Swimming with whale sharks had been a dream since we first found out it was possible, years ago and it was one of the things we most wanted to do whilst in Australia. Doing it today was so special we can't quite describe the feeling. It was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that surpassed our dreams, it was totally and utterly AMAZING!
We set out at 7.20 with Kings Nigaloo Reef Tours and after fitting for fins, masks and vests we were soon in the water, snorkelling on the reef. The reef we saw this morning was not in great condition, a lot was damaged and broken but there was a lot of fish life.
After a look around the reef the boat heads further out, a spotter plane goes up in the air which then communicated with the boat with what it finds. Within ten minutes they had seen a whale shark and the boat headed closer to it. We were previously split into two groups of ten as only ten people at a time are allowed in the water with a whale shark. We were told to quickly get ready as it was only 200 metres away so we all excitedly scrambled to suit up. Just as we were about to enter the shark took a dive, too deep to see anymore.
We waited until the plane spotted another one, around five minutes later.
This one didn't mind us and stayed on the surface. We geared up and our guide instructed us to line up in the water, ready for the shark to swim past. Within thirty seconds the whale shark was along side us, we swam with it in the water for a few minutes. It was a beautiful juvenile male, around 6m long and swimming slowly and steadily. We were able to stay in the water for a long time, cruising right next to it. You could see up close, it's gills moving as it filtered the water, little fish in and around its mouth and sucker sharks on its belly, hitching a ride, feeding on its leftovers. It was magical.
Each whale shark has its own distinct and individual markings, like our fingerprints. There beautiful white spots are totally unique to each animal. They are the gentle giants of the underwater world and don't at all mind us swimming along side them. They are the biggest fish on earth, and as sharks there senses are very sensitive. They would be hearing all our hearts racing in the water but they don't swim off or dive, they just cruise along, feeding, minding there own business while you stare in awe and wonder at there size and beauty. They are completely harmless to humans, as the biggest fish in the oceans, they eat the tiniest organisms, plankton and krill.
Our groups took it in turns to swim along side the huge fish until the captain decided to find another one. We then cruised along and within five minutes they had spotted a different one. Another juvenile male, 6-7m long. We did the same thing, lined up in the water but this one changed course, coming straight at us, the size of a bus with its huge mouth open and feeding. As we moved out of its way we could see its eyes and the scale of its huge head. It glided past us and we swam along with for a while, again admiring how giant yet graceful it is in the water.
That was going to be our last before lunch but on the radio our captain had heard of a fully grown, 8m plus mature shark close by so we zoomed off to get closer. We were quick to suit up and jump in and the sheer size of it was just unbelievable. These mature sharks are extremely rare in Ningaloo as usually there are only juvenile males but this was a gigantic, adult female. We saw the biggest shark of the season, in a place which is extremely rare...... We are very privileged and grateful to see such a magnificent creature. It swam straight past us, incredibly close, just metres away and we swam with it, trying to keep up. It was hard work keeping up with a fish this big and after a while it got too fast for us all. We managed to get two swims with this huge giant, both times getting so close to see all its detail. It was the most amazing thing we have seen in the whole of Australia... Absolutely amazing in every way! It was so cool and rare, even the captain Jumped in for a swim.
With that nothing could top the day so we moored up for lunch around a snorkel spot, seeing, turtles, a dugong (oh my god, also amazing!) and a tiger shark and had one last swim over the coral to end the day.
Without a doubt nothing we have seen in Australia can match today's experience, we are so grateful to be able to see such a magical, gentle giant so close and to share the ocean with it for a few minutes. Our cheeks are sore from so much smiling!