David and I had tried so many times to see whale sharks in the Philippines, Mexico and Australia, but we never got the chance, so when someone told us that we could actually swim with them year-round in Saleh Bay in North Sumbawa, we knew where we were going next!

It was difficult to gather information about whale sharks in Saleh Bay. We have heard that diving with a whale shark is new. Usually the locals killed these beautiful fish for money, but now they keep these animals alive for money! Basically: Pay us or we’ll kill her ……

Whale sharks in Saleh Bay can be seen all year round as they are fed by crab fishermen. I really hope Saleh Bay doesn’t become like Oslob in the Philippines, where whale sharks are fed to tourists all year round. It’s not good in many ways. Please take the time to read Fetdotravel’s excellent and well-written blog post on the issue of whale sharks, particularly in the Philippines.


Ethical swimming with whale sharks: Read and inquire about the do’s and don’ts beforehand. When our guide wanted to take a picture of me with a whale shark, I got carried away with his movements to get closer to the whale shark. You shouldn’t do that. If we had researched beforehand, I should have known to keep 4 feet away. As I approached the whale shark, another whale shark came up right behind me and pushed me away, I think he was trying to protect his mate. This whale shark was probably even more scared than I was. He swam into the depths of the ocean and never came back.

Full moon: Whale sharks are generally found year-round in Saleh Bay, but fishermen usually rest a week before and a week after the full moon, making it difficult to encounter whale sharks.

Fish Qual: Prior to our arrival, an officer had also informed us that the jellyfish season is from November to January. When we were here in Erlin in November, there were jellyfish swimming around and we could feel them being stung by something and burning. If you’re worried about whether you can wear pants or wetsuits, as we’ve seen other divers do.

Power Supply : When we were here in November 2020, there weren’t many places to eat. There were a few local barbarians, but if you don’t mind, you won’t starve.

Boat: The boats here don’t always have a roof, so don’t forget to bring a hat!


The easiest way is to go to the main airport of Sumbawa, Besar. From there you will rent a car/scooter and drive about 100 km to Labuan Jambu. If you don’t want to drive yourself, I know there are agents who can find you a driver and a car.

If you need to stay in Sumbawa Besar, we’ve heard that Transit Besar is good. However, for 200K/night with breakfast, we stayed at the hotel Home stay bukit Saran. It was simple, but new and clean. For this price, we were satisfied.


At the moment there are not many accommodation options around Jambu Village, but you can imagine how many there will be in a few years when more people hear about the whale sharks from Saleh Bay to Sumbawa.

We briefly looked at the Tarano Jaya Hotel, 150K/night with air conditioning, but it was very old.

We spend the night in the Transit Hotel. Very simple, but clean. The decor and colors of the rooms are more local, and there is only one squat toilet. For 200,000 euros a night without breakfast, we were well served.


In Saleh Bay, on Sumbawa, we learned by accident about whale sharks, about which there was hardly any information. I made some inquiries, got numbers from several travel agencies and spoke to all of them. A certain agent said it was someone from the village who protected the whale sharks. So we ended up going with him, but we weren’t sure if he and his crew were really interested in protection and if they knew anything about the whale sharks in Saleh Bay. We were happy to have seen whale sharks, but somehow we weren’t happy to have done it with them, for many reasons.

Here’s the price list he sent me.

We paid 3 million rupees, which is a fair price if the money goes to the right places. They said most of the money would go towards whale shark conservation, the village, boat expenses, and so on. I can’t tell you why, but we really doubt it. We wanted to find out more about the situation of the whale sharks in Saleh Bay, but it was difficult to communicate because they didn’t speak English, which is of course understandable, but something was wrong.

However, I contacted another travel agency, Rio, who offered me a price that seemed more correct, 750K/person with a maximum of 4 people. He speaks pretty good English and you can communicate with him very well. Unfortunately he could not organize a tour for us on these dates, but he was so kind to come to our hotel in Sumbawa Besar and lend me his underwater camera for free…. for free! So thanks again Rio for your kindness, without your camera we wouldn’t have pictures of these whale sharks!

Take a look at his Instagram account @rio_sumbawa and you will see that he is serious and documents his travels well.


Another option is to arrive a few days earlier and go to the village of Jambu to negotiate directly with the fishermen. We’ve heard of people getting a 300-kilometer boat. It’s worth a try if you’re not in a hurry and have a small budget.

Whale sharks

The day started very early in the morning at 4 o’clock in the village of Jambu. As we left the harbor on the local fishing boat, it was dark and the stars were bright. They said the trip would take about 2 hours, so we sat on the bottom of the boat and looked at the stars. Mirabelle fell asleep.

Fishing station in Saleh Bay where we dived with whale sharks.

After about an hour we stop at the first fishing station to see if there are any whale sharks. We didn’t see any whale sharks, but we did see a group of dolphins jumping right next to our boat!

Our crew has been talking to other fishing stations to find out where the whale sharks are. We swam another 30 minutes to the second station and have already seen several divers in the water. We jumped into the pool and immediately a whale shark swam underneath us! The visibility wasn’t very good, but when you have the biggest fish in the ocean in front of you, you can’t miss!

This beauty was swimming right under me when I jumped off the boat. They estimate that this whale shark is about six feet long at the bottom, what do you think?

See the size of this whale shark next to man, in Saleh Bay in Sumbawa.

Can you hear the call of the Mirabelle plum?

There were two whale sharks in Saleh Bay in Sumbawa that day, but an agent sent me a video of one time he saw 6 whale sharks at the same fishing station!

See the video I posted here on Instagram, where a whale shark caught me from behind. This is a fun story to tell your grandchildren about how their grandmother was hit by a whale shark once in her life!

I hate it when I have accidentally touched a whale shark, because not only is that dangerous for us humans because the animal can transmit diseases to us, but we can do it for them.

That animal must have been more afraid of me, because it swam to the bottom and never came up again.

Our agent told us we had until 10am to swim with the whale sharks. With that in mind, we went for a coffee break 30 minutes later. That was not necessary, because shortly afterwards the fishermen ran out of shrimp and the whale sharks disappeared. We asked the agent about it and he said it was out of season and all. He could also have told us we’d better stay until the end. I was sorry it was over so quickly, we finished around 7.

The crew brought us to a dive site in the middle of the mangroves, in front of the village of Jambu. Unfortunately visibility was very poor, so we decided to call it a day.

Local boat that took us to see the whale sharks in Saleh bay.

Our family day was spent swimming with whale sharks in Saleh Bay on Sumbawa. I hope this blog post has been helpful, and if you see any incorrect information or would like us to add information to this post, please let us know!

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frequently asked questions

Where is the best place to swim with whale sharks?

Can you swim with whale sharks in Indonesia?

SWIMMING AND DIVING WITH WHALE SHARKS IN INDONESIA. Cenderawasih Bay is a large protected bay in West Papua, which belongs to Indonesia. … To make a trip to Cenderawasih Bay even more memorable, divers should plan at least one dive with whale sharks.

When can I see whale sharks in the Galapagos Islands?

The best whale shark sightings in the Galapagos are between June and December in the open waters around the Wolf and Darwin Islands. They can be seen here between 2 and 20 metres below the surface, feeding along the rocks.


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