Top 10 Marine Encounters 'Down-Under' : Part 1

snorkelingwithwhalesharks

Personally, I'd pay you a lot of money NOT to swim with anything larger than me ... but there are many travelers who do not share my view.

Whether it be discovering a secret food and wine trail, taking a memorable road trip, enjoying a music tour ... or meeting some of the planet’s largest creatures, being surrounded by oceans, Australia offers some of the best opportunities to encounter stunning marine life.

In any up-close meeting with marine life, using a tour operator capable of delivering memorable (and safe) experiences is very important. 

In this two part blog, we’ll be talking about the 'where' and 'when' of marine creature encounters that you can experience 'down under'.

1. Snorkelling with Whale Sharks: Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

Your first encounter with whale sharks on Ningaloo Reef is a heart-jolting moment.  If you wish to be dropped into the path of an open mouthed whale shark, all you need to do is travel to Ningaloo Reef ... oh, and have a strong and healthy heart.

Ningaloo's whale shark season runs from April to July, and Exmouth-based tour operators use spotter planes to ensure success.

King's Ningaloo Reef day-tours cost $385 for adults, and $270 for children.

2. Swimming with Humpback Whales: Hervey Bay, Queensland

Hervey Bay is a resting place for mothers and calves on their migration south. Only one operator has permission from National Parks to offer a 'swim-with- humpbacks' experience. It's available for an additional $75 on whale watching trips and relies on a combination of curious humpbacks circling the boat and suitable sea conditions.

Even if you're unable to get into the water it's very difficult to be disappointed when you get within touching distance of huge humpbacks as they pass under the boat.

Quick Cat II whale watching tours run daily from Hervey Bay and Kingfisher Bay resort, between August and late October, from $110 for adults and $70 for children.

3. Swimming with Sea Lions: Baird Bay, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia

It's difficult to beat the sheer joy of swimming with the ocean's cutest combination of a puppy and a kitten. It’s hard not to giggle when you are in the water with a dark-eyed, whiskery snouted juvenile performing aquatic acrobatics. Moreover, it’s privilege to swim with these endangered species with a population of only fifteen thousand.

The tour often also includes a swim with bottlenose dolphins and plenty of time in the shallow, protected waters inside Jones Island playing with sea lions.

The tours cost around $150 for adults, $75 for children. 

[Read Our Previous Blog : Great Barrier Reef Drive]

4. Diving with Grey Nurse Sharks: Seal Rocks, New South Wales

While fierce-looking with a stack-full of gnarly, twisted teeth, the grey nurse sharks are harmless. They aggregate at a few locations along the eastern shores, including Seal Rocks, near Forster on the NSW mid-north coast. It's not uncommon to see around 50-60 grey nurse sharks in one underwater trench beside submerged boulders.  The tour in double boat dives at Seal Rocks will cost $120-$180. 

5. Swimming with Bottlenose Dolphins: Nelson Bay, NSW

With all other heart-boggling possibilities around the shores, one can easily underestimate the exhilaration of swimming with wild dolphins.  But we bet that you’ll always remember your first swim with bottlenose dolphins in Nelson Bay.

We'd call them the most amusing marine creature ... and they'll leave you astounded by their amazing friendly interaction. You're bound to feel part of their pod as they zip through the ocean, riding the waves and emitting loud, joyful squeaks and clicks underwater.

Tours run between September and May, in Port Stephens Marine Park, from $289.                                                                  

... to be continued

Jonathan Campbell

Aussie Trip Advisor, 12H Nob Hill, Roseland NJ 07068

Aussie Trip Advisor hand-craft Australian itineraries on a fee-for-service basis