Photography by Ningaloo Discovery
16 March 2023
Ningaloo Reef’s whale shark season has officially commenced, with the first guests swimming with whale sharks on tour with Exmouth-based operator Ningaloo Discovery.
Ningaloo Discovery are now running whale shark tours daily, while other whale shark operators will commence their tours from Coral Bay and Exmouth over the coming days and weeks.
Ningaloo’s whale shark season typically occurs between March and July, triggered by the annual coral spawning during the full moon, however, whale sharks have been sighted around Ningaloo over the past couple of weeks by light-aircraft operators such as Ningaloo Aviation.
The 2022 whale shark season was one of the best on record, with a 97.14 percent interaction rate and over 36,000 visitors to Ningaloo swimming with these gentle giants.
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 300 kilometres 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.
The world heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef and adjacent Exmouth Gulf were designated as having global significance by international marine science organisation, Mission Blue.
Swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo is a bucket-list experience, with only 1 in 3 million people enjoying the experience in their lifetime.
Those who are interested in this experience should book their tour and accommodation early to avoid disappointment. Children aged over five-years-old and who can swim can join a tour accompanied by their parents.
The Coral Coast starts just under two hours’ drive north of Perth at Cervantes and runs for 1,100 kilometres north to Exmouth, and inland via Wildflower Country.
The region is tied together by one world-class road trip from Perth to Exmouth, the Coral Coast Highway, or accessible via plane from Perth with airports in Exmouth, Carnarvon, Shark Bay and Geraldton.
From 30 April to 26 October 2023, Qantas will also be flying direct from Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport to Exmouth’s Learmonth Airport twice weekly (on Sundays and Thursdays) starting late April, providing direct access from Australia’s East Coast to the doorstep of Ningaloo.
Australia’s Coral Coast is the Regional Tourism Organisation (RTO) responsible for branding and marketing the Coral Coast region of Western Australia.