"We were swimming and diving with manta rays when a whale shark emerged and slowly came towards us," recalls Julia Tremier, Key Account Manager - Trade Leisure at G’day Group. She embarked on a day cruise in June with Ocean Eco Adventures, a boutique cruise company specializing in marine interaction cruises in the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. She had the opportunity to explore the richness of this exceptional natural site and fulfill her dream of encountering the "Big 3": whale sharks, manta rays, and humpback whales.
"We left the hotel at dawn to reach the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp, 40 minutes from Exmouth, at the gateway to Cape Range National Park," Julia recounts. We then boarded a small boat and a few minutes later joined a yacht, the Latitude 22.
"We started by snorkeling along the reef to check our ability to dive and swim, before heading out to the open ocean, she explains. The dives continued as we encountered the giant fishes, guided by a radio-connected ULM plane over us, spotting them. "In total, we did about twenty dives, each lasting about ten minutes, with a wetsuit and snorkeling gears." Encounters with these majestic creatures of the sea are always exceptional. "It's poignant, but it never scares you, Julia says. There's a calm and reassuring yet impressive force”. Groups of up to 10 swimmers always get in the ocean with a dive master guide, ensuring a safe distance of a few meters from the whale shark. "We were dropped in the water close to the whale shark, left breathless as these giant spotty fish glide past us."
The whale shark, which can reach nearly 20 meters in length and weigh over 30 tons, is considered the world's largest fish. Despite its name, it is indeed a fish and not a cetacean. However, like the blue whale, it’s a harmless animal feeding mainly on plankton and krill.
They move slowly but are highly mobile: they migrate over very long distances and can travel between 20 and 30 kilometers every day. Ningaloo Reef, one of the largest fringing reefs in the world stretching over 300 km, is one of their favourite spots. It is also one of the few places in the world where they reliably gather each year.