Exmouth: a whale shark misadventure

Ningaloo Reef

from July ??

After Coral Bay we headed to Exmouth. By now we had travelled 1200 km north of Perth – and we still had another 1000 k to go before we hit Broome.

Anyway, Exmouth is renowned for two reasons: for the diving off its Navy Pier, and for being able to swim with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. (Interestingly, the Ningaloo Reef is the only reef on the western side of a land mass in the entire world. I don’t understand the science exactly, but it has something to do with the way the currents work.)

We were just in time to catch the end of the whale shark season, so the entire group of 14 booked onto the tour. Whale sharks belong to the shark family but get the “whale” part of their name for being so massive. They have very large mouths, over 1.5 m, but they feed mainly on plankton, which somehow comforted me that the whole experience would be (somewhat) safe.

All of us were so excited to swim with the sharks, but it didn’t happen. We got out on the water, got our safety briefing, practiced the drills, and then got some bad news. We were told the spotter plane had mechanical problems, and without a plane flying overhead, we wouldn’t be able to locate the sharks. We were all seriously disappointed, since it truly was a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.

Snorkelling at Turquoise Bay

By the time we got back to town and had our refunds sorted, we’d lost half the day. What was left we managed to salvage for a short trip to Turquoise Bay. It was a bit overcast so not ideal for swimming, but I had my snorkel gear on me so I got out to the Nigaloo Reef for a bit of that. The reef was close to shore, and though the corals were average, I was amazed by the variety and number of fish hiding under the water. So the day wasn’t entirely wasted.

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