Island birds & whale sharks

OR

Humpback whales & Ningaloo Reef

– WA wildlife and conservation tours –

Eight days helping wild animals in Exmouth.

Come join us and be involved in meaningful conservation work in a subtropical wilderness.

AT A GLANCE

Dates17–24 September 2021 (Humpback whales)
26 March–2 April 2022 (Whale sharks) – LAST SPOTS AVAILABLE HURRY AND BOOK NOW
8–15 June 2022 (Whale sharks) – NEW DATE ADDED !
17–24 September 2022 (Humpback whales)
Activity LevelEasy
Duration8 days, 7 nights
PricesFrom $4725 twin share, single supplement available
Group SizeMinimum 4, maximum 10 guests

WHAT TO EXPECT

On this tour you’ll help with wildlife surveys on rarely visited islands at Ningaloo Reef, swim with whale sharks (March) or humpback whales (September), count endangered rock-wallabies, cruise Exmouth Gulf searching for dugongs and dolphins. Ningaloo Reef and the associated Cape Range National Park are part of the 604,500ha Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area. It contains some of the oldest examples of life on earth and is home to big migrations of whale sharks, humpbacks, manta rays and many other marine species. Three different species of turtles use the area, some for egg laying on the pristine beaches. The Indian Ocean, which flanks the region, is bright aqua green – a stark contrast to the rich reds and ochres of the land. 

Experience Cape Range National Park, home to an abundance of wildlife including the rare black-footed wock-wallaby, dingoes, western bowerbirds and many species of birds of prey. The flora of the region is stunted by aridity but contains an extraordinary variety of unusual plants often hidden deep in the escarpments and gorges of the range. 

The beauty of the region is in its solitude and its stunningly beautiful places – hidden in the gorges of the range and in the coral reefs of the Indian Ocean. During this unhurried, eight-day journey you’ll become immersed in this region – both in the sea and on the land. You’ll help with citizen-science research and enjoy visiting places that most people rarely have the opportunity to see.

ITINERARY

Day 1 – Arrival in Exmouth and tour briefing

Make your own way to Exmouth. Airport pickup is included in your tour price. Guide will provide a trip briefing in the evening.

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)

Days 2 & 3 – Muiron Islands – World Heritage Area

Breakfast at hotel.
This relatively unexplored group of atolls sit in the Indian Ocean at the entrance to Exmouth Gulf and are surrounded by coral reefs rich with sea life and birds. Over the next two days we’ll board our private vessel and motor out into the World Heritage Area to explore the reefs, beaches and hinterland of these remote islands, recording all that we see. If you wish to snorkel or swim, we’ll have the equipment and the expertise to assist you to do that. En route we may see our first dolphins and around the islands we may see turtles, rays, sea snakes and myriad colourful fish. Depending on the weather and tides we’ll circumnavigate the islands, then land and take a walk along the beaches and into the interior. Very little scientific research has been carried out on the Muirons so our citizen science recording will be very important.

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 4 : Swim with (or watch) whale sharks – March only

Breakfast at the hotel.
On this very special day we will travel by boat (shared boat experience), to the peaceful waters of Ningaloo Reef to search for feeding whale sharks. Ningaloo is unlike any other location where you can swim with whale sharks. With its warm, calm waters and abundance of food, Ningaloo Reef  attracts hundreds of whale sharks in March and April each year. Its habits are reliable in this region so there’s a very good chance you’ll see them.  For those of you who wish to swim with them you’ll be fully equipped with snorkel gear and receive a pre whale-shark snorkel and instruction from local divemasters before you reach these beautiful creatures. You’ll also learn about whale shark feeding patterns, sex, behaviour, how to photograph them, and how to approach and swim with them before you jump in. Whale sharks are generally unperturbed by swimmers, and are calm, slow-moving and naturally curious fish, which makes your encounter with them unforgettable. If you prefer not to swim you can view the whale sharks from above the water, while still enjoying snorkelling opportunities offered away from the whale sharks; this day also includes the opportunity to snorkel over Ningaloo Reef where we may see turtles, sea snakes, rays, dolphins, sharks (safe ones) and thousands of fish sheltering around coral bommies. Morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and refreshments are included on this eight-hour trip.

Spotter planes are used to locate the whale sharks and the pilots talk directly to the in-water guide to ensure a great interaction on this exceptional day. As there is a spotter plane there is also a slim chance of seeing a late-travelling humpback whale. Once again all sightings are recorded as part of our tour research program.

