Whale Sharks of Ningaloo Reef: Our Search is On

The Search So Far: Mawson’s Guardian, Mark, and the Guardian-ess had the good fortune last November to swim with 3 manta rays off the North West coast of Western Australia in the waters of the Ningaloo Reef. You can read about our snorkelling experience here and particularly about the big manta rays here. This year we set off to see Whale Sharks. But would we be successful?

Turtle swimming in the coral reef off Coral Bay in Western Australia
All under water pics shown here are by Daniel Browne of Coral Bay Eco Tours.

No doubt, some of you are used to snorkelling and boating. Me, I love to look at the ocean but when I get waist deep in it my body involuntarily says, ‘Errruuuh Huh Huhh Huhhh Ooooogggh Arrrrrrrrrh’.

I speak as a non boating average swimmer who has rarely snorkelled. Everything about our Whale Shark Day at Ningaloo Reef held its own excitement for me, including my apprehension about sliding into the ocean kilometres off the coast.

I didnt see that particular turtle in these pics but I was gobsmaked by so much else. Streams of sunlight poured down thru the water catching shoals of coloured fishes like dancing lights. Magical. The coral was simply fantastic, a whole other world. Octopi, reef sharks, fish of all kinds.

After our first excellent swim of the day within the reef around the amazing coral bombs, we set course beyond the reef parallel to the shore heading to about where 5 whale sharks had been spotted by the same crew the day before. 

Excitement was high. We steered north and chatted of all the creatures we had seen. We kept on northward. We all made umpteen adjustments to our gear. We kept steering north. The spotter plane appeared and quartered the area. Nothing. North and further north we coursed. At this rate we would soon be half way to Exmouth. There we were, all kitted in our wetsuits, keyed up, ready to plunge in; and no sighting. We started to realise that this just might not be our day. You can’t predict the wide ocean and wild animals. T

Whale Shark of Ningaloo Reef: Photo by Daniel Brown of Coral Bay Eco Tours
Whale Shark of Ningaloo Reef: Photo by Daniel Brown of Coral Bay Eco Tours

The crew conferred. They told us that it looked like perhaps they had nothing for us.  Our emotions dipped from elation to deflation. We all knew that we were unlikely to go out next day for another try because the weather was going to turn overnight. So that seemed to be that. Oh, well. We could still do another swim or two. 

For our 2nd snorkel they took us to a little seen spot on the outer side of the reef. The coral animal structures on the deep side look different, tougher you might say, and just as fascinating. We saw reef sharks and larger fish. The swell was stronger here for an average swimmer like me and there was some suction close to the reef. My arms tired but I kept happily swimming. I was going to make the most of seeing Ningaloo Reef with my own eyes.  

Suddenly the crew signalled to get aboard. Had a whale shark at last been spotted? Yes! We scrambled back on the marlin board in a tangle of flippers and seal-flopping bodies.  We sat on the deck with masks and snorkel on our heads, ready to slide in at the word to go. The vessel’s stern dipped and the bow surged. 

Could we actually get our swim alongside the creature?

Don’t miss the next awesome episode. Spoiler- we saw three!

Whale Shark seen on 7 June 2022. Pic taken by Daniel Browne of Coral B ay Eco Tours

Note: All under water pics shown here are by Daniel Browne of Coral Bay Eco Tours.

You are at Mark’s blog called Baffled Bear Books. Mark is a dark coffee tragic, bibliophile and Guardian of Mawson Bear, a Ponderer of Baffling Things and one of this bright world’s few published bears.

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