Ningaloo Reef is off Exmouth on tip of the North West Cape in Western Australia. It's 1,270 kilometres (789 miles) north of Perth and 3,366 kilometres (2,092 miles) southwest of Darwin.
The reef wasn't the initial attraction of Exmouth. The town has had an extensive involvement with military history and high tech activities. First used as a military base in World War II, it was developed as an advanced base and rest camp for submariners using the tender USS Pelias.
By 1967 the town had been established to support the nearby United States Naval Communication Station Harold E. Holt, and towards the end of the 1970s, the town began hosting U.S. Air Force personnel assigned to Learmonth Solar Observatory, a defence science facility jointly operated with Australia's Ionospheric Prediction Service.
Today Exmouth's attractions are more Tourist oriented.
I knew little about Exmouth until my husband and I decided to drive across the Nullabour Plain, a semi-arid desert which stretches about 1,100 kilometres (684 miles) from east to west between South Australia and Western Australia.
Flying over the Reef & a few boats, Enroute to Exmouth
From Perth we took a couple of days to get to Exmouth. Travelling by light aircraft, we stopped in Shark Bay to see the dolphins in their natural habitat. Such beautiful & gentle sea creatures put smiles on the faces of children and adults alike as we stood at the shore with pelicans and people feeding friendly dolphins that ventured to the beach. Continuing on in a small twin-engined aircraft, we landed on a dusty airstrip in the middle of nowhere!
Why would anyone want to swim with Whale Sharks? Easy - sheer exhilaration!
Our experience began very early in the morning as we met at the Dive Centre . After choosing wetsuits and snorkelling gear, we travelled by bus to the seashore to board our boat for the day's adventure.
When a Whale Shark was spotted, we carefully motored within swimming distance, and one-by-one, commando-style, jumped off the back of the boat so we could snorkel nearby, but not too close.
According to Wikipedia, Whale Sharks are "a slow-moving filter feeding shark and the largest known extant fish species." They are large, somewhere between 12 & 14 metres (41.5 to 46 ft) metres and weigh at ton! Actually, somewhere around 21-30 metric tons (47,000 - 67,000 lbs)
Whilst in Exmouth, we took a Safari (day) Tour in the Cape Range National Park with Ningaloo Safari Tours , a long running business founded in the1980's by Neil McLeod, a man who moved to Exmouth in 1964. Although McLeod returned to Margaret River after 19 years of running safaris, the business continues to offer fun-filled adventures. This video from Postcards WA Video gives a good overview.
At the time of writing, Qantas has flights from Perth to Exmouth three times a week whilst Skywest Airlines has daily flights. For the latest information on flights from Perth and other locations, check the Exmouth Tourist Information Centre website
To swim with the Whale Sharks, you should schedule your trip for somewhere between April and June/July. Check the Tourist Information Website for the Ningaloo Wildlife Calendar to find out what else you might like to experience.