Whale Shark Facts

 

Scientific name: Rhincodon Typus

Conversation Status: Globally - Endangered, Nationally - Vulnerable

Length (Max): 12-18m

An amazing opportunity awaits you on the Ningaloo Reef to snorkel with the magnificent Whale Sharks in the beautiful clear waters of the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Marine Park between March and August each year.

 

Ocean Eco Adventures offers Whale Shark Discovery cruises that depart daily during the season from Exmouth, Western Australia. With years of experience offering Whale Shark cruises within the Ningaloo Marine Park we offer professional services. We understand your needs and expectations and endeavour to deliver on all levels.

 

Did you know that the Whale Shark is the biggest and one of the rarest fish in the world's oceans? They have been around for about 16 million years and while they are a shark that grows as big as a whale, they are one of the most gentle animals in the ocean, feeding off some of the world’s smallest animals in the form of plankton.

 

Plankton is a size class of organism, anything that is very small and can’t swim against the current is classed as plankton. Plankton itself can be divided up into two main groups - phytoplankton (the tiny plants) and zooplankton (the tiny animals). Zooplankton are a big part of the Whale sharks diet and are believed to be the reason why they arrive at the Ningaloo Reef in such high numbers. 

Whale sharks are generally found in the Ningaloo Marine Park from roughly March to August each year. The reason they remain at the Ningaloo Marine Park for roughly six months after the coral spawning is due to the unique currents surrounding the reef. From the South; is a cold water current running North that is high in nutrients. From the North; is a warm water current running South, which is low in nutrients. At this time of year these currents meet close to the Ningaloo reef and thanks to the deep canyons out the back of the reef creating turbulence these waters mix together. What you end up with is warm, nutrient rich water. Thanks to the lovely Exmouth sunshine lots of photosynthesis occurs, supporting blooms of phytoplankton. The Zooplankton then eat the phytoplankton, growing themselves into high populations. This attracts all of the migratory planktophores (plankton eating animals) such as Manta-rays and Whale Sharks.

 

Although Whale Sharks can dive to depths of 3000m the Whale Sharks found at the Ningaloo Reef are generally swimming on the surface and travel at about 3-5kms per hour.

 

Whale Sharks are thought to live between the ages of 70-100 years and possibly more! They then become sexually mature at roughly 30 years of age and females can have up to 300 pups at a time. 

 

During the Whale Shark season at Ningaloo up to 300 - 500 individual sharks can be identified throughout the season, making it one of the largest, most significant and reliable aggregations of these amazing animals anywhere in the world.

 

Individual Whale Sharks are identified by their spot pattern behind their gills through photo identification. Each Whale Shark has a different spot pattern that is unique to them and stays the same throughout their life time, much like human fingerprints. You can be a part of the research by taking a photo of a Whale Shark on their left-side (if possible) behind their gills and and submitting to scientists and researchers conducting photo ID research and help Whale Shark conservation. One major non for profit organisation is Ecocean who have been conducting photo ID research on the Ningaloo Reef since the mid 1990’s 

 

If your not into photography don’t worry Ocean Eco Adventures photographers have got you covered. Not only do you get free photo’s of your entire Whale Shark Discovery, the Whale Sharks ID photo; that we also submit to the Department of Parks and Wildlife are included in the package. This means you can upload the ID photo’s to Ecocean and keep track of the Whale Shark you swam with on your day!