Snorkelling with Sharks

By Amani Bates, The University of Western Australia, Australia

The idea of swimming with sharks might sound a bit daunting, but Whale Sharks are the tamest type of shark you could hope to interact with. That’s why I took a punishing 18-hour bus ride from Perth to Exmouth to go diving in the Ningaloo Reef…

Growing up to 12m, they are the world’s largest fish and are known as filter feeders. This means they eat by opening their mouths and swimming, collecting plankton and other nutrients in the water whilst filtering out the excess through their gills. They were incredibly graceful. We got to swim alongside them as they effortlessly glided through the water until we inevitably got too slow and watched them sail into the distance.

A teenage male
A nearby manta ray

There was one incredible moment, however, where I managed to keep pace with one of the slightly smaller ones, accompanying him for about two minutes. There was nothing but me, the shark, and the vast, encompassing blue of the ocean. It was a moment I won’t soon forget!

My personal encounter

Overall, the tour was spectacular and I would highly recommend it. As well as the sharks we got the chance to swim with manta rays, turtles and view Humpback Whales breaching from the boat! Overall, it was a fantastic adventure. For anyone interested I booked through a company called ‘Exmouth Dive and Whaleshark Tour’. The trip cost $475 which is the equivalent of about £250. Whilst this might seem like a lot, you certainly get your money’s worth.

Having snorkeled and Scuba dived in the reef I wanted to see it from above. So, the following day I took an hour-long microlight journey across the outer reef and surrounding canyons. The view from above was awe-inspiring. Seeing the colours of the reef and being able to spot whales, sharks, and manta rays from above was surreal. My pilot recreated a scene from Top Gun in the air, which I also found amusing.

A GoPro from the wing of the microlight took a picture every 15 seconds
The other microlight in the air with us taking pictures at sunset
A view of the Charles Knife Canyon
Humpback Whales breaching from the air
The collective noun for Manta Ray’s is a squadron

In summary, although small, Exmouth has a unique, vibrant feel to it. It’s a popular destination for backpackers for a reason. Though the journey was long and you’d certainly benefit if you had, or could hire a car, once there the destination speaks for itself.

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