August 30, 2019

This past spring, we traveled to Perth Australia for my friend Clarissa’s wedding! We were SO excited to be able to take this trip with our girls, and one of the things that we knew we wanted to do on our trip was swim with Whale Sharks! Swimming with Whale Sharks in Australia has been a dream that Hugo has had since he was a teenager. He wanted to swim with them so much that he actually planned to become a marine biologist. As you can image life took different turns, however the dream was always alive. So when the opportunity arose to go to Australia, let’s just say there was no doubt that we would be getting in the water.

Today is International Whale Shark Day, and in honor of that, we thought that we would share a bit of our experience swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef in Exmouth Australia. We took our tour with King’s Ningaloo Reef Tours, which we could not recommend enough! They were AMAZING. They care so much about their guests on the tour, the whale sharks, safety, and fun. It was incredible, and we cannot say enough of good about them! They were incredible, go visit them please!

The day after we swam with Whale Sharks, on our twelve hour drive back to Perth from Exmouth, I was thinking about the fact that I never want to forget this experience that we just had. Personally I don’t have the best memory, so on our long drive I wrote my experience down in my phone… and I figured I would share it here with you all! Whale Sharks are beautiful creatures, and we got to experience them so close, and we are so grateful for that. Whale Sharks are on the endangered species list, and we want to see them around for years to come!

***Just for you to know, I wrote a lot, about the experience, so just a heads up if you’re not interested in reading a bunch.

“The morning of our excursion, I kept thinking that I would be nervous… but honestly the feeling of anxiousness never really hit me. I thought when we get on the boat then I’ll feel it. But the whole time I felt unbelievably calm. The bus ride to our boat was filled with red dirt roads, and an abundance of bush country. We drove by a lighthouse, and I remember thinking it was the prettiest lighthouse I’d ever seen. So secluded, so tiny, and grey, in the misted of desert land. 

We arrived to the bay where a tiny boat would take us to the grand “Magellan”, where coffee and biscuits where waiting for us. The crew welcomed us aboard with the kind of enthusiasm that makes you feel like you’re much more important then you really are. We got fitted with our gear, masks flippers, rash vests, and leggings. The captain greeted us all, telling us about the boat, crew, and what a great day we were about to have! It all felt so surreal, we were about to swim with whale sharks! We proceeded to practice our snorkeling in preparation for the main event!

Because our girls came along for the adventure, Hugo and I took turns in the water and being with them on the boat. The girls loved every moment of it, taking in all the wonder of the crystal clear water, and the abundance of delicious snacks aboard the ship. Once we all made sure our gear was working properly, the ship loaded the group back on the boat and started to follow the instructions of a plane flying above spotting for the whale sharks! 

The crew instructed us to relax but to be ready at any moment because once the eye in the sky spotted a shark, we’d be getting in the water almost immediately. One of the things that impressed me most about our tour, and Australian whale shark tourism in general was their regulations that are set in place to keep whale sharks safe. We were split into two groups so there would not be more than 10 people swimming with the shark at once. One group would swim, and then stop and trade out with the next.

This moment was when I felt those butterflies in my stomach. Would I freak out? Would I be able to keep up? All the questions raced through my mind. This moment was literally a dream coming true for Hugo, so I let him go first, which gave me some peace. Finally the word was given, there were whale sharks in the water! Group one got ready to jump, and almost immediately after Hugo’s group jumped! I kept watching to see if I could see the shark or Hugo’s face, but they were too far out for me to get a glimpse. 

Finally Hugo returned to the boat! The light in his eyes was contagious, and I knew in that moment that I would love this experience as much as he did. I scrambled to get my flippers on, and adjust my mask. We lined up at the edge of the boat, and everything seem to silence until the captain blew the horn, and our guide shouted GO!  

I stepped into the water, trying to reorient myself and listen for the guides instructions. She lined us up, so that when the whale shark passed by us we’d be parallel to him. She motioned us to look in the water… and there it came! The largest fish in the sea, was more breathtaking then I could have imaged. I felt so small! As the shark passed by we began to follow along… one of my concerns was that I’d struggle to keep up, I’m not a super strong swimmer or used to snorkeling. I fell behind the group a bit and ended up swimming towards the tail end of the shark. I was adjusting my mask a bit, feeling momentarily defeated. I reminded myself this probably takes practice just like anything else! 

I focused on breathing and finding my rhythm in the water. As I focused on those things, a super exciting moment occurred. The whale shark redirected its path, and I ended up swimming right along side the sharks head. It was surreal, and when our guide called out for everyone to stop swimming so the first group could alternate in, it took everything in me to stop! 

I didn’t expect to feel that way. I thought I would be satisfied with swimming at the back of the pack, but the whale shark was more majestic then I could have pictured! My second swim went even better! The guides kept telling us that this particular day was really exceptional, the ocean was so clear you could see straight to the very bottom, and the whale shark we swam with was so relaxed. Honestly this big fellow was swimming SO slowly! It was super easy to observe and swim along side. 

On my second swim I was struck with how peaceful it felt. It was the opposite of how I imagined the experience would be, I thought it would be exhilarating and my heart would be pounding out of my chest… but truly I just felt peace. The sunshine reflecting on the water, the sound of my breathing in my ears, and the gentle motion of the waves all while slowly swimming along side this gentle beautiful giant. It all felt so calm. At this point I had even grabbed a pool noddle… I mean, talk about relaxing.

After our final swimming with the whale sharks, we taxied out to the Ningaloo Reef, where dolphins jumped alongside the boat, and it all felt like a wild dream. Our girls sat on our laps in the front of the boat, and we took in the salty air. In that moment I couldn’t stop thinking about how beautiful the Whale Sharks were! We stopped at the Reef and the girls got in the water with Hugo, the snorkeled and swam, and my heart felt happy that I got to see the love of my life fulfill a lifelong dream, and I couldn’t help but think, I bet we’ll be back here again some day.”

Can you see the whale shark?!?!

Here’s a photo of Hugo taken by Jessica from King’s Ningaloo Reef Tours!
…and there is me, and my pool noddle!

From here I’m sharing more of our trip in Australia. We spent a lot of time in Perth, and also along our drive up to Exmouth! Enjoy!

King’s Park was a favorite of our girls!

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