Take a short flight from Perth to swim with whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef // © 2015 Tourism Western Australia
Feature image (above): An air safari is an ideal way to explore the state’s remote areas. // © 2015 Tourism Western Australia
Nearly four times the size of Texas and containing a population of less than 3 million, the state of Western Australia (WA) offers room to roam. A bit farther from the U.S. than the rest of Australia, WA sees a smaller number of American visitors, who are usually most familiar with Perth, the region’s capital.
This is a missed opportunity for adventure seekers, who can take advantage of WA’s regional diversity by visiting one of its pink lakes, trekking on a camel during an epic sunset or sunbathing alongside kangaroos.
Swimming With Whale Sharks
Down Under Answers sends about 400 people per year to WA, a small but growing number based on “the great opportunities and very high satisfaction of the clientele who visit there.” Owner and president Kirk Demeter is proof: He has explored WA eight times, and even discovered his all-time favorite adventure at Ningaloo Reef, the world’s largest fringing reef.
“Swimming with the whale sharks in Ningaloo Reef is not only my favorite adventure activity in WA, but my favorite adventure I’ve ever done,” Demeter said. “To have these huge, docile fish — which can be up to 40 feet long — swim right up to you is thrilling. It’s like being on your own National Geographic show.”
The best time to swim with the whale sharks is April through July. The reef is accessible via Exmouth.
For the 20 years she’s been working as a travel agent, Kerrie Strumolo, owner and operator of K.S. Travel & Tours, has been selling WA. An Aussie herself, the Australia and South Pacific specialist is planning a seven-week itinerary along the region’s 8,000-mile coastline.
Though she likes to take advantage of WA’s size when planning trips, her favorite spot is a small, family-friendly island that’s just a ferry ride away from Perth.
“Not only is Rottnest Island famous for its 10,000 quokkas, a unique marsupial, it’s also a haven for divers and snorkelers,” she said. “No other Australian capital city offers premier dive sites in such close proximity. Rottnest offers a plethora of fish life, crevices and caves, corals and wreck dives.”
At about 7 miles long by 3 miles wide, Rottnest Island makes for a great bike ride of about 2.5 hours.
Sandra Nerlich, regional director North America for Tourism Western Australia, admits that choosing just one adventure activity in WA is not easy for her. So, it’s no surprise that her answer is a crafty one that weaves many experiences together: an air safari of the Kimberley Aerial Highway in the remote outback of WA.
“It’s essentially a series of unseen pathways in the sky with a number of red earth landing strips,” she said. “On the air safari, you become part of this special unspoken team with the pilot. You become the co-navigators, the wildlife spotters, the bush fire alarmers — not to mention the inquisitive party that keeps the pilot on top of their game with questions. You begin to relate to those early explorers who came before you.”
Isolated Kimberley in the northwest of WA is considered by some to be Australia’s last frontier. It features rock-formation landscapes five times older than the Egyptian pyramids, the world’s only two horizontal waterfalls, the second-fastest tides in the world, the oldest pearling farm in Australia, reef systems teeming with incredible marine life, significant Aboriginal petroglyphs, Aussie wildlife and more.