The Ningaloo Reef whale shark season has started early.
Over the last week, the first visitors have been swimming with the world’s biggest fish, which comes to Ningaloo Reef to feed as coral spawns.
Ningaloo Discovery was the first operator to start running its whale shark tours daily.
A spokeswoman for Australia’s Coral Coast tourism region, which includes both the key whale shark swim centres, Exmouth and Coral Bay, says: “Ningaloo’s whale shark season typically occurs between March and July, triggered by the annual coral spawning during the full moon.
“But whale sharks have been sighted around Ningaloo over the past couple of weeks by light aircraft operators such as Ningaloo Aviation. Following a successful extended whale shark season in 2020, this year some operators will be offering their tours through until November.” ningaloocentre.com.au
The UNESCO Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is situated at the northern end of the Australia’s Coral Coast region and is home to Australia’s largest fringing reef system, Ningaloo Reef, stretching 300km from Red Bluff, just north of Carnarvon, to the Muiron Islands off the coast of Exmouth.
It is one of the only places on the planet where these huge but completely harmless fish reliably congregate on an annual basis.
It is also the only place in Australia where you can swim with the “marine big 3” — whale sharks, manta rays (year-round) and humpback whales (June to October) — in a single location.
Ningaloo is also one of Australia’s newest Hope Spots, with the Coral Coast region home to two of the seven Australian Hope Spots. Hope Spots are global locations considered critical to the health of the ocean.
- Book accommodation and a whale shark swim in advance this year to avoid disappointment.
- Children aged over five years old and who can swim can join a tour, accompanied by their parents.
- There are flights to Learmonth, between Exmouth and Coral Bay, and car hires and a bus service into town.
EXMOUTH MUST DOs
- From coral to clown fish, the Ningaloo Aquarium and Discovery Centre, which is inside the Ningaloo Centre in Exmouth, is worth visiting. Entry is $19 for adults and $14 for children, $60 for a family of two adults and up to three children. ningaloocentre.com.au
- Ningaloo received its world heritage listing not just for the reef, but for the juxtaposition of the reef and Cape Range and the relationship between the two. Put the drive into Charles Knife Canyon on the list.
- Peter “Boxy” Maier’s Yardie Creek Boat Tours is a must. Yardie Creek, in North West Cape National Park has the rare black-footed rock wallaby, egrets, ospreys, Western bowerbirds and a variety of marine life. lifeyardiecreekboattours.com.au
- Yardie Creek Boat Tours also offers a bus service from Exmouth round to Turquoise Bay, where there’s a classic drift snorkel.