With Western Australia being the country’s largest state, where better to discover the world’s largest fish? And with whale shark season right around the corner, here’s all you need to know about this gentle giant.
Top Whale Shark Facts
1. They are fish not mammals; the word ‘whale’ is in reference only to their size.
2. On average they grow up to 12 metres long and have a mouth of 1.5 metres wide, however the largest non-scientifically recorded whale shark was around 18 metres.
3. Their size is the only thing fearsome about them. They are filter feeders, eating mostly plankton, krill and other small organisms and therefore harmless to humans.
4. They have three prominent ridges along each side of their body and a distinct pattern of white spots and stripes against a dark blue/grey skin.
5. Their Conservation Status is ‘Vulnerable’.
Western Australia’s Coral Coast is home to some of the world’s most wonderful marine creatures. Tropical fish, manta rays, dolphins, rare turtles and dugongs are just some of the diverse animals you can catch a glimpse of.
The jewel in this crown of marine life, however, is the whale shark; the biggest living fish to sail through the world’s waters.
World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef, on Western Australia’s mid north coast, is where the whale sharks call home from around March to July of each year, although the season can sometimes run right through until August or September.
It is rare to find them so close to the shore anywhere else in the world and therefore Ningaloo is one of the few places you can swim alongside these record-breaking fish.
This incredible wildlife encounter is the experience of a lifetime. Just imagine snorkelling in the tropical waters beside one of these gentle giants who can grow up to 16 metres in length.
The best way to get close to the action is to take a whale shark snorkel tour. These depart daily from both Exmouth and Coral Bay and are suitable for people of all ages so long as they have a basic swimming ability.
The Ningaloo Reef is one of world’s most reliable sites to find whale sharks, and the tours that offer the chance to swim with them boast a success rate of close to 95 per cent.
By Amy Leonard
Images courtesy of Western Australia Tourism and Aussie Wanderer