Australia is surrounded by water brimming with a vast variation of marine species and home to a large number of creeks and rivers that coil their way around the vast land.
There is no other country in the world where – if you wanted to – you could can swim with whale sharks, humpback whales, sea lions, fur seals, sea dragons, dolphins, platypuses, turtles, cuttlefish, manta rays…. and many other amazing marine creatures. Here, our favourite finds.
Swim with Whale Sharks, Humpback Whales and Manta Rays in Ningaloo
If you’ve ever wanted to swim alongside the majestic Humpback Whale, or perhaps the world’s largest fish, Ningaloo Reef is where the magic happens. Ningaloo Marine Park is a World Heritage-listed site abundant in sea life and home to some of the country’s best aquatic experiences, such as those managed by Exmouth Dive & Whalesharks Ningaloo.
“My husband and I have been involved in taking eco-tours around Western Australia for over 20 years. We have travelled the world enjoying the wildlife and marine life on every continent, but it is the unparalleled megafauna congregations found across Ningaloo that convinced us to call the area home,” says Debbie Ferguson, owner of Exmouth Diving & Whalesharks Ningaloo.
Debbie and her husband Mark have offered Whale Shark swims, which have been available for over 15 years, introducing manta swims over five years ago and humpback swims more recently. “We are in the third year of our humpback swims trial,” Debbie explains. “These take place from August until October.”
When it comes to swimming among such special creatures, timing is of key importance. The Whale Shark swims take place from March until August, while the manta ray swims happen year-round, with the exception of January and February. “We guide small groups and teach the guests to snorkel – if needed – or fine tune their snorkelling skills. All of the crew are extremely passionate about Ningaloo and their enthusiasm is palpable,” Debbie says.
Snorkel among Australian Sea-lions in the Eyre Peninsula
There is only one place in Australia where you can swim with sea lions and dolphins and it’s an incredible and memorable experience! The friendly sea lions enjoy human interaction so much, that they might swim around guests in circles and nibble toes. The Bottlenose Dolphins join in on the fun too, elevating the already-magical day out to another level. “It’s a one-of-a-kind experience for sure,” exclaims David Doudle, founder of Goin’ off Safaris.
This delightful encounter is run by Alan and Trish Payne of Baird Bay Ocean Eco Experience, who have been offering visitors the experience since 1992. Goin’ Off Safaris have been taking up their guests from Port Lincoln to Bairds Bay since 2005. “We provide the day trip, including transport, a knowledgeable local guide, and pit stops to take in great wonders of our coastline,” David says. “But the highlight is swimming with Australian Sea-lions.”
Snorkel with thousands of cuttlefish in the Eyre Peninsula
Sure, it’s a little unusual, but there’s something fascinating about watching massive cuttlefish float around you as you explore the underwater world. “Diving with Giant Cuttlefish is another incredibly unique snorkelling activity that can be experienced on the Eyre Peninsula – and something we love sharing with Goin’ Off Safari guests,” David says. “This only happens in the winter months of June and July, when literally thousands of cuttlefish come to mate and when breeding is in full swing.”
As unique snorkelling experiences go, it’s up there at the top of the list. The cuttlefish voyage to a rocky reef located north-east of Whyalla in tens of thousands, and in the months of June and July there are so many that divers could find themselves surrounded. “The water is very cold in winter, so guests need wetsuits, hoods and snorkelling gear, which we provide,” David explains. “Once in the water and swimming towards these glittering creatures, it’s not long before you are surrounded and they simply glide around showing off their incredible colours.”
River snorkel with Platypuses in the Daintree
These unique and astute creatures are not seen that often, however river snorkelling in their natural habitat offers a fairly good chance. The semi-aquatic mammals often swim on the surface, then dive down into the water to forage for food before coming up for air. Guests on FNQ Nature Tours’ Cape Tribulation/Daintree two-day Reef and Rainforest experience get to dive right in with the cute critters. “The River Drift Snorkel within an ancient rainforest we enjoy is the only of its kind,” says James Boettcher, owner and operator of FNQ Nature Tours. “We step into the cool, crystal-clear water and drift with the current as we explore life under the water’s surface. We watch fish dart in and around the river stones and keep our eyes out for Platypuses.”
Snorkel alongside sea turtles at Cape Tribulation
On the second day of FNQ Nature Tours’ Cape Tribulation/Daintree two-day Reef and Rainforest experience, guests go on another epic snorkelling experience, visiting two snorkelling locations – Mackay and Undine Reefs – both teeming with a huge array of marine life and coral species. “We have the opportunity to visit secluded reefs to find amazing sea turtles and Nemo [clownfish]! The secluded locations, small group size and great wildlife interactions make this pretty special,” says James.
In the water, it’s all about simply drifting around and watching the magic – tropical fish skim around colourful coral, starfish lounge on rocks, giant clams hobble around… and on most days sea turtles join the fun too. Bliss!
Snorkel with dolphins on Kangaroo Island
Swimming alongside dolphins on Kangaroo island is one of the best ways to spend a few hours. Exceptional Kangaroo Island work with Kangaroo Island Marine Adventures for this particular experience, travelling along the coast, stopping to observe seabird rookeries, sea eagle nests, sea lion haul-outs and Australasian gannets feeding on schools of baitfish.
While the visitors are enjoying the wildlife spotting above sea, the guides on board are looking out for the dolphins. “Once we reach the area which the dolphins frequent, they often approach the boat to surf in the wake,” explains Craig Wickham, managing director of Exceptional Kangaroo Island tours.
“After being briefed, guests put on a mask and snorkel and get into the water in small groups for the experience.” Craig explains that fins used to be provided, but they noticed that the dolphins didn’t like people trying to keep up with them – so the experience evolved into a ‘no-fin’ swim and now the dolphins are more accepting of people in the water. “Given they [dolphins] can swim much faster than the people, guests are collected and then move ahead of the pod for another swim.”