Swimming with whale sharks is an exciting and rewarding experience. These huge yet gentle giants visit Ningaloo Marine Park, off the north-west coast of Western Australia, between March and July each year. Their seasonal visits have led to the development of an increasingly popular, ecotourism industry.
The Department of Parks and Wildlife is responsible for protecting and managing whale sharks in Western Australian waters.
Visitors wanting to swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Marine Park have increased in number from just 1,000 in 1993 to over 17,000 in 2011.
The department has therefore introduced a licensing system to manage commercial operations within Ningaloo Marine Park and reduce disturbance to whale sharks.
To ensure you have a safe, enjoyable experience, and to prevent the animals from being harmed or disturbed,
please follow the code of conduct when interacting with whale sharks.
Commercial tour operators operate under similar requirements to other vessels but specific licence conditions also apply to their operation.
A Closed Season Notice published under the Wildlife Conservation Act sets out rules for the protection of whale sharks, which must be followed by both commercial and private vessels when they are within the "exclusive contact zone".
Whale sharks can be disturbed by uncontrolled snorkelling and vessel activities, and may display avoidance behaviours such as banking, diving, eye rolling and changing speed or direction in response to swimmers and boats.
Generally, the best way to enjoy a whale shark experience is to participate in a tour with experienced and trained whale shark tour operators, who are able to locate the sharks and correctly apply the code of conduct. This will give you a greater chance to: