On the Ninth Day of Christmas I Finally Got to See

Nine Whale Sharks Waiting,
Eight Dingos Digging,
Seven Cassowaries,
Six Emus Eating,
Five Great White Sharks,
Four Koalas Cuddling,
Three Snapping Crocs, 
Two Red Kangaroos,
And a Kookaburra in a Gum Tree

Where do I start with these big and beautiful fish. I won’t lie to you, before I arrived in Australia I didn’t even know they existed. Quite embarrasing to say I didn’t know much about the sea at all. As soon as I heard about these mysterious fish I needed to know more. What are they and where can I find them!

Eventhough they are called whale sharks, they are neither a whale or a shark, just a very very big fish! They belong to a group of underwater creatures known as filter feeders as they cannot bite or chew. They will process up to 6000 litres of water an hour through their gills and eat any shrimp, small fish or plankton that is filtered through! That is a lot of water. Imagine some of us struggle to drink 2 litres of water a day.

A view from above a whale shark swimming on the Ningaloo reef.
Whale shark. from above.

To work through so much water they stretch their mouths to over 4 ft wide, that’s nearly the size of me! Then cruise around the ocean catching their dinner, the underwater equivalent of “catching flies”.

Just like many gorgeous creatures of the animal kingdom, unfortunate to say they are classified as an endangered species. Due to the impacts of by-catch, strikes by big vessels and unregulated fisheries their numbers have been significantly depleted. Just like most, if not all, fish in the ocean they have a greedy value on the international black markets. These unregulated fisheries are catching them for their meat, fins and oil, with no after thought on the population of these beautiful creatures.

They have an unique and striking pattern on their bodies, which act just like a human fingerprint. Each whale shark has a different pattern, allowing them to be identified for research purposes.

A whaleshark swimming on the Ningaloo reef.
Whale Shark

They looooooove warm open oceans so they migrate over long distances to follow the temperature. Other than Australia you can find them in Mexico, The Phillipines, The Maldives, Thailand, Honduras and many other locations!

They can have up to 300 pups per litter, the eggs grow inside the mother and she gives birth to 300 live pups into the water. Sad to say only around 10% of these little guys will survive, all the more reason we need to look after these gentle giants. 

Where can you find Whale Sharks in Australia?

Goes without saying The Ningaloo Reef is the place to see Whale Sharks in Australia. The best time to visit is between March and September each year as they make the journey to the Ningaloo.

On December 3rd 2021, the WA Government announced that they will protect the Exmouth Gulf, Ningaloo with important conservation measures. This is a HUGE win, due to the vast array of marine life and coral species within the reef the locals have been fighting for this for sometime. This means that more marine parks will be established and more reserves will be put in place to protect the big three! Whale Shales, Manta Rays and Humpback Whales.

A group snorkelling alongside a whale shark on the Ningaloo reef.
Whale Shark with snorkellers

We arrived in Exmouth in October and we knew the whale shark season was unfortunately over, kicking ourselves that we didn’t plan to arrive a month or two before. Still, we booked a snorkelling tour with Exmouth dive and Whale Sharks to see what the Ningaloo reef had to offer. WE WERE SO LUCKY, within 10 minutes of the spotter plane hitting the skies they spotted an underwater beauty. Can you believe it it was a WHALE SHARK, all the staff said they have no idea why but the whale sharks have been hanging around a little bit longer this year, how lucky are we?!

Credit for the photos goes to Chiara at Exmouth Dive and Whale Sharks

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