The Ningaloo Reef is Western Australia’s largest, pristine and most accessible Coral Reef. It extends for approximately 260 kilometres from Point Murat on the tip of the North West Cape to Amherst Point, just south of Coral Bay making it one of the world’s largest fringing coral reefs.
Unlike the Great Barrier Reef and other reefs situated off the north coast of Australia, Ningaloo Reef is not separated from the coast, thus making its accessibility one of it's greatest attractions.
In some places, just a few kicks bring you to a reef with its 500 species of fish and 220 species of colourful corals along with an array of other enchanting marine life. Brightly coloured fish swim close to the beaches in the shallow waters of the protection lagoons, and there are no poisonous jelly fish! The deeper water communities harbour brightly coloured sponges and corals with soft algae living among them.
One of the main attractions for marine enthusiasts is the migration of giant whale sharks and humpbacks that frequent Ningaloo Reef. Divers and snorkelers can come and swim with the whale sharks through March to June, while June to October is humpback whale watching time. During the summer we are granted the opportunity to witness the variety of turtles, including the green and loggerhead turtles that come onto the beaches to lay their eggs. Throughout the year dugongs, dolphins and mantas are also often seen spotted.
Ningaloo Reef’s great diversity of tropical fish and coral offer a spectacle of colour and variety equal to any other major coral reef in the world. The emerald green lagoons are a snorkelers paradise and at Coral Bay the underwater gardens can be viewed through a glass-bottom boat.
The northern shoreline of the Ningaloo Marine Park borders on the Cape Range National Park. Go four-wheel-driving along the Shothole Canyon Road or Charles Knife Canyon to the spectacular gorges, carved by ancient rivers meet the crystal clear reef. In this area picturesque campsites, some with basic facilities such as toilets and picnic tables, are provided. A camping fee applies and is collected by the National Park Rangers. Follow wildlife and wildflowers, keeping an eye out for rare black footed wallabies on a walk to Yardie Creek where the mangrove areas shelter a variety of bird and marine species. Watch the sun rise as you follow the three kilometre walking train through Mandu Mandu Gorge for panoramic ocean views of Ningaloo Reef. When the kids wake up, explore more of the coastline on a four-wheel drive or quad bike.
South of the National Park the coastal land is covered by privately controlled pastoral leases. By arrangement with the pastoralists these have been designated as bush camping sites. A small camping fee may apply in these areas to help cover maintenance costs.
Bring a long your own boat for a family fun day at Ningaloo Reef! Launching ramps are available at the town beach in Exmouth, Bundegi and Tantabiddi Creek. Hand launching of small craft is possible at other places on the coast and moderately sized boats can be launched from the beach at Coral Bay.
Ningaloo Reef offers some superb opportunities for diving, snorkelling and photography. Plans for Ningaloo Marine Park include the development of ‘dive trails’' which will guide divers to some of the more fascinating parts of the reef. Several historic shipwrecks have been found in this area, and at least four others are known to exist. The Western Australian Maritime museum is responsible for these. Look, but don't touch! Fishing in the Ningaloo Reef Lagoon, and in waters outside the reef, is a major attraction to holiday-makers. Species caught include Sweetlip, Spangled Emperor, Trevally, Spanish Mackerel, Wahoo, Tuna, Marlin and Sailfish.