Prawn trawlers rolled into a fog-laden marina as we ventured out just before sunrise to see the spotted cows of the sea. This is Exmouth, about nine hours north of Perth on one of Australia’s most western tips. Our voyage was set for a spot a few hours from the marina where Australian shelf drops and shallow meets the deep dark waters of the East-Indian Ocean.
This area we were exploring was the Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO heritage listed area due to it being Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. Amongst the amazing diversity the reef offers, from colourful coral to a crayon box full of colours of vibrant fish, are the whale sharks, which draw tourists from around the world. Hundreds of whale sharks come to the reef between march and june to feed on the large volumes of spores released from coral. Despite being called a shark, they are a class of fish, the biggest of their kind and feed exclusively on fish. Their size averages around 10 – 12 metres and are a phenomenal sight to see with their speckled spots and graceful moves.
After my swim with these gracious beings we travelled in to the shallower end of the Ningaloo Reef, which spans more than 250 kilometres, to dive and view the populated reef culture. There are some amazing fish, octopus, sharks and huge manta rays that come and greet viewers as they go about their busy lives like traffic in a bustling city. It’s not hard to see where Finding Nemo’s creators got their inspiration from.
There are plenty of tour companies to organise the whale shark tour through. I decided to go with Three Islands Tours who provide food and great gear and were nice enough to provide photos.
Coming back from seeing the world underwater hooked me on seeing more underwater biodiversities along Western Australia. There are times when I have not been able to hire any dive gear but have had to use a mask and snorkel, which for areas like coral bay, is more than enough if you go in the water with bread. The tropical fish come from everywhere to eat it.