade Just

If Western Australia is too far to travel but you’re in need of a marine fix there’s some great alternative options around the country:

  • Dive with Great Whites in Port Lincoln, South Australia here.
  • Snorkel or dive with manta rays and a host of other marine animals at Lady Elliot Island, Queensland here.
  • Swim with Humpback Whales on the Sunshine Coast, Queensland here.

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Top image: Port Lincoln shark dive. Middle image: Lady Elliot Island. Bottom Image: Migration Media, Sun Reef

Written by Jade Just – Contributing Travel Editor

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