The first Whale Sharks for the 2019 touring season arrived right on schedule, with our spotty friends sighted off the Ningaloo Coast this week.
Whale Shark operators use light-aircraft spotter planes to search for the whale sharks, guiding the tour boat skippers to the fish’s location. Exmouth operator Ningaloo Blue‘s spotter planes have been in the air for the past few weeks searching for the Whale Sharks. Their first tour occurred on Saturday 2 March with four very inquisitive Whale Sharks delighting passengers. Ningaloo Blue’s on-board photographer, Violeta Brosig from Blue Media Exmouth, captured some great footage. Exmouth Whale Shark and Dive has also started operations.
The typical West Australian Whale Shark season runs from March to August, triggered by the annual coral spawning during the full moon. Ningaloo is one of the only places on the planet where these huge but completely harmless fish can be reliably located in large aggregations. The 2018 season saw a 97% successful interaction rate in the water with Whale Sharks. This is one of the highest rates to date; with a 97% rate also achieved in 2016.
In 2018 over 32,000 people travelled from all over the globe to Ningaloo specifically to swim with Whale Sharks at either Exmouth or Coral Bay. The average time in water with the fish in 2018 was almost 13 minutes, with a maximum of 10 people in the water at any one time.
Whale Sharks have not yet been sighted off Coral Bay however Whale Shark tour operator Ningaloo Reef Dive will start the Coral Bay season with a $260pp Wildlife Adventure Tour. The full day experience includes at least two reef snorkels and approximately 3 hours of plane time to go looking for Whale Sharks plus the chance to swim with Coral Bay’s Manta Rays. It is anticipated that consistent Whale Shark sightings in Coral Bay will start mid-March.
The arrival of Whale Sharks in early March is regarded by locals as a good sign for a long season ahead. With the Easter weekend and ANZAC week falling in the April School Holidays this year, those keen to experience this life-changing event should book their tour early. Children aged over 5 years old and who can swim, can join a tour with their parents.