One of the best places in Western Australia to see and experience an in-water interaction with migrating Humpback Whales is Ningaloo Marine Park off the coast of Exmouth and Coral Bay. You can see these giants of the ocean on their journey between summer breeding grounds in the North West shelf and winter feeding grounds in the Antarctic. The best time for this is between June and November. Humpback whales are massive - they can grow up to 19 metres in length and way up to 40 tonnes.
The Western Australian government announced in 2016 that in-water swimming with whale tours would be offered as a preliminary trial. The results from the inaugural season (August to November 2016) were encouraging, with 1644 people successfully experiencing swimming with these giants of the ocean. Read more about what it's like to Swim with a Humpback from those who have done it!
The existing Whale Shark operators in Ningaloo have been operating the whale swimming tours which allows these businesses to extend the whale shark season (March - July in Exmouth and March - June in Coral Bay) into the humpback migration (July to November annually).
2017 Humpback Interaction Tour prices* for Adult swimmers
We recommend the following tour operators* (in alphabetical order) in Ningaloo:
Coral Bay Ecotours - Coral Bay - $270 AUD pp
Exmouth Diving Centre - Exmouth - $400 AUD pp
Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours - Exmouth - $295 AUD pp
Live Ningaloo - Exmouth - $550 AUD pp
Ningaloo Blue Dive - Exmouth - $395 AUD pp
Ningaloo Discovery - Exmouth - $350 AUD pp
Ningaloo Reef Dive - Coral Bay - $260 AUD per adult, $225 AUD per child
Three Islands Whale Shark Dive - Exmouth - $325 AUD pp
Depending on the operator you choose to swim with, the tour will be packaged up differently. All operators tour prices include a spotter plane to easily find the whales.
How does the tour work?
All tours focus on small group whale encounters for intimate, yet exhilarating experiences that will stay with you for many years to come!
There will be a maximum five (5) persons in the water at any one time with Humpback Whale(s) with anyone whale pod, with no swimmers allowed near mothers and calves for both the protection and safety of whale and human. This strict swimmer limit is in keeping with the Ningaloo eco-tourism guidelines in place for whale sharks, where only 10 people can swim alongside a whale shark.
The humpback whale was previously an endangered species along the West Australian coast, but conservation efforts have boosted the mammal's population in the area to around 30,000. Several boat operators have already put together their tour offering commencing late July/early August - the whales are more often there from mid-July onwards.
The tour structure will combine the very successful whale shark tour model with the popular whale watching eco-tour. Interactions, however, will be completely on the whale's terms, so if the humpbacks behaviour and the weather allows, there will be the chance for a genuine wildlife encounter in the water with them!
All operators are offering a full day tour experience, starting from approximately 10 am (with free pickups available at local hotels - Exmouth only) concluding at approximately 5 pm, with some offering a whale watching cruise price with an additional cost if there is an in-water experience while others offer an all-inclusive price.
However, unlike the Whale Shark tours, the Humpback Whale tours will be conducted over the entire area of the Ningaloo Marine Park waters, which includes the 300 kilometres of reef between Coral Bay and Exmouth, the North-West Cape, Lighthouse Bay, the Murion Islands, concluding at Bundegi Beach within the Exmouth Gulf.