Swimming with whale sharks in Exmouth, WA

By Marla D · Apr 22, 2016

The Trip — Long weekend in Exmouth to swim with whale sharks

Duration — 2 Nights

Origin — Perth

Type of Trip— Beach, Couples, Nature, Snorkelling

Trip Dates and Comments — End of April. Spot on to see whale sharks, have moderate instead of intense heat, and low chance of rain. January to February is the worst time of year to go - smoking hot, cyclone season, and not much animal activity.

Mode of Transportation — Qantas airlines

Arrival Logistics — 1 hour 40 minute flight from Perth and airport shuttle bus to our hotel

Cost per Person — $780 / person including accommodation, activities, 1 day car rental and meals. We booked our flights using points.

General Route — fly in, whale sharks on day 2, touring and flight home on day 3

Accommodation — Exmouth Escape Resort in a 1 bedroom villa www.exmouthescaperesort.com.au

Main Activities — swimming with whale sharks, snorkelling at Turquoise Bay

Food and Drink Highlights — I’m still dreaming about the seafood platter at The Whaler, pasta at BBQ Father was delish. Pies at the Ningaloo Bakehouse, Fish and Chips at Blue Lips

Essential Packing for this Trip — bring your own snorkel if you have one, pack a bottle of champagne to toast the whale shark swimming experience at sunset. Bring a waterproof camera or gopro if you have one. If not, the 3 Island Whale Shark Dive team has a photographer who takes great pictures.

Our Experience

Snorkeling in Exmouth

Mid-year and we’re already running low on vacation days, so we thought twice about going to Exmouth at all, wondering if it was worth it to go up on Saturday morning and back Monday evening. IT WAS!

We took the 12:35 Qantas flight from Perth. Only Qantas flies to Exmouth (Learmonth airport). We hadn’t rented a car in advance since we were going to be there such a short time. That was a mistake, it didn’t save us money or time. We took the shuttle bus from the airport to our hotel which cost $35 per person, 1 way for the 25 minute drive. Believe it or not, a taxi costs $80 and there’s only 1 in town so you have to book it in advance too.

The Exmouth Escape was good, nothing fancy but spacious villas with equipped kitchen and outdoor bbq area for each villa. The service was fabulous. The first night their restaurant was closed for a private function, and the hotel is about a 15 minute walk out of town. Kim, the manager made every effort to help us get to town several times for a beer run and for dinner. She couldn’t have been more accommodating.

Waiting to get on the boat

Day 2 was whale shark day! We chose 3 Island Whale Shark Dive company www.whalesharkdive.com. The team was brilliant. They worked tirelessly the entire day to give us the best experience possible. Their attitudes were incredible - always smiling, always helping, always hosting, always communicative. It felt more like a one-off private tour than a tour group charter that goes out every day. They picked us up at 7:20 am from our hotel, making stops to pick up others along the way to the jetty. Half asleep, we were treated to very interesting history about Exmouth along the way which was unexpected. We arrived to the jetty, and my heart sank a bit when I saw number of people there, all going out to do the same thing as us. To my delight, I think we only saw 1 other boat when we were out on the water.

Group shot

We started the day with a snorkel on the reef to warm up. I’m not a strong swimmer or comfortable in the water in general, but I really enjoyed it. My favourite sighting during the snorkeling was of a chinaman fish. I also saw a reef shark from the boat which was cool. Passing through the reef into the ocean, a few dolphins came right up to the boat. They were so playful and almost begging us to jump in and play! Shame that swimming with dolphins requires a different license than the one required to swim with whale sharks, and our boat didn’t have it. That was the only disappointment of the day!

Bottlenose dolphin in Exmouth

We were 20 on the boat, and split into 2 groups of 10 for each swim. The first whale shark we swam with was about 4 meters long, and circled gently rather than went straight, which made it much easier for us to drift along and keep up. It was an incredible experience. The second whale shark was nearly 8 meters long. Apparently the largest that has been seen in the area was 12 meters. On the way back we saw humpback dolphins which apparently aren’t particularly common. We also swam with a couple of sea turtles. The spotter plane spotted a humpback whale and a few mantas, but we didn’t make it in time with the boat to see them. You can also see dugongs, but we didn’t.

Next to a whale shark!

We were back at the resort by 4pm, and wiped! We had dinner at The Whalers restaurant which was located at our hotel. As I mentioned above, we ordered the seafood platter which was to die for. The best seafood I have had in WA and not all fried!

Seafood platter at The Whaler

Sunday we broke down and rented a car - handy because our hotel also had a small fleet of rentals. It was a public holiday so it would have been hard to rent anywhere else. Our flight wasn’t until 4pm so we drove an hour to Turquoise Beach which was stunning and had great snorkelling. We visited a few points along the way back to town - the turtle hatching information centre and the Mildura ship wreck. We didn’t make it to Bundegi Beach, but apparently it was named number 7 of the top 10 offshore dives in the world.

A number of travellers we met spend a few days in Coral Bay (150km south of Exmouth) and a few in Exmouth. The main draw in Coral Bay is swimming with mantas.

Best Bits

Great vibe in the town. The population of Exmouth is only 2000 people, but the town had more energy than much bigger towns we have visited. All the wildlife - from everything we saw in the water to the emus and kangaroos we saw around town. The weather and water - nice and hot, but not suffocating, clear sky, and crystal clear, smooth water. Also, the area has a surprising amount of interesting history.

Worst bits

Qantas refusing us entry to the Qantas club lounge in Perth because we were wearing flip flops. Uh, yeah…we’re going to Exmouth. Then, to add ridiculousness to insult, the receptionist suggested we go downstairs to one of the shops and buy closed-toe shoes.


Rate the overall trip — 9/10

Rate the activity on your trip — 10/10

Rate the ease of logistics — 8/10

Value for money — 8/10

About The Traveller

Gender & Age Range
Female, 25 - 35

I’m from
the Canadian Rockies

My favourite trip as of late
a long weekend in Byron Bay

Travelling Style
Book the important stuff, but leave some flexibility in the schedule.

I like to go on the following types of trips
Culture, sporty, beach, gourmet, relax

It’s a dealbreaker when
The accommodation is dirty

Continent I know the best

3 Island Whale Shark Dive group selfie

Mildura Wreck, Exmouth

Snorkeling in Exmouth

First Last Name

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.

I’m from Perth, Western Australia

My favourite trip as of late is New Zealand, solo travel in lots of nature for a soul-refresher.

My travelling style is to Book the first night, then wing it from there!

It’s a dealbreaker when I’m stuck around large groups of package tourists.

Continent I know best is Asia.

See profile

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