7 March 2013 by Luke McCormick
Ningaloo's whale shark season is set to start in Exmouth and Coral Bay soon, with most tours officially underway from around the middle of March.
After early sightings during summer, the gentle whale sharks are expected to be in the area until late July. Whale sharks are attracted to Ningaloo Marine Park to feed on krill that swarm to the area shortly after the annual coral spawning in March and April each year.
While whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea (growing up to 18 metres long), they are filter feeders and are completely harmless to humans and are safe to swim alongside.
Australia's Coral Coast CEO, David O'Malley said the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area is considered one of the most reliable and easily accessible places in the world to swim with whale sharks.
"More than a thousand whale shark tours were taken last year with a total of over 17,000 passengers," Mr O'Malley said.
"Hopefully the early sightings during summer were an omen of another good season to come.
"We are optimistic that the 2013 season will see more visitors take the plunge with the almighty whale sharks in the Ningaloo Marine Park."
The annual Ningaloo Whale Shark Festival, held between May 24 to 26, will celebrate the season with a cocktail party, festival and family entertainment.