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The World’s Most Extraordinary Fish Arrives at Ningaloo Reef

By 16 March 2010No Comments

 

John Glover – Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The largest fish in the ocean – the mighty whale sharks – have made an early appearance last week at Ningaloo Reef on Western Australia’s Coral Coast.

These extraordinary marine creatures, which can grow up to 18 metres long, usually visit the pristine waters of Ningaloo Reef between April and July each year following the mass spawning of coral in the area. With mouths stretching to 1.5 metres in diameter, swimming with whale sharks conjures images of a Jonah-and-the-Whale experience, but the ghostly behemoths are completely harmless.

sharkEasily accessible from shore, Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in the world, stretching 260km along the coast, and one of the most the biodiverse. The reef is part of a marine ecosystem that ranks seventh on the world’s list of coral reef biodiversity ‘hotspots’ and is second in terms of the number of species to be found within a limited range. Its unique attributes have attracted national and world-wide attention including a recent nomination for World Heritage listing.The Ningaloo coast is one of the few regions in the world where whale sharks congregate regularly and is widely considered to be one of the best places to swim with them – due to the clarity of the water and the experience of the whale shark tour operators.Visitors can swim with these harmless gentle giants by joining one of the specialist whale shark tour boats that operate out of the small coastal towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay. Swimmers can also encounter graceful manta rays, dolphins, schools of brightly coloured fish or the new species of stingray recently discovered by scientists in the area.Very little is still known about the mysterious whale shark, from how long they live to their breeding habits, or their migratory routes. However, tourists can now assist with crucial scientific research by sending their holiday snaps of the whale sharks they encounter at Ningaloo to www.whaleshark.org. The Ecocean Join the Dots campaign, uses software similar to fingerprint-matching technology, to compare the shark’s spot patterns to see if it has previously been photographed or is a new find.

Those that don’t want to get their feet wet can opt to take a ride in one of the glass bottom boat tours or explore the rugged Cape Range National Park by 4WD.

But it is not just the awesome whale shark which you can encounter at Ningaloo. Whales, dolphins, turtles and over 500 species of tropical fish all swim in these warm waters, but perhaps the most graceful of them all is the manta ray. Watching these other-worldly creatures perform synchronised somersaults as they feed is a magical experience you can see all year round.

Ningaloo Reef differs from other famous reefs as it is a fringing reef, meaning visitors can snorkel over corals and exotic sea life just metres from the shore.

For your chance to win your own special swim with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef, enter to become a passenger on The Extraordinary Taxi Ride – an epic nine week odyssey around Western Australia. For more details visit www.westernaustralia.com

From: Australia & New Zealand Magazine | March 16, 2010