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Snorkeling, Culture & Natural Hisotry
While visitors flock to Australia's eastern Great Barrier Reef in droves, the equally impressive gems of Australia's western waters remain much less crowded. Limited to just 8 participants, this program ventures west to explore two very different and critical World Heritage Sites, Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef. Shark Bay's double peninsula and outlying islands offers over 1,500 km of critical coastline habitat for dozens of endemic and endangered species. It is also home to the unforgettable dolphins of Monkey Mia: we know of no place else in the world where wild dolphins come to shore to interact with people with such regularity. As the continent's largest fringing reef, Ningaloo supports 250 species of coral, 500 species of tropical fish, and seasonally hosts whale sharks, sea turtles, dugongs, whales and manta rays. The two sites together are unparalleled.
We utilize our own privately chartered plane to optimize our snorkel and exploration time, and to bypass the inconvenience of commercial air in a remote area. Natural wonders include shallow-water colonies of stromatolites, which have been in existence for 3.5 billion years—making them the planet's oldest known family of organisms still in existence. An afternoon cruise offers opportunities to view turtles, dolphins, and sharks feeding in the rich waters. We then fly to the northwestern corner of the continent to spend five full days exploring Ningaloo Reefs' glistening turquoise waters, snorkeling at one of the continent's few remaining healthy reef systems. To optimize our time in this coral reef wonderland, we spend five nights aboard comfortable live-aboard catamaran. We will have the opportunity to swim with whale sharks, look for dugongs, and help collect data on the reef's resident manta rays. We will hear about the ecology of these amazing animals from local researchers and conservation officials.
This expedition is designed for travelers in good health who are accustomed to the nature of expeditionary travel in remote locations. The whale shark portion of the program includes open-water snorkeling best suited to intermediate and advanced snorkelers; reef snorkeling is an alternate option that day. The balance of the trip can be enjoyed by swimmers of all experience levels. Accommodations are double-occupancy rooms in resort accommodations in Shark Bay, and at Ningaloo Reef, in comfortable cabins aboard our privately chartered catamaran. Our naturalist, along with several guest researchers, will enhance the experience through daily reviews and presentations.
Day 1 Arrive Perth. Those who arrive on the suggested flight will be met at the Perth International Airport and transfer to a comfortable hotel. The afternoon is free to relax and explore the area. Gather for a welcome dinner to meet your naturalist and fellow travelers.
Day 2 Perth/Monkey Mia/Shark Bay. Fly to Monkey Mia on our chartered plane this morning. Enjoy afternoon touring of the region, including a private meeting with local researchers to discuss their latest projects. Overnight at Monkey Mia Resort.
Day 3-4 Monkey Mia/Shark Bay. Walk from your resort to the beach each morning to observe the wild bottlenose dolphins that swim to shore each morning for human encounters. Monkey Mia is the only place in the world to interact with dolphins in the wild in such close proximity, without snorkeling in open waters. Activities include a visit to Hamelin Bay to view stromatolites, and a cruise on the bay to observe turtles, rays, sharks, and dolphins.
Day 15 Shark Bay/Ningaloo Reef. Private charter flight to Coral Bay. On arrival, board your private catamaran and begin sailing the waters of Ningaloo Reef. Dinner on board will include a special guest from the Australian Department of Environment and Conservation, an authority on whale sharks.
Day 6 Whale Sharks. Spend the morning and afternoon aboard a licensed day boat to observe and swim with the magnificent whale shark. Lunch will be served. Return to our private catamaran for dinner. Reef snorkeling is also an option for those who choose not to join the whale shark excursion.
Day 7-9 Ningaloo Reef. Snorkeling and data collecting for a long-term manta ray research program which tracks the reef’s resident manta rays. A manta ray researcher will join the group for briefing and activities. In addition to excellent reef snorkeling, other possible sightings include dugongs and humpback whales.
Day 10-11 Ningaloo Reef/Perth. Charter flight back to Perth, then transfer to hotel for time at leisure. Many flights depart Perth in the evening or around midnight on May 21 to connect to flights home.