When diving or snorkelling, we always go with PADI qualified operators like Ningaloo Reef Dive & Snorkel. They are qualified Dive and Boat masters so we know we are going to be safe. We booked two snorkel trips with them - whale shark and manta ray - we chose not to scuba. Both trips were full days starting with snorkel stop, morning tea, swimming with the big fish (whale shark or manta ray), lunch, snorkel stop then back to land.
Captains Stu and Josh both made sure they slowed and circled various interesting marine animals during the day. We spotted a sea snake, a tiger shark and a turtle.
The rest of the crew provided good pre-briefs and in-water guidance and shepherding of all participants. It is a major challenge for the crews because there were people with the whole range of snorkelling skills from the very experienced free divers down to people who needed help with putting on their snorkels and needed floatation devices.
Whale shark swimming - you need to be a competent (or at least of average fitness) swimmer/snorkeller to keep up with the whale shark. They glide along very quickly!!! Definitely not a lazy Sunday afternoon swim in the tropics!
Manta ray swimming - if you want to swim along with the rays, you need to be fit or a good swimmer/snorkeller. If you are less inclined, often you can just "hang around" because the rays often "line feed"; they swim up and down parallel to the beach to feed. So, if you stay somewhat still, they are likely to swim right past you on the return leg. :)
The food was basic and adequate. Caution: stay away from morning tea if you're on the whale shark trip as it goes outside the fringing barrier reef and many people are likely to be sea sick. :)
The operator gives out a return credit if you don't get to see a whale shark. The credit is indefinite; you can return anytime, there's no time limit.
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