Sunday 6 June 2021

Up to 16 metres of plankton-eating fish

This was sad to see. It's always a shame to read about dead whales - and it's not an uncommon sight here, especially at the top of the South Island, where the sneaky Farewell Spit confuses them and they regularly end up stranded, often in large numbers. I don't remember it ever happening here to a whale shark, though, (they are not actually, of course, whales) and I'm especially sorry about that.

That's because, though I've often seen whales, especially humpbacks, out on spotting cruises, it's only whale sharks that I've knowingly shared the water with, at close quarters. It was back in 2011, when I went all the way across Australia (and it really is a VERY long way) to Exmouth, north of Perth. It was a brilliant day that began with watching the sun rise over the sea. Think about that - I'll wait.

Yes? No? Perth is the capital of Western Australia, right, so in that state you watch the sun set into the sea. Classically, at Cottesloe Beach, which I've done, and which Tim Minchin (who I'm going to see in concert here next week) mentioned in a song that Missy Higgins sings beautifully. 

But Exmouth is on the eastern side of the North West Cape, which sticks up like a rather rude finger from the mainland, so you can sit on the beach there and see the sun rise over the water. It's a novelty they're quite pleased about there. They also tell you all about their naval history, which includes a fair chunk of US Navy occupation, their VLF transmitters, their very high lighthouse and, er, that's about it really. 

Apart from, of course, Ningaloo Reef, which is why everybody comes - to swim with the whale sharks, to snorkel along the reef, to luxuriate in the 30+ degree Leeuwen Current. Which is all, honestly, very well worth going all that way for. Though, be warned - and it was news to me - it's entirely possible to feel seasick while floating in the water, riding the swell as you wait for the sharks to loom up through the water like the Cheshire cat, spots first. 

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