One of my all-time favourite ocean memories is swimming with the Whale sharks in Exmouth, Western Australia. It's something that I'd wanted to do for so long and it was an experience I'll never forget (photos courtesy of Chris Jansen and Live Ningaloo).
The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a filter-feeding carpet shark (not a whale, like its name suggests). These beautiful spotted creatures are the biggest fish in the sea and can grow up to 20m long. They live in tropical and warm-temperate seas and come to Ningaloo Reef during the coral spawning from March until August every year.
I was a guest of Live Ningaloo, a boutique tour operator who takes a maximum of 10 people out on their luxury boat at a time. They are passionate about responsible tourism and creating intimate and personalised experiences for their guests which means happy wildlife and more time in the water!
I was a little nervous as we headed out behind the reef as I was not used to swimming in very deep water, but the crew made me feel so safe, relaxed, and comfortable. We waited for the spotter plane above to let the skipper know when they found the whale sharks, which didn't take long. We then all lined up along the back of the boat and slid into the water quietly as to not spook the whale shark that was heading towards us.
It's hard to describe the experience in words but I was completely captivated with how calm and massive these beautiful creatures are to be close to. Swimming alongside them really took my breath away and is something I will never forget.
After the whale shark swim, we were provided with a delicious local spread for lunch and snacks, before returning for an afternoon snorkel on the pristine Ningaloo reef with turtles, coral, and lots of different fish.
I definitely recommend putting a whale shark swim on your bucket list!! You won't regret it!