Whale shark ahead - Go Go Go

Ningaloo Reef Travel Blog

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The boat

One of the main reasons to go up to Exmouth is to join along on one of the whale shark tours going out to the reef during the season. It is getting a bit late in the season now so there are no more whale sharks down at Coral Bay so the only place in all f the Oz to see them this time of year is up here at the very tip of the country.

I join up at a trip leaving for the reef pretty early in the morning. We drive down along the road on the same road I took yesterday to the national park. There are just not a lot of roads to choose from around this area. We get to the boats where we get ferried out to the boat. We have to go in three trips because the little dingy is a bit small.

Turtle

We leave just after a quick security briefing which includes the usual pointing out of all the emergency exits on the boat - which is anywhere you can see the water - and an introduction to Brits and Irish to the yellow thing in the sky called the sun.

Our first stop is inside the reef. Where the crew on the boat just wanna make sure everybody can actually swim. So we jump in the water and go for the reef. The coral in this area isn’t really very interesting and there are not a lot of fish either. But there are many turtles. And you can’t really complain about a snorkeling trip where you see several turtles.

After we leave the turtles we go out a bit further to the outer reef. To actually spot the whale sharks there are a spotter plane up circling the area for a while.

Manta
The plane goes up searching for the whale sharks. But at first it can’t find any shark - as compensation it does find a couple of manta rays. So instead of swimming with the whale sharks we jump into the water with the mantas.

We get into the water and snorkel with the mantas - they are moving quite fast so it is a hard snorkel trip to keep up with the manta. But the water here is much clearer than the water back in Coral Bay. So now it is easy to see the manta down in the water. The manta is swimming by and I can see the dark over side of the manta as it swim by with its mouth wide open to filter the water to get all the tiny coral eggs and other particles in the water.

Getting back on the boat is a bit different from other snorkel and diving trips I have tried before.

Manta
They don’t lower the ladder for people to get out of the water - instead you need to pull yourself up onto the marlin board at the rear of the boat. They do it this way to speed up the entry and exit of the water - which apparently is important when we swim with the whale sharks because we are twenty on the boat and only ten are allowed in the water with the whale sharks at any given time. Hence it is important that we do get in and out of the water rather quickly.

When we are back on the boat they soon spot the first of the whale sharks. And we speed up to be the first boat at the whale shark. We finally make it and get to the whale shark and we are told to get our snorkeling gear on quickly. This way of snorkeling isn’t relaxing like it usually is - you need to hurry all the time.

Whale shark
Then the spotter goes into the water and search for the whale shark. When he find it he puts is hand in the air the passengers need to go in. Going in accompanied by loud orders of get to the back at the marlin board quickly - and when the team is gather there the order is given. Whale shark ahead GO GO GO and swim towards the spotter.

I get into the water and I can’t see the whale shark anywhere. So I just start swimming quickly straight ahead towards the spotter. And right there and then. A massive fish is coming towards me. This may only be a baby male - but at five meters in length and a couple of meters across it is still way bigger than any other fish I have ever seen. The whale shark is swimming quietly towards me and I go to its side and start swimming along with it.

Whale shark
I am supposed to stay about 3 meters away from the side of the shark at any time so I try to do so.

The whale shark is not travelling alone. Under it is a lot of fish swimming along getting a free ride and some protections from dangerous animals around. If some of these fish were travelling by themselves they would actually be considered quite big - but when they are here under the giant they look tiny.

After a while the whale shark has had enough and dives down. Then we start to look for a new one. While we wait we spot a couple of humpback whales in the distance and just after a big group of dolphins start to circle around the boat for a while.

Then the plane find another whale shark and we get ready again. It is the same sort of drill with orders given more like we are a group of navy seals than a group of tourist.

Dolphin
We get out on the back of the boat and once more it is whale shark ahead GO GO GO. Like the last time I can’t see the whale shark but the spotter is out ahead so I go towards him. And yeah there are a whale shark coming I see it and join in on its side and start to snorkel along with it. The giant is going seemingly effortless while we clumsy humans keep hitting each other with the flippers to keep up. Fortunately the whale shark is not doing anything like its top speed of 50-60k per hours - I doubt we would be able to keep up in this case.

After snorkeling for a while it is time to get to get back on the boat and once more we are all great by shouts of get back on the boat quickly. We go into the water a couple of more times and the second whale shark is disappearing.

The plane spots a final whale shark and we get ready to go in one last time. The spotter goes in - and then the rest of us are getting ready. But this whale shark is not really sociable and decides to go down the minute it sees the spotter.

We don’t find any more whale sharks so we start sailing back towards the inner reef having lunch as we go along. After lunch we go for a last snorkel at the inner reef. This is a very different snorkeling trip because this time there are no one standing at the back of the boat shouting at you to hurry up. You can just go in the water at your own leisure. The place is nice there are a lot of corals and the usual coral fish. So this last spot is a nice complement to the other snorkels of the day making it all a complete trip.

anupa_rk says:
wow.. lovely pictures!
Posted on: Sep 01, 2010
gimpel says:
Sometimes have to you see the tourist things thrue the fingers for a beautiful result...Great pictures, once in a life time..
Posted on: Aug 25, 2010
pearcetoyou says:
Love those blue pics
Posted on: Aug 23, 2010
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The boat
The boat
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Ningaloo Reef Sights & Attractions review
Whale shark snorkelling
One of the most amazing things you will be able to do when you visit Exmouth is to go out on a trip to the Ningaloo Reef and snorkel with whale sharks… read entire review
Ningaloo Reef
photo by: rollerblading