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Whale sharks arrive to boost Ningaloo tourism

An early arrival of whale sharks to Exmouth looks set to boost the area's tourism for this year.

They were first spotted in late January, which is considerably earlier than their previous habits would dictate, reports ABC online.

Whale sharks are famous for travelling to the Ningaloo Reef from autumn to spring, but their arrival is usually targeted for mid-March, making their sightings this year nearly two months ahead of schedule.

The movements of these animals are triggered by the annual coral spawning, which again, takes place around the middle of March when the moon has fully waxed.

In response to their early sighting, the first tour for visitors to swim with the whale sharks took place on February 17th. Those who attended the event took to the water to greet an eight-metre-long whale shark.

Communications coordinator for the Exmouth Visitor Centre Ben Knaggs said that this marks the second year in a row that the whale sharks have shown up earlier than they were expected.

Whatever the reason for their early appearances, these animals are always a popular attraction and as their season moved up by a week, local tourism is sure to see the benefits from extra visitors to the area.

In general, this area of Australia is particularly popular because it's one of the few places in the world that visitors can come to see these sharks in large groups.

Speaking on the experience of swimming with them, Mr Knaggs commented: "You can't explain the thrill until you go and do it yourself - there's always wide eyes on the boat when you go and do it."

He added that this is a safe activity for anyone to enjoy because "the whale sharks are pretty placid, they just cruise along and do their own thing".

Further adding to the tourism of the area, humpback whales are expected to arrive in June and July, and this year marks the first that visitors will be able to swim alongside them.

Due to the positive feedback from tourists, it's expected for the response to the humpback whales to be effusive and that they will draw much attention.

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