Tourism ven­ture may get you up close and per­sonal with ocean greats

Pilbara News - - Pilbara News - Ali­cia Per­era

If you’ve ever en­joyed a hump­back whale-watch­ing cruise but wanted to get a lit­tle closer, next year could be your chance.

The Depart­ment of Parks and Wildlife have just an­nounced Ex­mouth’s Nin­ga­loo Marine Park will be the site of a trial ex­pe­ri­ence to swim with hump­back whales, be­gin­ning next June when the whales start their mi­gra­tion to the area.

If suc­cess­ful, the move could es­tab­lish WA as one of only sev­eral places in the world that cur­rently of­fer tourists the op­por­tu­nity to swim with hump­back whales.

Other lo­ca­tions in­clude Brazil, Tonga, and Queens­land as of last year.

The state gov­ern­ment hopes the Nin­ga­loo trial could boost WA’s sta­tus as a des­ti­na­tion for eco­tourism, which is a fo­cus of the state gov­ern­ment’s cur­rent tourism pol­icy.

There are cur­rently 11 li­censed whale shark tour op­er­a­tors in Ex­mouth which will be in­vited to ex­tend their li­cence to cover hump­back whale div­ing. If the trial is a suc­cess the ex­pe­ri­ence could be­come a per­ma­nent fea­ture at Nin­ga­loo.

En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Al­bert Ja­cob said safety would be closely mon­i­tored dur­ing the trial and there would be strict reg­u­la­tions for how tourists can in­ter­act with the hump­backs.

The gen­eral sen­ti­ment among Ex­mouth whale shark op­er­a­tors con­tacted by the Pil­bara News was tem­pered ex­cite­ment and a pal­pa­ble sense of what the trial could bring for the op­er­a­tors, who are shut­ting up shop for the sum­mer now the whale shark mi­gra­tion has fin­ished.

If the Ex­mouth hump­back whale trial be­comes per­ma­nent it could ex­tend lo­cal op­er­a­tors’ busi­ness by sev­eral months per year.

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