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Whale of a time

Three unique ways to experience whales in Carnarvon and Coral Bay

You probably already know that Coral Bay is one of only two places in the whole of Western Australia where you can swim with humpback whales – but there are a few other ways of experiencing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat too.

Humpback whale watching

What could be more magical than setting sail for a sunset humpback whale watching tour? Set off from Coral Bay at 3pm with the Ningaloo Reef Dive and Snorkel crew of Sicilia and in no time at all you’ll be cruising through the Ningaloo Reef, one of Australia’s most beautiful shallow reefs. It’s possible that you will encounter pods of migrating humpback whales during the trip, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be treated to a marine sunset show like no other. Expect to see fin and tail slapping, spy-hopping, dramatic breaches out of the water and sea spraying out of their blowholes. As you watch this natural phenomenon, enjoy some cheese, crackers and hot drinks before being served a complimentary glass of bubbly for the return journey. You’ll be back by about 6pm, depending on the time of sunset – with enough photos on your reel to populate Instagram for weeks. Tours start from $130 per person and the tour runs for about three hours.

All aboard the multi-level luxury catamaran Kai-Aura and get ready to join in the fun at the whales’ playground. The crew from Coral Bay Eco Tours know all the best spots to respectfully observe humpback whales in their natural environment. The safe, calm waters of Bateman’s Bay are the perfect place for migrating whales to take some time out during their arduous journey. You may see mothers with calves as well as other whale species like minke, Southern right and even orcas as well as dolphins, dugongs and turtles. You can bring your own booze, and enjoy a finger food buffet plus a glass of champers during the trip. Tours star$99 per person and departs from Coral Bay.

If you’d love to have your humpback whale memories captured forever, join the Ningaloo Coral Bay whale watching tour. A professional underwater photographer joins the crew, snapping amazing underwater shots which you can purchase at an additional cost. The four-hour tour, departing at 9.30am, takes guests to the well-known spots where whales have visited in the past. You’ll also be able to go snorkelling at some of the team’s special spots, swimming among the vibrant coral gardens and its multitude of tropical fish. The price ($100 per adult) includes light refreshments, snorkel gear and wetsuit hire.

Swimming with humpback whales

Coral Bay Eco Tours offers visitors the chance to swim with humpback whales along the pristine Ningaloo Reef. During whale season (which begins at the end of June and runs through to mid October), join a Humpback Whale Safari and if the conditions are right, you’ll find yourself swimming in one of the 14 swimming spots that have been identified. Although an in-ocean interaction can’t be guaranteed, around 30,000 whales pass through Ningaloo Reef during their annual migration every year. Coral Bay is one of their favourite stop-off points, where they hang around to rest, shelter and play in the calm waters. If you’re lucky enough to be able to swim with the whales, one of the experienced, trained guides will ensure you’re at a safe distance from the whales from the side or in front of the whale’s path. They may come up close and personal, or swim on by; whatever encounters occurs, one thing can be guaranteed. It’ll be an unforgettable experience. If you’d prefer to observe the whales from the deck, that’s fine too. You’re pretty much guaranteed to see all manner of other sea life, like manta rays, dolphins and other big fish. The tour takes seven hours, departs from Coral Bay and costs $385 per person. Book early to avoid disappointment.

Ningaloo Reef Dive and Snorkel offers a full day tour, giving guests the chance to swim up close with the locals – the underwater kind, of course. You only pay an extra fee if you actually get to swim with a humpback whale, and with the addition of an overhead spotter plane, the chances are you will find yourself beneath the whales with these giants of the deep. It’s the only company operating out of Coral Bay which have a maximum of two swim groups, giving every guest the maximum amount of time in the water with whales. Chuck in some snorkel time on the reef too, as well as free use of masks, snorkel, fins and full-length wetsuits, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find fault with this experienced, passionate team. Expect to see sharks, stingrays, turtles and manta rays as well as whales as they breach the waves. A base fee of $220 is charged per person plus an additional $160 per adult if you swim with the whales. If you’d rather observe from the deck, you’ll just pay the flat $220 fee.

Heli-humpback whale watching

A unique addition to the whale watching experience, don’t miss your chance to observe these giants of the deep from the air. Coral Coast Helicopters offer the only heli-whale tour in the region, in a first for the entire state. It’s a spectacular and non-invasive way to observe humpback whales in the shallow, warm waters of the Ningaloo Reef. You’ll see their behaviour from a unique perspective and will be amazed at the numbers which congregate during the migration season. The crystal-clear water allows for unrivalled views of pods in their natural environment, undisturbed and unaware they are being seen from hundreds of feet up. From $120 per person, choose from a 15, 30 or 60-minute tour. You’ll take off from Carnarvon with this family-owned and operated business which specialises in adventure tourism around the Coral Coast.

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