Did you know?
Whale Sharks can grow up to 12 metres (40 feet) long and weigh more than 20 tonnes
Staying Safe when Swimming with Whale Sharks
Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim is an experienced, expert marine tour operator. We have a 100% Safety Record for a reason, and that is because we take the time and make the effort to make this happen. Through a combination of the right staff, the right gear and the right processes, we focus on safety as the first requirement to running whale shark tours.
All our staff meet and exceed minimum training guidelines for working with guests in a marine environment. Most are Divemasters, Dive Instructors and Accredited Snorkel Guides, or in training to become one of these. They all have their Advanced First Aid, CPR, and most have Oxygen training as well. (We run with an Oxygen cylinder onboard at all times.)
We use wetsuits, lifejackets, noodles, floats and our crew to ensure each and every one of our passengers is safe in the water, and to maximise each person’s ability to swim with a whale shark.
We have developed comprehensive safety briefings that we use through the day to make sure everyone onboard knows what is going to happen, what could happen, and what to do if it does happen.
So you can honestly relax and let us take care of you. We are onto it, good at it, and committed to keep getting better at it too!
Whilst some people have concerns about jellyfish, we do everything we can to absolutely minimise any need to be concerned. Many seasons there are no serious jellyfish stings off the Ningaloo Reef whatsoever. However stings by jellyfish do pose an ongoing risk to swimmers in the water in most of Northern Australia. Like all risks its relative – compared to the Great Barrier Reef the risk of jelly fish stings on the Ningaloo Reef is much, much lower. So whilst the risk is real, if its properly managed it can be minimised.
Ningaloo Whale Shark Swim goes out of its way to very carefully manage jelly-fish risk to customers and crew. Our staff are fully briefed and trained on relevant symptoms and how best to treat them, with all necessary gear on-board. We have well-established processes for dealing with all levels of stings. As soon as a risk of jellyfish stings (including irukandji) arises, we issue our passengers with full length stinger suits to cover their bodies from head to toe – full face masks may also be available if a customer has experience with these. We work very closely with Department of Parks and Wildlife, the emergency response services in town and other whale shark tour and tourism operators so that if an emergency ever does arise, it is dealt with rapidly, effectively and professionally.
Seasickness is a real concern for a significant minority of our guests, due to either predisposition to motion sickness or alternatively to the weather conditions on the day.
Our vessel is specifically designed to maximize stability in weather conditions on the West Coast of Australia. She is stable, comfortable, and offers customers the space and areas to spread out around the vessel throughout the day.
Whilst guests can be extremely confident that Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim will not run a tour if the weather conditions are not safe to do so, some of our tour are run in safe but inclement weather conditions. These conditions range from rain or a cold wind during the day through to swimming with whalesharks in relatively large swells and winds. (Its actually the direction of these winds and swells that has far more impact on safety than the size of the seas or the windspeed.)
So being prepared for seasickness, particularly if you think you may be predisposed, is an important part of planning for your whaleshark swim. Whilst we can guarantee we will do everything we can to look after you during your tour, we can’t unfortunately guarantee the weather on the day.
Drugs Do Work For Many People
Before you leave home, see your physician and talk through the range of medications available on prescription and, critically importantly:
- how to effectively take these drugs
- when to take these drugs to maximize their effectiveness and
- the possible side effects and what to do about these.
The “Gold Standard” for motion seasickness against which other drugs are measured is Hyoscine / Scopolamine, though this is not unfortunately effective for everyone. Dimenhydrinate and meclizine have also been found to be similarly effective for some people.
Most of these drugs need to be taken well beforehand to achieve effective blood levels, as motion sickness prevents effective drug absorption. Something that a few of the crews and skippers swear by are the Scopolamine patches, worn behind the ear and providing up to 72 hours protection against sea sickness. They do need to be put on well the day before your tour though, although taking oral form of the drug to rapidly boost blood levels can mean you can get away with putting them on just 30 minutes before your tour in some situations.
Alternative treatments for motion sickness may also be effective
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and Habituation Sessions have been found to be effective and you should consider these if motion sickness is having a significant impact on your life and how you want to live it going forward. Treatments available onboard include Seasickness Bands, Ginger, Ginger Ale and seasickness glasses acupuncture, Cognitive Behavioural Sessions and habituation before a tour may all be effective for some individuals in decreasing the likelihood of seasickness, or decreasing the discomfort level.
What to do if you feel seasick during a tour
If you start to feel seasick during a tour, let the crew know so we can offer whatever help and assistance we can, including keeping you as hydrated as possible.
As a general guideline, and the earlier the better, as soon as you start to feel unwell, find somewhere quiet and well ventilated to sit. Then
- try and remain as still as you can
- whilst breathing slowly and somewhat deeply
- and focusing on the horizon
This has been proven scientifically to minimize the symptoms of early stages of seasickness.
Our staff also have Seasickness Banks and Ginger and Ginger Ale onboard to assist – many people swear by these treatments.
If you do end up throwing up, the most important thing to do is to ensure you keep drinking as much water as you can during your tour.
Many of our crew also strongly recommend, based on their collective experience with tens of thousands of passengers all over the world, getting in the water as soon as you can, as this appears to break the cycle and onset of symptoms for the majority of customers.
Whilst not able to offer any guaranteed solutions, please know that no matter what happens during your tour, the crew will be there to assist to the best of our abilities.