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 4 : Swim with (or watch) humpback whales – September only

Breakfast at the hotel.
On this very special day we will travel by boat through Ningaloo Reef into the ocean to search for migrating humpback whales. This is one of the very few places where you can swim with these whales – 40,000 whales pass by or rest in the Exmouth/Ningaloo region annually so there’s a very good chance you’ll see them. For those who wish to swim with these whales, you’ll be fully equipped with snorkel gear and trained by local divemasters before the swim. Only seven swimmers at a time are allowed into the water and are accompanied by their guide who oversees any interactions with the whales. Strict proximity restrictions apply so that swimmers (and the boat) remain well clear of any whales encountered on the trip. Swimmers often hear the whales singing and sometimes curious whales approach swimmers and/or the boat. If you prefer not to swim you will see the whales from above the water.

This day also includes the opportunity to snorkel over Ningaloo Reef where we may see turtles, sea snakes, rays, dolphins, sharks (safe ones) and thousands of fish sheltering around coral bommies. Lunch is included on this seven-hour trip. Spotter planes are used to locate the whales and the pilots talk directly to the in-water guide to ensure a great interaction on this exceptional day. As there is a spotter plane there is also a slim chance of seeing a late departing whale shark. Once again, all sightings are recorded as part of our tour research program.

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 5 : Explore Cape Range National Park – west

Breakfast at the hotel.
Many people who visit Exmouth and Ningaloo miss out on visiting this incredible national park with its extraordinary diversity of arid-land flora and fauna, limestone gorges and magnificent white-sand beaches. The entire park is embedded in the World Heritage Area and consists primarily of limestone with an underlying layer of fresh water, which provides hydration to many plants and animals in this arid region. Today we’ll explore on foot and by vehicle. We’ll visit a secret gorge with our local guide to monitor and record sightings of the rare black-footed rock-wallaby as it moves about, with incredible agility, among the red rock faces of the gorge. Western bowerbirds inhabit the gorges and we also often see lizards and occasional geckoes. In the early morning, dingoes may be seen finishing hunting expeditions and, as the day warms, spotted harriers course low over the saltbush looking for prey along with other birds of prey, including osprey, wedge-tailed eagles and various species of falcon. Bustards are reasonably common in the park. On the coast we’ll visit a mangrove bird hide to search for waterbirds and waders and also take a walk along white-sand beaches beside coral lagoons searching for sea- and land-based wildlife. At Yardie Creek Gorge we walk inland into the range high over the water of the gorge. In the past we have been very lucky and spotted shy spinifex pigeons on this magnificent walk.  

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 6 : Exmouth Gulf wildlife cruise

Breakfast at the hotel.
Protected from the Indian Ocean by North West Cape and covering more than 2700sq.km of ocean, Exmouth Gulf is one of the most prominent features on the Western Australia coastline. Its shallow waters protect seagrass meadows that are home and food to dugongs and a major resting place for female humpback whales and their calves on their southward journey to Antarctica in spring. Although dugongs are resident (and surprisingly numerous), they are not obvious to spot but if we are diligent we may see them. A wide array of sea life uses these waters, including manta rays and other smaller rays, sea snakes and turtles. Fish species number well over 200 and may be seen. Today we’ll cruise around the Gulf focusing especially on places where dugongs may be found, stopping regularly to take time to search the water for turtles and sea snakes. 

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 7 : Cape Range National Park – east

Breakfast at the hotel.
The eastern side of Cape Range is very different from the west side. Shallow gorges give way to long, deeply incised canyons. Some of the highest points in the park look out over Exmouth Gulf, giving this location a juxtaposition of colour and topography found in very few places on earth. On a number of walks and drives today we’ll document the fauna and flora of this region. We’ll carefully photograph and list the species we find and try to identify them as we go. We’ll keep an eye out for kangaroos, goannas, bustards and numerous species of birds, including honeyeaters, finches, galahs, corellas, and fairy-wrens that we may find around some of the waterholes deep in the canyons. This day is primarily about awesome landscapes and the thrill of ridgetop and canyon walks mixed with wildlife spotting.

Accommodation: Potshot Hotel Resort (Standard category) OR Mantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort (Superior category)
Breakfast and lunch provided.

Day 8 : Exmouth – End of the tour 

This morning enjoy a relaxing breakfast before checking out of your accommodation and taking our transfer vehicle to the airport. 

Why not add a special optional extra (at client’s own expense): Chartered light aircraft flights of various durations are available from Learmonth airport. These flights give you the opportunity to see the entire region from the air and can be arranged for the morning before you fly out in the afternoon (on your scheduled flight). You’ll be able to see all the places you’ve been on your tour and may even see whale sharks (March) or humpback whales (September) and other sea life from the air – an extraordinary opportunity at a reasonable price.

