Desert school students enjoy “once-in-a-lifetime” whale shark swim

Alicia PereraPilbara News
Burringurrah Remote Community School student Tahlia Jones, 11, goes snorkelling during a school trip to Exmouth to swim with whale sharks.
Camera IconBurringurrah Remote Community School student Tahlia Jones, 11, goes snorkelling during a school trip to Exmouth to swim with whale sharks. Credit: Sirio Lauricella/ TheOceanLust

Whale sharks are part of everyday life in Exmouth, but for children from Burringurrah Remote Community School, they are a rare sight.

In an inaugural trial for a new whale shark swim program planned for the Coral Coast schools network, five students from the remote desert school, about 480km east of Carnarvon, visited Ningaloo last week for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim with the gentle giants.

Exmouth District High School principal Ray Denholm, who came up with the program idea, said the six schools which were part of the network jointly sponsored a whale shark and all their students should be able to have firsthand experience of what they were studying by visiting Ningaloo.

“I’m principal of a school in such a beautiful, pristine environment, and we’re doing some fantastic work with the CSIRO and ... I thought ‘why not share the experience?’,” he said.

The selected Burringurrah students, from Year 5-10, spent the previous month practising swimming with masks and snorkels in their local pool to ensure they were ocean-ready.

While in Exmouth, they also snorkelled on Ningaloo reef, went surfing, visited the Ningaloo Centre and the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse lookout, went on a walking tour of the town, and spent time at Exmouth District High School.

Burringurrah Remote Community School students and teachers out on the water during their school trip to Exmouth to swim with whale sharks.
Camera IconBurringurrah Remote Community School students and teachers out on the water during their school trip to Exmouth to swim with whale sharks. Credit: Sirio Lauricella/ TheOceanLust

Burringurrah Remote Community School principal Iain Browning, who is also the network principal for the Coral Coast schools network, said the students had really enjoyed the experience.

“They got to swim with dugongs and whale sharks and all sorts of animals,” he said.

“The experience we are trying to give these kids is once-in-a-lifetime stuff.”

Both principals said they hoped to expand the whale shark swim program to all six of the Coral Coast network schools next year.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails