There's an enormous new drawcard set to lure tourists to Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia -- a 30,000kg attraction to be quite precise.
Visitors will be able to swim with humpback whales from June 2016 as part of an ecotourism trial by the State Government, making it the fourth Australian location along with Mooloolaba, Hervey Bay and the Whitsundays.
State Environment Minister Albert Jacob said he saw potential for the trial to start at Ningaloo Reef and then be adopted at other Western Australian locations.
"I am keen to see if this has the potential to grow in the way that swimming with whale sharks has developed as a major attraction on the Coral Coast," Mr Jacob said in a statement.
"The results of the trial will determine how tours can become a permanent feature of Ningaloo and other areas of the state."
Whale migration numbers in Australia have been steadily increasing since commercial whaling was outlawed in the 70s.
"It is now the largest population in the world, with an estimated 30,000 whales migrating along the coast each year -- a true conservation success story," Jacob said.
There will be 11 licensed whale swimming operators at Exmouth and Coral Bay with strict rules limiting the number of swimmers to groups of 10 and no one will be able to swim with mums and calves.
Hervey Bay conservation scientist Wally Franklin told The Guardian people might get in the water to swim with whales but there were no guarantees other large animals wouldn't be lurking in the water.
“Sharks do follow humpback whales,” Franklin told The Guardian.
The reef is already famous for the gentle, toothless whale shark -- with more than 20,000 people arriving to swim with them each year, and Ningaloo Blue Diver owner Peter McKissock told The Australian that made for busy waterways.
“I would like to see it to happen but I want it to be with the industry that’s here now," Mr McKissock told The Australian.
"It’s a very narrow strip of water and if we add more boats you can have all sorts of problems.”Suggest a correction