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  • Ningaloo: A slice of paradise with a side of adventure

    Posted by Grace Pappelendam April 7, 2014 - 1,037 views - 0 comments - 0 likes

    My stomach was full of butterflies as I donned a wetsuit, fins, mask and snorkel aboard Ocean Eco Adventure’s whale shark boat in the Indian Ocean off Exmouth in Western Australia. Meanwhile the spotter plane hovered above searching for the almighty whale sharks we were soon to encounter. After about 45 minutes of waiting impatiently, one of the crew hollered: “whale shark!” and it was time to swim with the world’s largest fish.


    As the boat approached the 10-metre whale shark I fitted my mask firmly to my face and prepared to take the plunge of a lifetime.


    “Ready, set, jump!” said Emily, our mermaid-like tour guide.


    There was no time for hesitation as we jumped into Ningaloo’s crystal clear water. As the bubbles subsided the behemoth creature came into view and it was a magnificent sight to behold. I was mesmerised by its size, grace and the unique spot pattern on its body, which is unique to each whale shark, like a human finger print.


    Our arms and legs flapped everywhere as we tried to keep up with the whale shark, but after a couple of minutes he decided to go for a duck dive and disappeared into the deep blue depths. As we excitedly kicked our way back to the boat everyone had a certain kind of Cheshire cat smile on their faces from the experience. These smiles were to last all day. 

    After being back on the boat for about 10 minutes another whale shark was sighted, this time it was a smaller, five-metre one – which really isn’t small at all! We were all feeling much more calm as we slipped into the water the second time around, now knowing for sure that the gentle giant wasn’t interested in eating us (although we were told this before our first swim).


    We were lucky enough to swim alongside this whale shark for at least 10 minutes. We swam about three metres away from it at all times so there was no chance that its big, powerful tail would push us out of the water.


    When we got back on the boat after our second swim Emily explained that young whale sharks are just as curious about us as we are of them.


    “Juvenile whale sharks are intrigued by us small creatures (humans) jumping into the water to swim with them - they haven’t become grumpy old men yet,” Emily said.


    For the rest of the afternoon we lazed on the back of the boat, filling ourselves with a gourmet lunch prepared by the crew. After the food had settled we went for another cruisy snorkel around the Ningaloo Reef and saw an array of colourful fish, a bright red star fish and turtles.


    As we made our way back to shore that evening everyone was still buzzing from the thrill of swimming with whale sharks. After this experience we felt so overwhelmed to have had a very special encounter with such a magnificent creature.


    We were all quite weary after being out on the water all day swimming with our new found friends of the deep, so my travel buddies and I were up for a relaxing night in to re-energise for the next day’s adventure.


    We rose early for our day of exploring the rugged red vistas in the Cape Range National Park, finishing with a swim on the Ningaloo Reef, which is only a hop and a skip (not even a jump) away from the shore in some places.

    Our jolly tour guide, Dave, from Ningaloo Safari Tours, picked us up and loaded us onto the bus. Our first destination was Shothole Canyon.


    “We are on our way to Shothole Canyon which was named after the holes left by seismographic explosions during the search for oil in the 1950s,” Dave said.


    “Cape Range National Park covers more than 50,000 hectares of canyons, limestone ranges and 50 kilometres of coastline. We have a heap of wildlife here including the crazy emus, birds and roos.”


    After a short drive we arrived at Shothole Canyon, where we jumped out of the vehicle and took snaps of the rugged range view. Evidence of the explosions Dave told us about was clearly visible in some places. On one side of the canyon it looked like a skull has been carved out of the rock face and the other direction offered a view of both the outback and the ocean. Right in the middle of Cape Range National Park is the Milyering Visitor Centre which provides all of the information one would need to know about the National Park. We stayed a while and took in the interpretive information, displays and a video on Ningaloo Reef. Our group watched the video about the amazing sea life in the Ningaloo Marine Park, which whet our appetites to explore Ningaloo’s underwater wonderland firsthand.


    Our next stop was Turquoise Bay, which we were instantaneously captivated by as soon as our feet hit the bright white sand. We couldn’t wait to get in the water and start exploring.


    “Snorkel drift is easy – just jump in the water at the southern end of the beach and let the current gently drift you over the reef for the most unreal snorkelling experience you will ever have,” Dave said.


    Dave wasn’t exaggerating. It was the most incredible snorkelling experience I’ve ever had! We saw so many tropical fish, turtles, reef sharks and sting rays going about their business.


    For lunch we were treated to fresh Exmouth seafood, prawns, fish and an Aussie barbecue, which along with enjoying warm weather in the middle of winter, is something I could quite easily get used to.


    After lunch, Dave, drove our happy group to the Ningaloo Reef Resort in Coral Bay, where our Ningaloo experience would soon end. That evening we watched a spectacular sunset over the bay and chatted enthusiastically about our memorable experience exploring the world’s newest World Heritage area. We all agreed it was one of the most beautiful places we’d ever visited and that we’d be back one day soon.


    Visit our Coral Coast travel guide to plan your Ningaloo adventure.