Swimming with Whale Shark in Saleh Bay, Sumbawa

Swimming with Whale Shark in Saleh Bay

In the Saleh Bay Area on Sumbawa Island, one can encounter majestic whale sharks. This region, the island’s largest bay, is administratively connected to the Flores Sea and separated by Moyo Island.

Spanning approximately 1,459 km2, navigating such expansive waters to find whale sharks might seem challenging. The following explanation provides insights into locating these magnificent creatures.

Finding the Whale Shark Location on Sumbawa

Understanding the geography is essential before embarking on the journey to witness the whale sharks. Sumbawa Island is positioned between Lombok and Labuan Bajo in Flores, within the province of West Nusa Tenggara.

Towards Sumbawa Besar City

Accessing Sumbawa can be done by both land and air. If opting for air travel, use the flight code SWQ to reach Sultan Muhammad Kaharuddin III Airport in Sumbawa Besar City.

For those traveling by land from Lombok, take a ferry from Kayangan Harbor in East Lombok to Poto Tano Port in West Sumbawa. From Poto Tano Port, continue the journey to Sumbawa Besar City using a motorized vehicle, with an estimated travel time of around 2 hours.

From Sumbawa Besar City To Labuan Jambu Village

Upon reaching Sumbawa Besar City, your next leg of the journey involves a motorized vehicle ride lasting approximately 3 hours to Labuan Jambu Village.

Situated in the Tarano District, Labuan Jambu Community is a coastal village primarily inhabited by fishermen.

Upon arrival at Labuan Jambu Village, accommodation options include homestays within the village or staying with a local resident. If opting for a resident’s home, a fee is applicable.

For lodging recommendations and comprehensive information on Whale Shark tourism, it is advisable to reach out to the local Pokdarwis (Tourism Awareness Group) or the Labuan Jambu Village Office.

From Labuan Jambu Village Towards Saleh Bay Area

Commencing your journey in Labuan Jambu Village is imperative due to the unique sighting time of the Sumbawa Whale Shark, occurring precisely at 6:00 a.m. when the Bagan fishermen lift their nets.

To reach the Saleh Bay Area, the habitat of the Whale Shark, a traditional fishing boat departs from Labuan Jambu Village, covering the distance in approximately 2 hours. Planning to arrive at Bagan by 6 a.m. necessitates starting your journey from Labuan Jambu Village at 4 a.m.

During this crucial time, the assistance of a local guide is indispensable. In the Saleh Bay Area, numerous Bagans, possibly numbering in the hundreds, exist. Determining the specific Bagan hosting the Whale Shark is uncertain.

Having a local guide becomes paramount, aiding in identifying the correct Bagan location where you can promptly commence swimming alongside these gentle and remarkable creatures.

Best Time to See Sumbawa Whale Shark

While Whale sharks inhabit the Saleh Bay Area throughout the year, the ideal period for a visit is between August and November. This timeframe ensures optimal visibility for snorkeling and engaging with these colossal fish.

Additionally, it is recommended to plan your visit during a moonless night, typically a week before or after the full moon.


During a full moon, Bagan fishermen abstain from venturing out to sea. The presence of a Bagan is crucial for locating the Whale Shark, making the absence of moonlight a favorable condition for their exploration.

How Much Does It Cost To See Sumbawa Whale Sharks?

The cost set by the Labuan Jambu Village residents for experiencing Sumbawa Whale Shark Tourism is relatively high. Hence, it is strongly recommended to travel in sizable groups to distribute these expenses among participants.

Here’s a breakdown of the costs:

  • Accommodation in a resident’s house, excluding meals, is priced at IDR 100,000 per person. Meals can be obtained from stalls in Labuan Jambu Village at a cost of IDR 20,000 per meal.
  • Renting a Begoq (traditional fishing boat) to Saleh Bay ranges from IDR 500,000 to IDR 750,000, contingent on the distance to Bagan. The Begoq accommodates up to ten people.
  • The Bagan owner and crew fee per charter amount to IDR 1,550,000, inclusive of a small shrimp bait to extend the presence of the Whale Shark on the chart.
  • Conservation charges stand at IDR 50,000 per person.
  • An entrance fee of IDR 50,000 per individual is imposed, with IDR 20,000 allocated to the community treasury and IDR 30,000 to the Village funds.
  • Local guide fees vary between IDR 250,000 and IDR 500,000.

It’s important to note that the listed fees exclude transportation costs to Labuan Jambu Village.

When Interacting With Whale Sharks, Follow These Guidelines

The whale shark is a rare species safeguarded by the government. When interacting with this magnificent creature, it is crucial to bear in mind the following guidelines:

  1. Strictly avoid touching the whale shark, as its placoid scales are spiky and can pose harm to the body. Physical contact is unsafe for visitors.
  2. Maintain a minimum distance of at least 3 meters while snorkeling or diving, given the whale shark’s powerful tail swing. Being hit by the wave can be extremely hazardous.
  3. When capturing images, turn off the flash to prevent any disturbance or stress to the whale shark.
  4. Adhere to the instructions provided by the local guide at all times for a safe and respectful interaction with these awe-inspiring creatures.

Additional Tips When Traveling Whale Sharks in Sumbawa

  1. Ensure breakfast is prepared before embarking on the journey to Teluk Saleh, or alternatively, you can request your guide to handle it.
  2. Given the open nature of the Begoq, or fishing boat, it is advisable to have your guide cover it with a tarp during the return trip from Saleh Bay.
  3. As the Begoq tends to be a noisy environment, particularly considering the nascent stage of tourism growth in the area with limited supporting infrastructure, it is recommended to use cotton to cover your ears.
  4. If a whale shark approaches you while snorkeling, remain composed and slowly swim away.
  5. For safety reasons, it is recommended that you ask your guide to be the first to disembark and the last to board, allowing them to keep a vigilant eye on you throughout the journey.
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