Did you know?
Whale Sharks can grow up to 12 metres (40 feet) long and weigh more than 20 tonnes
Your Whale Shark Tour Itinerary
Here’s a summary of your Whale Shark Tour Itinerary.
(Times will vary depending on the conditions and activities on individual days.)
7:15-7:30am : Passengers picked up from the front of their accommodation in Exmouth by our air-conditioned bus
8:00am : Arrive at Tantabiddi port, board your whale shark cruise boat.
8:30am : Depart Tantabiddi to head out into the Ningaloo Reef to look for whale sharks
9:00am : First snorkel on the amazing corals of the Ningaloo Reef
9:30am : Spotter plane takes off to look for whale sharks for us to swim
10:00am : Morning Tea
10:15am : Vessel starts cruising the reef looking for whale sharks to swim with Until Lunch Swimming with whale sharks Around
12:30-1:00pm : Head into the inner reef to have a delicious gourmet lunch
2:30pm : Last snorkel on the spectacular coral gardens of the Ningaloo Reef. Divers dive the Ningaloo Reef, Try Dives and Refresher Dives too.
3:00pm : Afternoon tea
3:15pm : Cruise back to Tantabiddi on the look out for dolphins, turtles, dugongs…
3:45pm : Board tender to be ferried back to shore
4:00pm : Board bus for trip back to Exmouth
4:30pm : Passengers dropped off in front of their accommodation in Exmouth
What to expect during your day on the whale shark cruise:
At around 7:15 to 7:30am on the morning of your whale shark tour, you’ll be picked up from the front of your accommodation in our modern, airconditioned bus. This is where is adventure starts!
During the next 30-45 minute bus-ride to Tantabiddi, where our whale shark tour boat departs from, our very friendly crew will be outlining fascinating facts about Exmouth, the Ningaloo Reef and the BIG THREE of the Ningaloo – whale sharks, whales and manta rays. We’re also there to answer any questions you may have about your day, and to let you know that if you need help, you just have to ask.
Once at the boat ramp, you will jump onboard our tender vessel, and head out to board Skybird II, our very distinctive whale shark tour boat. She’s easy to spot as her entire hull is covered in the iconic whaleshark dot pattern, which makes for a particularly photogenic vessel!
Once on board the boat, the crew will kit you out with top of the range Cressi masks, fins and snorkels, ensuring comfort and fit. We also have plenty of long and short wetsuits to keep you warm, with kids sizes available too. We’ll then introduce ourselves, and give you a quick briefing about the boat, and the Skipper will go through important safety information to keep you safe and comfortable throughout your whale shark cruise.
And then we cast off our mooring lines and we are off into the Ningaloo Reef to search for whale sharks, and other amazing marine life of the Ningaloo. The reef is one of the world’s largest fringing reef, with most of it located only a few hundred metres from shore. Our Skipper will cruise along the inside of the reef towards the best snorkel site given the weather conditions on the day.
At the same time, our pilot is warming up the spotter plane’s engines and heading out to the Ningaloo Reef to find us whale sharks to swim with.
Once we are safely anchored, you’ll be jumping in, accompanied by the crew, to have your first snorkel of the day. We are aware that some of you may be experienced snorkellers while for others, you may just be starting out. Not a problem! All of our crew have a minimum rating of ‘Rescue diver’ or higher, and are dedicated snorkel guides and instructors so can teach you how it is done. We’re aiming for every one of our guests to learn something new about snorkelling safely and effectively, with guests invited to ask questions and get feedback on how to improve specific aspects of your snorkelling technique.
You’ll then head off to check out the spectacular array of corals and fish near where the boat is anchored. When back onboard, its time for morning tea – usually a hot drink and plenty of freshly baked cake and biscuits from the local bakery! Whilst you are sipping on your cuppa, our whale shark team will be demonstrating the whale shark code of conduct, how to swim safely with a whale shark, and what to expect when we find one of these magnificent sharks.
