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. Approximately 40,000 whales migrate along our coastline each year.
You can see these gentle giants of the ocean on their journey between summer breeding grounds in the North West shelf and winter feeding grounds in the Antarctic. Humpback whales are massive - they can grow up to 19 metres in length and way up to 40 tonnes.
When is the best time to swim with Humpback Whales?
Occurring annually in the Ningaloo Marine Park, tours commence from 1 July in Coral Bay and 1 August in Exmouth, running until approximately October. However, being a natural event the migration period could conclude or extend around this end date.
What's it really like to swim with a Humpback Whale?
All tours focus on small group encounters for intimate, yet exhilarating experiences that will stay with you for many years to come! Interactions are 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.
This is a full day tour, between 7 to 8 hours long - expect to leave your accommodation around about 7am, and be back in the late afternoon.
- Bus will collect you from the designated meeting point or your hotel, to take you to the boat ramp.
- Beginning with a safety briefing and snorkelling the inner reef
- Enjoy morning tea as a spotter plane gets searching for Humpback Whales.
- Once located, guides will get the boat close enough to observe these gentle giants as they cruise the reef.
- 7 tourists will 'jump' into the water with a dive master as your guide, ensuring you swim a safe distance with the fish.
- Tours supply their guide-staff with in-water radios to be able to communicate back and forth with both the boat skipper and spotter plane pilot.
- This radio contact ensures you swim a safe distance but also to guide you to the best possible spot to intercept the whales
- The ‘jump’ is repeated several times before a late lunch is served
- Many tour operators employ have a multi-lingual guide crew - it's truly an international experience!
- Almost all crew/staff hold either a marine biology degree or from an environmental sciences background
- Bus will transfer you back to town. We think you'll be tired after a big day on the water so enjoy a relaxing evening.
No swimmers allowed near mothers and calves (a whale deemed 1/2 the size of an accompanying adult) for both the protection and safety of whale and human.
What's the success rate?
The Ningaloo Humpback Whale interaction guidelines have been modelled on world's best practice Whale Shark swim tours which have been proven by leading scientists to be the most eco-friendly and least impactive tours globally.
The results from the 2019 season were encouraging, with an average (across all operators in both locations) interaction success rate of 78%. With regulations ever changing including the size of the whales we can now interact with, and proximity for boats to approach the whales to improve the non-swimmer or observer's experience, it is hoped that the in water success will increase to 85% with some operators already achieving this in-water success rate.
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. Adult is any person aged 16 years or older.
The Humpback Whale tours are 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. You will explore a world-class pristine reef! Snorkel its coral gardens, cruise the turquoise sheltered lagoons and spot other marine life such as swimming with manta rays, dolphins and turtles.
Do NOT want to Swim with a Humpback Whale but DO want to See a Whale?
All tour operators offer what we call an Observer ticket price. Observers can still participate in reef snorkels and swimming with Manta Rays if found. They do not however participate in a Humpback Whale swim.
Which tour do I book?
Check out the list of Coral Bay and Exmouth Humpback Whale tours below.