The Ningaloo Reef is one of the world’s most pristine marine eco-systems for snorkelling, diving and seeing incredible aquatic wildlife. This beautiful peripheral reef is one of the most easily accessible in the world. To get there, head to Coral Bay or Exmouth, which is a two-and-a-half-hour flight from Perth, or make the most of the West Coast by travelling the West Coast from Perth with Hop On Hop Off Pass.
When you arrive in Coral Bay or Exmouth there are plenty of hostels that provide front door access to this underwater playground. At this UNESCO World Heritage Site, you’ll have the opportunity to see some impressive giants of the ocean and tick them off your bucket list!
The Ningaloo Reef is home to impressive wildlife as well as seasonal marine visitors as they make their way through the Indian Ocean. Here’s the big 5 to look out for whilst visiting the Ningaloo Reef.
Between June and October/November, enormous humpback whales make their annual migration back to Antarctica via the coasts of Australia. You may be able to spot them from the shores of Exmouth, but for a closer encounter, there are whale watching tours available from Coral Bay and Exmouth.
One of the main natural attractions of this area are the graceful manta rays, which can be found in the waters surrounding the Ningaloo Reef all year round. However, they are more concentrated in numbers, and more willing to engage with snorkelers and divers from mid-May to mid-September. It’s possible to book tours specifically designed to swim or dive with the manta rays, so don’t miss out on meeting these graceful and otherworldly giants of the deep during your visit to the Ningaloo Reef.
The whale shark is the world’s largest fish, and Ningaloo Reef is one of the only places in the world where they can be observed in coastal waters. They feed in this area from March to August/September and it’s an unbelievable experience to come face-to-face with these incredibly huge creatures. Think we’re exaggerating? Whale Sharks on average measure at around 32 feet, however the largest ever recorded was 40 feet long!
Ningaloo has a healthy population of dugongs, which can be found at any time of year. This strange looking creature is an herbivore and closely related to the manatee. They are classified as having an extremely vulnerable extinction risk and the Ningaloo Reef is one of the only places in the world to see them. Encountering a dugong is quite special, as they are extremely shy and elusive creatures.
This gorgeous and vulnerable turtle is an endangered species which is currently protected by the Wildlife Conservation Act. They can be found nesting in the Muiron Islands, near the Ningaloo Marine Park, from October to early March. Hatchlings appear from December to April. It’s best to contact the Ningaloo Turtle Program to ensure viewing them responsibly.
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images by Tourism Western Australia & Mike Gonzalez