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