Breakfast provided.

CONSERVATION COMPONENT ON THIS TOUR

These tours include opportunities to help with the conservation of wildlife and to ensure the natural environment that supports wildlife remains healthy.

We also work tirelessly to improve human understanding of the impacts of climate change and other human-induced changes to our environment.  Leading by example we aim to ensure that wildlife continues to thrive in Australia and elsewhere in the world. Citizen science is playing a significant role in helping scientists and others to understand the major changes that are occurring in the world and bringing about changes that help wildlife.

The tour offers significant opportunities to experience and document wildlife in a near-pristine environment doing the following:

  • Wildlife surveys on Muiron Islands: Depending on weather and tide we plan to circumnavigate then alight on Muiron Islands over two days, taking notes of all wildlife and birds seen. Only two eBird surveys are currently available for this island group, though some scientific surveys have been conducted and have shown a staggering diversity of wildlife. 
  • Black-footed rock-wallaby counts: These endangered wallabies live in several hidden gorges in the Exmouth area. We’ll visit one and take notes of population size, for submission to wildlife authorities.
  • Bird & wildlife surveys in Exmouth Gulf and the western side of the Cape Range: Very few surveys have been conducted in this remote area.

Wildlife highlights may include:      

Whale sharks (March)           
Humpback whales (September)                
80+ bird species                                  
Manta rays and smaller rays                
Dugong                                                          
3 species of turtle
2+ species of dolphins
Many reef fish including sharks
Black-footed rock-wallaby
Dingoes

Featured sub-regions:      

Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area          
Cape Range National Park        
Exmouth Gulf                
Muiron Islands                

PRICESPotshot Hotel Resort – StandardMantarays Ningaloo Beach Resort – Superior
2021$4725 per person twin share, $1450 single supplementSuperior hotel option not available
2022$4965 per person twin share, $1525 single supplement$5650 per person twin share, $1725 single supplement

WHAT’S INCLUDED:

  • Seven nights accommodation as per itinerary
  • Experienced wildlife guide(s) throughout days 1–8
  • Sightseeing as per itinerary by private, air-conditioned charter vehicle (Toyota Hiace Commuter)
  • Private boat charter on days 2 & 3 to Murion Islands
  • Public boat cruise to swim with (or watch) whale sharks (March) or humpback whales (September) on day 4
  • Admission fees as per itinerary
  • Meals included: daily breakfast, 6 x lunches
  • Goods and Services Tax

COSTS DO NOT INCLUDE:

  • Domestic or international airfares
  • Pre-registration, late check-out or day use at hotels other than specified above
  • Guide services other than specified
  • Meals/beverages other than specified
  • Tips & gratuities
  • Optional tours/services

Extra information:

  • Many activities on this trip will be at sea. Due to the constantly variable weather and water conditions we may need to swap some days with others – you will be notified of any changes in advance.
  • All on-water activities will use large boats, stable craft especially designed for swimming and diving and have toilets on board. All swim activities are supported with full equipment training and test swims in shallow water so that you can learn how to snorkel before you get out into the deeper water (with whale sharks or humpback whales, for example). In deeper water you will always be accompanied by a professional diver and you will have floatation devices as required. All equipment for swimming is provided ie. wetsuits, face masks, fins, snorkelling equipment (you must bring your own swimmers of course!)
  • To swim you should be reasonably fit and active and preferably have used a snorkel and face mask before – this particularly applies to the swim with whale sharks or humpack whales. If you choose not to swim you can stay on board the boat and have a great time however there will be occasions when you need to walk through shallow water to land or when you can simply swim as you would at any beach.
  • We suggest that you always bring some form of seasickness prophylactic as some boat journeys will last up to seven hours, sometimes on rolling seas. Sunscreen is a must.

COVID-19

  • Accommodation and meals:  Strict hygiene conditions apply to the way accommodation is prepared for your stay and in the serving of meals.
  • Vehicles, hygiene & social distancing: all activities will involve careful adherence to cleanliness. Hand sanitiser will be available in many locations and in all land-based vehicles and water-based vessels. Social distancing will always be an issue on board vehicles and vessels; it would be sensible for you to bring your own face masks and hand sanitiser. We may not fill all seats in a vehicle to allow for social distancing.
  • The WA government approved COVID-19 Safety Plan is in place and all suppliers are Covid Clean accredited.

CONTACT US

Want to know more or register your interest?

Send us an email to travel@australiangeographic.com or call 0413 560 210.

We look forward to hearing from you!

BOOKING FORM

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