By Bianca Miller (Age 14)
After our amazing expedition along Margaret River, we proceeded on to look at other possibilities for different trips. We travelled 1260km north of Perth to a small and once know American military bas station called Exmouth along Ningaloo reef.
It is a very small town but built to sustain cyclones so there are no tall trees or big buildings. We stayed at a little caravan park near the lighthouse which is one of the most western points of Australia and a major tourist attraction. We surfed at different local surf breaks such as Wobiri and Dunes breaks and had reef sharks (not dangerous!), loggerhead and hawksbill turtles with loads of fish swimming underneath us.
Later we booked an eco tour to swim with the world’s largest fish, the whale shark. An experience that is so unbelievable you need photographic proof to show to yourself you actually did it.
On the boat everyone is getting ready and the spotter plane above has spotted a whale shark. You are then placed in the water about 100 meters straight ahead of the whale shark in the exact line it is coming on. The guide then swims until the whale shark has been seen and puts up her hand letting the plane and the boat know the group is with it. The guide then tells you to put your heads underwater and swim along with the fish. Once you have had enough and can no longer keep up with it, the guide signals the boat which then comes to pick the group up. And that is when they have lunch prepared and champagne to welcome you to the 0.01 of the world’s population that has ever swum with a whale shark, “So welcome to the minority!"
Deciding that wasn’t enough we joined one of the first boats to have ever swum with humpback whales in Australia, and Ningaloo reef is one of two places in the world you can do this! This was truly astounding as they are the second largest animals on earth after the blue whale. These creatures were migrating from Cape Leveque in far north Australia which is where they breed and have calves, down south to Antarctica to their feeding grounds. We only swam with them on an insignificant bit of their journey which made it even more astonishing.
You get on the board and have the usual welcome greeting you and introducing the crew. They first include a practice snorkel to see how strong you are at swimming and if you are able to swim with the whales. After the practice snorkel the spotter plane heads up into the air and searches for the right whales to swim with. You are not allowed to swim with whales that are breaching and playing or ones with calves that are less than half the mum’s body size. Once the plane has found the correct whales she radios and circles them letting the boat know where they are. The boat pulls up 300 to 350 meters in front of the whale and drops you off, the guide has a radio in the water which they are communicating with the plane and the boat because whales change their course often, but whale sharks keep in one straight line. The plane tells the guide in the water if the whales are changing their course and in which direction the group should move. Once the guide has found them there is nothing more to do than take in the beauty and size of these mammals you are swimming with.
It was an experience I will never forget and never thought I would be lucky enough to do!