5 July 2023

Have you ever wondered what a typical day on tour swimming with humpback whales looks like?

The World-Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is the only place in Western Australia where you have the opportunity to swim with humpback whales. Small group tours run from Coral Bay and Exmouth, with guests entering the water with up to 7 people at a time for an intimate and exhilarating experience.

Tours operated from 1st July through to October in Coral Bay, and from 1st August through to October in Exmouth. However, keeping in mind humpback whales are wild animals, these season dates can vary year to year based on the whales’ migration. By choosing the Ningaloo Reef for your humpback whale swim you not only get the experience of being in the water with a whale, but you also get to explore a world-class pristine reef! Snorkel its coral gardens, cruise the turquoise sheltered lagoons and spot other marine life along the way.

If you’re ready to take the plunge and tick swimming with humpback whales off your adventure list, then read on.

How do swimming with humpback whale tours work?

Humpback whale tours are full day experiences – set your alarm early and expect to leave your accommodation around 7.00am, and be back in the late afternoon around 4.00pm or 5.00pm.

  • Your chosen tour operator’s bus will collect you from the designated meeting point (or from your accommodation), and take you to the boat ramp as you set out to the Ningaloo Reef
  • You’ll be given a safety briefing on the boat before having the opportunity to snorkel on Ningaloo’s inner reef. (Note: most humpback whale tours include two snorkels on the inner reef, where you can see incredible coral and fish. You'll also have the chance to see, and potentially swim with, manta rays, dolphins and turtles).
  • Once you have finished snorkelling you will get the opportunity to enjoy a morning tea while spotter planes begin searching and locating the humpback whales.
  • Once located, the vessel will be guided close enough to the whales so you can observe these gentle giants as they cruise the reef.
  • Groups of 7 swimmers will enter the water at a time (also known as the ‘jump’), accompanied by a divemaster as your guide, ensuring you swim a safe distance from the whales. (Note: your guide has an in-water radio to communicate with the boat, to be kept up to date with the exact location and movement of the humpback whales. This ensures you maintain a safe distance from the whales, whilst guiding you to the best location to intercept the whales).
  • Your guide will advise when to put your head underwater and watch as these graceful creatures swim near or past you! (Fun fact: humpback whales are bigger than you think - they can grow up to 19 metres in length and weigh up to 40 tonnes, that’s almost as heavy as the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge!)
  • The boat will pick up the members of your swimming group, then repeat the process for the next group of 7. The 'jump' is repeated several times before a late lunch is served.
  • Once you arrive back to shore, the bus will take you back to town or to your accommodation where we can guarantee you will need a relaxing evening after a big day on the water!

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What do I pack for a humpback whale tour?

We recommend keeping it light, pack a small bag for your humpback whale watching tour with essential items including - a towel, hat, sunscreen, swimsuit, water bottle and warm clothing.

All tour operators supply you with snorkel equipment including wetsuits as well as fresh water, tea, coffee with change room facilities and toilets are also available on board although each tour operater does differ.

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Why swim with Humpback Whales at Ningaloo Reef?

There are many reasons why you should choose the Ningaloo Reef as your destination of choice when swimming with humpback whales. Not only will you learn from the best, we also have an extremely high success rate for in-water humpback whale interactions (currently sitting at 78%). Plus, all in-water interaction tour operators have an underwater photographer and videographer on board to capture those lasting memories so you can re-live the experience for years to come.

The Ningaloo humpback whale interaction guidelines have been modelled on world's best practice and all humpback whale swim tours which have been proven by leading scientists to be the most eco-friendly and least impactive tours globally. To find out more on our eco-tourism practices, follow this link.

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What if I want to go whale watching but not participate in the in-water interaction?

No problem - if you’re not an avid swimmer but are still wanting to witness these gentle giants, that’s ok – operators also offer an ‘observer’ price where you can still participate in the inner reef snorkels, but do not participate in the humpback whale in-water interaction or you can simply make yourself comfortable and watch from the boat.

Sometimes manta rays are also found on tours and ‘observers’ also have the opportunity to swim with them. Alternatively, you also have the option to join a dedicated whale watching tour, and are run from Shark Bay and Kalbarri.

Which tour do I book?