As our own spotter plane searches for our BIG spotted friends, we cruise down the outside of the reef soaking up the sights of the Cape Range National Park from the ocean, and encountering a very wide variety of spectacular marine life and birds. Turtles are often seen, taking a big breath before diving downwards to the floor of the ocean for minutes at a time. Flying fish jump out of the water and glide their way safely out of the way of the boat’s passage. Flocks of wedge-tailed shearwater bird bomb into the ocean with a spectacular splash, in their efforts to catch one of massive schools of fish.
In season, you will also often see manta rays barrel-rolling (from May), humpbacks and their babies (called calves) breaching and slapping their tails (from June) and if we’re lucky, schools of up to 500 bottlenose, spinner and indo-pacific dolphins may race towards to boat, surround us and start leaping off our bow waves or our wake.
Immediately we get the call from the pilot that a whale shark has been spotted, its all systems go! We quickly finish whatever we are doing, and then the Skipper heads the boat towards towards the whale shark’s location. There is a buzz in the air, and the excitement and anticipation mount amongst crew and passengers alike.
As the plane guides the Skipper onto your whale shark, you will be split into two groups to jump into the water and swim with the whale shark. Most passengers are literally buzzing with excitement waiting and ready for your swim. Our crew is there to answer any last minute questions and provide assurance and support as necessary too.
Then with the shout of ‘go go go’, its time for you to jump into the water and get up close and personal to the world’s biggest shark, and get your chance to experience wonder and marvel at the size and grace and elegance of the biggest fish in the world. (Whale sharks of the Ningaloo vary between 2.5m and 10.5m, with most being around 4-6m in length.)
After your first swim with a whale shark, you may find yourself smiling and cheering at the exhilaration of swimming with these magnificent sharks. The best part is, on most whale shark tours we run, you can jump back in and do it again and again! Our photographer / videographer is always there, taking photos of the whale sharks and other marine life, and you on your cruise, committed to trying to capture photos that capture your whale shark tour experience for you to keep forever and share with friends. Once all passengers have agreed we’ve had enough time swimming with our first (or second or third!) whale sharks, and we are needing a rest and some sustenance, we head back to the inside of the reef where we can relax and eat lunch, prepared fresh that morning by the local bakery. More fascinating stories about the Ningaloo and Exmouth, indigenous Australians and the amazing history of the area are told by staff during lunch. Snorkelling off the back of the boat, lazing around in the sun, or an occasional game of water polo may follow.
We may then head back out for more whale shark swimming, or to interact with other marine life the plane has spotted. Or alternatively we could head off to our favourite afternoon snorkel spot, where the excitement doesn’t stop. You often get the chance to see some of the many species of turtles, rays, sharks, sea snakes and huge schools of fish, sometimes even a dugong of two!
If you are already certified and would like to have a fun dive with one of our guides, we have all equipment on board ready to go and you can experience the Ningaloo from below. If you have never dived before and would love to have another new experience, our highly experienced diving instructors will guide you through everything from equipment and how to use it, safety techniques so you can relax and enjoy the experience, to moving through the water with ease! You’ll get the chance to experience for yourself what SCUBA diving is like, and why so many people make such a big fuss about diving and seeing the marine wonderland under the ocean’s surface.
As the day comes to a finish and we cruise back, you can relax we serve a fruit platter and champagne to celebrate the day and achieving something only a few people ever get to experience!
At the end of the day we will capture one last memory of everyone all together with a tour photo. Then its back ashore via our tender, and onto our bus for the drive back to Exmouth. After more briefings about the area and its amazing, unique history, whale shark research, we drop each customer back to the front door of their accommodation, with our best wishes for their holidays, and our hope that they had one of the best days out on tour ever!
(And if you are wanting to hear more stories about the Ningaloo and living in Exmouth, don’t be afraid to invite our crew down to the pub for a drink either!)