The Ningaloo Whale shark festival in Exmouth is held at the end of May every year and is a great excuse to get away with the family and enjoy the festivities while learning about the whale sharks who grace the Ningaloo coast between April and July each year.
Enthusiastic tourists and locals love to enjoy all that Exmouth has to offer - The fishing, surfing and whale sharks.
I was fortunate enough to have experienced this rare and extraordinary opportunity to swim with the whale sharks and I joined a group of tourists from all over Australia to partake in a whale shark tour with Dr Ben Fitzpatrick and his team.
Like many others, I was a little nervous at first and I could feel the fear and anticipation racing through me sparking my adrenaline which at the time didn't feel quite right. A young girl who was also part of our expedition decided to watch the whale sharks from the boat because she to was a little scared. I've always wanted to experience the whale sharks in their own environment, but the shark factor was always there in my mind wanting to cripple my desire and steal my joy.
Dr Fitzpatrick was very persuasive when sharing his experience and gave us all the courage that we needed.
" Swimming with whale sharks is actually quite the opposite of what your preconceived ideas might be - jumping out there in the big blue ocean, there is no bottom you can see and it's actually quite a daunting thing to begin with. As soon as you first see that shark it's one of the most breathtaking things you will ever have(seen) in your life", Dr Fitzpatrick said.
When I saw my first whale shark I tried to jump for joy while I was still in the water and we were all swimming frantically to keep up at first but soon realised that the whale shark was taking its time. It was so massive and moved so gracefully that I could not keep my eyes off it. I was surprised that we all kept up with the whale shark taking care to not touch its sensitive skin. I was overwhelmed by this world under the sea with its own beings living their lives and allowing us to observe their world.
A day out with Dr Fitzpatrick and his team is not all about swimming with the whale sharks even though it is the highlight of the tour. We were able to learn about the Ningaloo environment in more detail and were challenged about our role in conservation and protecting whale sharks and the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area.
Take a look at what it is like to swim with a whale shark in the Ningaloo waters.
If this video doesn't make you smile AND want to see manta rays for yourself then you have us stumped. They are an absolute sheer thrill to swim with yet we know very little about fundamental aspects of their biology and ecology. We don't really have accurate measures of their abundance, aspects of mating habits and breeding. We don't have much of a clue about their critical habitats, movements and migration pathways either. In fact as recently as last year we discovered a new species of giant oceanic Manta - one of the largest vertebrates discovered for decades. Despite this manta rays are being decimated in their thousands for their gill rackers to supply some forms of misguided Chinese medicinal therapies. Luckily we have a healthy population at Ningaloo yet people are still allowed to catch these animals in Australian waters. We think they are far better left swimming in the worlds oceans inspiring thousands of people in the future then being killed in their thousands helping nobody. Share this video if you agree and would like to see these animals protected in all our worlds oceans.
Filmed entirely on the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area, this is a short look at the work being done by the scientists at Oceanwise, who run ecotours allowing people to swim with whale sharks and other rare, endangered and unique marine fauna and megafauna. Participation on the tours helps afford marine research conducted as part of each trip and raises public awareness, both important for conservation outcomes for this incredible ecosystem. You can check them out here oceanwise.com.au/
Filmed by Ben Delfs and Oceanwise crew using Gopro Hero 3 and 550d cameras over 1 season.
Produced by Ben Delfs
Follow the light by Adigold at audiojungle.net
Kaleidoscope by Simon Wilkinson at the bluemask.com
Chasing a dream by Ruben Lozano at audiojungle.net
Additional interview audio from ABC radio's The Science Show