International Whale Shark Day, held on 30 August, has been initiated to raise global awareness of the enormous yet gentle giants of the sea. Swimming with the world's largest fish is considered to be a bucket list experience.
This year saw 20,670 people visit the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia specifically for this experience. Whale shark operators in Exmouth and Coral Bay are taking bookings for the 2016 season, so get in early and plan your Coral Coast escape.
Australia's Coral Coast Chief Executive Officer, David O'Malley said “after a spectacular season in 2015 boasting a 92% sighting rate with whale shark tours extending into August and the addition of Orca sightings, the Ningaloo community have a lot to celebrate!”
In Australia, the Ningaloo Reef is the only place you can swim with whale sharks and notes the world's highest reliability rate of whale shark numbers and accessibility of interaction. Growing up to 15 metres in length, whale sharks congregate in the nutrient rich waters of Ningaloo Marine Park, following the mass coral spawning in late March to early April.
Whale Sharks are listed as 'vulnerable to extinction' and are protected in Western Australia. The Ningaloo Reef, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, stretches for 260 kilometres and is home to over 500 fish species, including the whale shark when in season.
A percentage of each whale shark tour ticket sold goes towards important whale shark research and conservation. This benefits not only the Ningaloo Reef but the world to understand more about the species. Additionally, a Ningaloo whale shark experience includes on-board education from instructors, many of whom have completed a Masters or PhD in Marine Biology or Marine Conservation.
A significant drawcard of a Ningaloo experience over other global locations is the number of passengers on each tour (maximum 20) and the number who can swim with a whale shark each 'jump' (maximum 10). This is not the case in other parts of the world where sustainable conservation practices are not in place.
All Ningaloo whale shark operators have an underwater videographer on board who can provide a lasting memento of the day's swim. Tours provide a “no sighting” policy, offering guests the next available tour day free of charge. Tourists are encouraged to book a whale shark tour in advance and at the beginning of a holiday.
Visit www.australiascoralcoast.com for information on whale shark swims and to see the latest holiday deals to help plan your next Coral Coast adventure.