I’m sitting in front of the ocean which is now for me very special. Thanks to it, one of my most important dreams has been realised – to swimwith whale sharks.
The gentle giants of the sea, whale sharks visit the waters of the Ningaloo Reef on Western Australia’s coast, between April and July each year, to feed on plankton. During that time, I was privileged to be able to swim with them for a truly memorable experience.
Having been in Australia for one year and having started my road trip with my friends four months ago, I had some goals to reach for my travel in Australia – I had to swim on the Great Barrier Reef and I had to see Uluru and Mount Olga. But first, I needed to swim with whalesharks.
There are only a few places in the world where you can see whale sharks. One of those places is the Ningaloo Marine Park, so I planned to be there for June.
I got to Exmouth and booked myself on a tour for $400. It offered to swim with and observe these magnificent creatures in the wildlife, plus unlimited snorkeling on the Ningaloo Reef.
For a backpacker it’s a lot of money, but for a dream it’s nothing. Moreover, participation helps towards further research into these mysterious creatures’ behaviour.
Whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world but they are also very fragile. Luckily in Australia, they are protected by the Department of Environment and Conservation, but elsewhere in the world they are still unfortunately hunted in some countries.
At 7am, a bus brought us from our accommodation to the port and we were taken out to our boat. The weather was ideal – sunny. We then got our snorkeling equipment and wetsuits and went for a swim on the reef to test it all out, all while a private spotter aircraft flew overhead, trying to find us some whale sharks.
After being given our briefing about how to swim with the giant sharks, we were split into two groups of eight, so that the water would not get too crowded.
Of course I was in the second group so I had to wait as the first group went under. I was so impatient! I tried to imagine what the first group was doing? What they were seeing in the water?
It was finally my turn. I put my flippers on and we jumped into the water. It was unbelievable, so fantastic. There was nothing in the ocean as far as I could see except us and this huge fish. The water was so clear, so limpid.
I saw the first one. He was “small” at only nine metres! We swam behind him, with just four metres between him and me. Soon after, we swam with another one, a baby of five metres. He was so cute!
After those moving events I came back on board with a lot of fantastic memories. Then we had an awesome meal with local products served by the crew. It was like my mother cooks it! It was certainly a welcome change from my road trip diet of only pasta, rice and beans.
Everything was perfect during this trip: the weather, the crew, the meal and of course the whale sharks. Swimming with the biggest fish in the world is the best experience of my life. I’ve done it and I will never forget it!
Now I share my experiences with all my friends and show them what I’ve done. Hopefully I will give to someone else the whale shark passion!