Tuesday, April 1, 2014

WHALE SHARK SEASONS STARTS NOW IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA---SWIMMING WITH THEM IS ONE OF LIFE'S MUST-DO-BEFORE-YOU-DIE EVENTS!

KEE@FSWMAG.COM

NINGALOO WHALE SHARK OPERATORS SET FOR A BIG SEASON

 The 2014 Ningaloo Whale Shark season is officially here and is set to be a giant turnout, if last year is anything to go by! Whale Sharks were sighted in Coral Bay and Exmouth as early as January and February and good numbers are expected to remain in the area up until late July.

Every year the world’s largest fish congregate in the nutrient rich waters of Ningaloo Marine Park, which is considered as one of the best places in the world to swim with Whale Sharks, for reliability of numbers and accessibility of interaction with these leviathans of the ocean.

Growing up to 18 metres in length these gentle giants are considered harmless and safe to swim with as, although a species of shark, they are filter feeders like whales – hence the name whale shark.

Whale Sharks are listed as ‘vulnerable to extinction’ and are protected here in Western Australia. Part of the fee visitors pay for swimming with them goes towards the protection and research of these fascinating creatures.

Whale Shark swim tours are offered from Coral Bay and Exmouth between mid-March until early August and sometimes even longer if the whale sharks are still in the area.

Australia’s Coral Coast Chief Executive Officer, David O’Malley, said last year’s season was a record breaker with the highest ever number of passengers – over 20,600 (an increase from 17,000 in 2012). The largest number of tours ever taken – over 1,100 and an amazing whale shark sighting success rate of 98%.
‘We are confident that 2014 will be another hugely successful season with people from all corners of the globe expected to converge on the towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay for their chance to cross this amazing experience off their bucket list.’

THE NINGALOO WHALE SHARK FESTIVAL<www.ningaloowhalesharkfestival.com>, MAY 22-25
Plan your trip to Exmouth, a two-hour flight from Perth, now for the Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival 2014, which will be held from May 22 - 25, in and around the town.


All ages will enjoy the festival activities including a fun run, a float parade, bands, circus and fire show, kid’s beach games as well as art exhibitions.

Tijuana Cartel, Blue Shaddy, Huge Magnet, New Soundland and other musicians will entertain at a number of events throughout the weekend.

Dress up for the Opening Festival Gala at the Novotel Ningaloo Resort on the Friday night where Grace Barbe Afro-Kreol will feature.

The Festival program has expanded with night markets on Thursday, a family event at Federation Park.

Festivities will continue on Saturday at Talanjee Oval.

Dr Brad Norman will be on hand to talk about the whale shark research undertaken at Ningaloo and the photo ID program. Gulliver the giant whale shark will be on show. Other visiting scientists and research groups will also display their findings.

Sunday is Family Day at Town Beach with plenty of beach games and evening entertainment. Fire juggling, live music and circus shows are all part of the festival program.

There is the chance to swim with the whale sharks, the biggest fish in the world from April - July each year at Ningaloo.

Darren Cossill, general manager, Novotel Ningaloo Resort and the chairman of the Ningaloo Whaleshark Festival committee said: “Thanks to the community’s continued support and our generous supporters, we have expanded the festival. It is now a successful annual event on the state calendar.”
For further information on swimming with the whale sharks, visit westernaustralia.com 

About whale sharks


·         Latin name: Rhincodon typus
·         Harmless to humans: Although whale sharks are a species of shark they are completely harmless to humans as they are filter feeders
Weight: A 12-metre whale shark weighs approximately 11 tonnes with a mouth more than a metre wide
·         Length: Whale sharks are thought to grow up to 18 metres long, but the most frequently encountered size of whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef are between four and five metres
·         Pup length: 55cm – baby whale sharks hatch from an egg case while instead the mother’s body before being expelled into the ocean
·         Mostly male at Ningaloo: The majority of whale sharks seen in the Ningaloo Marine Park are juvenile males
·         Sexual maturity: May not occur until whale sharks are 8-9 metres long (around 30 years old)
·         Diving depth: 1500 metres
·         Lifespan: It’s thought whale sharks have a lifespan of more than 100 years
·         Threats: Illegal fishing, boat strikes

When do whale sharks visit Ningaloo?
Whale sharks visit the Ningaloo Marine Park after the annual coral spawning, which usually occurs in March and April. Krill and other tiny sea creatures swarm to Ningaloo Reef to feast shortly after the coral spawning. This phenomenon attracts whale sharks (the world’s largest fish) to Ningaloo Reef to feed on krill, plankton and copepods. Officially the whale shark season starts on 1 April, however the last few years there have been sufficient numbers of whale sharks to start tours around mid March. Tours are expected to run in Coral Bay between mid March and June and from Exmouth between mid March and late July. Tours sometimes continue into August if whale sharks are still in the area. Whale shark spotter planes are commissioned by tour operators during the season to locate whale sharks for tour boats.

2013 whale shark tour statistics
·         Last year’s season was a record breaker with the highest ever number of passengers – over 20,600 (an increase from 17,000 in 2012).
·         The largest number of tours ever taken – over 1100 tours
·         Success rate of 98%.

Whale shark conservation
Ecocean is committed to whale shark research and conservation and has set up a whale shark identification library that people can add their images to. The library is maintained and used by marine biologists to collect and analyse whale shark encounter data to learn more about whale sharks, as not much is currently known about their life story. The library uses photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individual animals. www.whaleshark.org

More information on swimming with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef

For further information on swimming with whale sharks visit: www.australiascoralcoast.com/tours-activities/swim-with-whale-sharks

1 comment:

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