Roughly once every 18 months, the moon passes between the Earth and sun with such precise alignment that it casts a thin shadow – a sort of celestial snail trail – across a slither of the Earth’s surface. It’s called the “path of totality”, and anyone positioned on it will witness the holy grail of astronomical events, a total solar eclipse.

And each time this happens, a dedicated tribe of astro-tourists known as eclipse-chasers will travel from all corners of the world to be there. On April 8, 20,000 of them converged on Exmouth, Western Australia – a town with a population of less than 3000 – to spend one minute and two seconds standing in the shadow of the moon.

The eclipse threw the Ningaloo Coast suddenly into the spotlight (or more accurately into shadow) and the region embraced the opportunity to showcase itself on the world stage. Guests aboard a special tour by Ningaloo Whaleshark Swim could tick off two bucket-list items on the same day.

Tour manager Jasmin O’Brien says watching the eclipse from Turquoise Bay after swimming with whale sharks was something no one on the boat will ever forget. “Seeing the landscape and seascape fall into darkness, then being dazzled by stars above the boat in the middle of the day, ­surrounded by the big blue of Ningaloo Reef … it’s something you can’t comprehend until you see it.”

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