Discovering the Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia

Thinking of the West Coast in Australia, the first things that come to mind is white sandy surf beaches and the golden outback colours. Too often the Ningaloo Reef is overlooked by travellers who tend to associate the Coral reef of Australia mostly to the Great Barrier Reef.

The Ningaloo Reef is indeed a unique region of Western Australia with the largest fringing coral worth visiting if you love snorkelling and marine life. Especially if you want to live the unique experience of swimming with Whale Sharks this is the only place you can do it.

Moreover seeing the corals is easier than what you may think: you can swim above colourful reef corals just a few metres from the shore. Here is how to explore the highlights of the Ningaloo Region.

Where is the Ningaloo Reef and how to get there

The Ningaloo Reef is located between Carnarvon and Exmouth in the northern part of Western Australia. It extends for over 300km with a large Marine Park. Ideally, the best way to reach the Ningaloo Reef is to fly from Perth or any other city to Exmouth or Carnavaron and then hire a car to visit the area. Alternatively, if you have time you can take a longer road trip and drive up to Exmouth, this road trip from Perth will take approx 14hours.

To make the most of this area you need at least 3-4 days, a week would be ideal if you want to relax and take your time at the beach and visit the Cape Range National Park too. There is no public transportation service on this area, so if you do not want to drive yourself the only other option available is to go on a day tour or take a package tour that will show you around the major attractions of the Ningaloo Reef area.

Snorkelling at Coral Bay

If you are visiting this area by car your first stop on the Ningaloo Reef will be Coral Bay. This is a lovely small place offering different types of accommodation and daily boat tours to the reef. The great benefit of this coral reef is that you do not necessarily need to go out on the boat to see the marine coral life, you can swim surrounded by colourful fishes and see beautiful corals just a few metres off the shore. Often Dolphins are seen close to the shore in Paradise Beach and if you are lucky you may spot giant rays and turtles too, depending on the season of the year.

Paradise beach on Coral Bay
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Paradise Beach, Coral Bay by RockyTravel

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Exmouth

If you are keen to make a “once in a lifetime” experience and go swimming with whale sharks the best time to visit is between March-June. A swim with the Whale Shark is by far the biggest highlight of the Ningaloo Reef everyone raves about. There are several good spots where you can sight and live the thrilling experience of swimming with one of these magnificent marine creatures: the Whale Shark is the largest and most docile fish in the world. The best sites for sighting whale sharks is the Exmouth region and the northwest part of the Cape Range National park. In Exmouth, there are also Swim with the Sharks Tours that take you to the spot and drop you close to the giant fish for a swim.

Swimming with Whale Sharks on Ningaloo Reef
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Photo Credit via Flickr by Andy_Tyler’s

Best Beaches of Ningaloo Reef

Around Exmouth, there are at least a dozen of beautiful beaches, from Town Beach and Tantabiddi Beach where most bout tours leave. Expert surfers can ride the waves at Surfers Beach 15km north of Exmouth. Be sure not to miss out on the most pristine beach and one of the best beaches of Western Australia which is Turquoise Beach. This is the queen among the Coral Reef Beaches in WA. The light reflection is amazing, I would avoid swimming during the hottest hours of the day,  the sunlight is very strong and you can easily get a sunstroke, and indeed it happened to me during my visit.

Turquoise Beach, WA
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Turquoise Beach Photos by RockyTravel

Turquoise Beach WA
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More Ningaloo Reef Attractions

The area around Exmouth is really worth seeing because it offers varied activities. You can not only choose between walking snorkelling and diving on beautiful Exmouth Beaches. You can also drive up the hill on a scenic drive and enjoy a gorgeous view of the Ningaloo Reef and the Indian Ocean from the Vlamingh Lighthouse.

If you love hiking you can visit the Charles Knife Canyon in the Cape Range National Park which lies very close to Exmouth too. So the Ningaloo Reef is not only about corals and fishes, it is nestled in an untouched and unique wilderness area really worth adding to your Western Australia Itinerary.

This is a brief introduction about the Ningaloo Reef region of Western Australia.