sharing recipes from one generation to the next
The world’s largest fish, the whale shark appears annually in World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park after the massive reef coral spawn which occurs on the full moon in April. As filter feeders they are attracted by the krill and small fish who have come to feast on the vast clouds of coral eggs.
Ningaloo is one of only a few sites in the world where the whale sharks appear in onshore waters regularly, making it a very special place to visit, usually April to July, but now at the end of August and there a still a few whale sharks to be seen.
Dive operators out of Exmouth run charters to snorkel alongside these docile creatures that are known to grow to 18 metres in length. Today we jumped aboard an Exmouth Dive Centre charter to swim with the mighty whale sharks.
After assessing the snorkelling confidence and ability of each participant inside the lagoon, we motored toward the open sea and within 5 minutes we came across a mother humpback whale suckling a newborn.
The Exmouth Dive Centre is a well run operation. They use a light plane to locate the whale sharks, then they direct the charter vessel to the area. After a mad 10 nautical mile dash to the south parallel to the fringing reef, we were no sooner in the water when the whale shark dived deeply out of sight. Our disappointment was soon lightened by the sight of a breaching whale, dolphins and then another whale, tail smacking. In the end I lost count of the number of humpback whales we sighted.
We took to the water again for an open water swim, sighting turtles, a reef shark, a sea snake and large schools of brightly coloured fish. The sea floor was too deep for clear coral viewing.
The wind gained strength and by mid afternoon quite a swell had developed. The spotter plane sighted another whale shark close by so kitted up in wetsuits, fins, goggles and snorkels we anxiously waited for the time to be right, before entering the water in two groups of ten, each with its own experienced spotter.
In the confusion of bubbles and bodies a glimpse of a tail was all I managed and in a matter of seconds my group had moved away, hidden from me by a mighty swell of 4+ metres. Weary from the previous swims and anxious because of the sea conditions I opted to call it a day, but from the deck of the charter boat I had a birds eye view of a 4 metre long whale shark swimming just under the surface and my friend swimming at its side, eye to eye.
We were at sea for 9 hours, the staff on the charter were fantastic, going way beyond the call of duty to ensure we were safe, comfortable and well fed, but most importantly to ensure everyone had the whale shark experience they hoped for.
Whale shark and turtle photos courtesy of Coral Bay Eco Tours
Other photos courtesy of Exmouth Dive Centre
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