Off the North West Cape of WA is Australia’s other magical reef, Ningaloo. Far from being out to sea and accessible only by boat, Ningaloo is special because you can walk literally from the beach to the reef, with water only coming up to your knees in the brilliant white sanded lagoon. More than 500 species of fish are found here, along with 220 species of coral.
“What more eerie and special treat can there be than swimming alongside these gentle giants? For intimate wildlife encounters, this is about as good as it gets.”
– Greg Barton
From mid-March to mid-May every year, Ningaloo offers a genuine experience of a lifetime: diving with whale sharks – the world’s largest species of fish, reaching more than 12m in length, and chiming in at more than 11 tonnes. Scuba gear is not required, since the whale sharks often swim close to the surface. Fortunately, despite their size, they’re plankton feeders, so you’re likely to return to shore in one piece.
Ningaloo also offers access (best places are Coral Bay and Exmouth) to witness the mass coral spawning, a three-day event that begins a week or so after full moon during March and April, when mllions of bright pink egg and sperm bundles are released simultaneously.
Did you know?
Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringe reef, and runs 260km along the length of the North West Cape. It’s the only fringe reef in the world found so close to a continental landmass, about 100m offshore at its nearest point, and 7km at its furthest.
It’s possible to snorkel with whale sharks off Ningaloo between late March and the end of June. They average 12 metres (40 feet) in length, but can be up to 18 metres long, and cruise at shallow depths, filter-feeding on plankton.
How to get there
The reef is best accessed at Coral Bay or Exmouth on the north-west tip of Western Australia, north of Perth.
Best time to go
April to June: good weather, and the opportunity to swim with whale sharks.
General website for visiting WA, but also has an excellent section on the reef and Coral Bay.
Accomodation directory for WA.
The WA Department of Conservation and Land Management has an excellent website on the nature of western Australia.
** This is our original 100 Things to Do Before You Die. First published in 1996. There is an updated 100 Things To Do In Australia Before you die, published in 2011.