Notification: Parks and Wildlife Service is part of the new Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA).

Whale sharks' arrival signals excitement for 2018

Snorkelling with whale shark
Snorkelling with whale shark DBCA

Western Australia is preparing for another successful whale shark season, following sightings of the world's largest fish at the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area on the State's Coral Coast.

More than 29,000 people visited the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef in 2017 to swim with the gentle giants of the sea that migrate to WA shores between March and August each year to feed on plankton and krill.

Adding to the record-breaking year, 2017 saw a total of 1,742 tours take place across the season, with a whale shark sighting success rate of 94 per cent.

Whale shark swim tours have begun operating from Coral Bay and Exmouth, and will continue through to July enabling visitors the opportunity to have a face-to-fin encounter with the friendly giants.

Visitors will also be given the opportunity to interact with the humpback whale, as these massive marine mammals undertake their annual migration along the west coast. This activity is being trialled under strict conditions in Ningaloo Marine Park.

Ningaloo Marine Park's tropical waters are considered one of the best places to swim with whale sharks due to reliability of numbers and accessibility to interact with them. At 300 kilometres long, Ningaloo Reef is one of the world's largest fringing reefs. Visitors can walk straight off the beach and snorkel in the underwater wonderland teeming with brilliant coloured coral, manta rays, sea turtles and more than 500 species of tropical fish.

The annual Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival will celebrate the season with a family festival day, gala cocktail evening, movies under the stars and live music from May 25 to 27, 2018.

Comments attributed to Environment Minister Stephen Dawson:

"Ningaloo is world-renowned for its amazing whale shark experience and an excellent example of world's best practice for successful nature-based tourism.

"Facilitating whale shark tourism experiences in a sustainable way is not only ensuring the species is protected, it is also ensuring a prosperous future for the Exmouth community.

"Whale shark tourism contributes millions of dollars to the regional economy every year, and we are keen to see this continue and improve within the conservation management framework we have in place.

"Not only does it provide benefits to the local community, it raises appreciation and understanding of this magnificent species."

Comments attributed to Tourism Minister Paul Papalia:

"Western Australia is the only place in Australia, and one of a few places in the world, where you can swim with whale sharks.

"So it's no wonder that swimming with the gentle giants at Ningaloo is a massive drawcard for tourists from around the country and the world.

"It truly is an extraordinary experience that is one of the State's most significant attractions."