Welcome to Ningaloo Marine Park
You'll be hard-pressed to find words that do justice to the pristine, aquarium-like waters and pure sands of Ningaloo, Australia's largest fringing reef. The fact that it abuts the arid, rugged Cape Range National Park for much of its length simply adds to the appeal. Quite simply, this is bucket-list-worthy stuff.
World Heritage–listed Ningaloo Marine Park protects the full 300km length of Ningaloo Reef, from Bundegi on the eastern tip of the North West Cape to Red Bluff on Quobba Station far to the south. It's home to a staggering array of marine life – sharks, manta rays, humpback whales, turtles, dugongs, dolphins and more than 200 coral species and 500 fish species – and it's also easily accessible; in places it's only 100m offshore.
When to Go
Year-round marine awesomeness:December to March Turtles – three endangered species nest and hatch in the dunes. Best seen outside Exmouth.March & April Coral spawning – an amazing event occurring seven days after the full moon.Mid-March to mid-August Whale sharks – the biggest fish on the planet arrive for the coral spawning. Tours out of Exmouth and Coral Bay.May to November Manta rays – present year-round; their numbers increase dramatically over winter and spring. Snorkelling and diving tours that interact with manta rays (ie, swim above them) leave from Exmouth and Coral Bay in winter, and from Coral Bay in summer.June to November Humpback whales – breed in the warm tropics then head back south to feed in the Antarctic. Tours out of Exmouth and Coral Bay (whale watching, and also new interaction tours).September to February Reef sharks – large numbers of harmless black tip reef sharks can be found inhabiting the shallow lagoons. Skeleton Bay near Coral Bay is a well-known nursery.Aside from marine encounters, factors to consider: school holidays (avoid if you can, as you'll pay more, and have strong competition for accommodation) and weather. The region is dry and warm all year, but temperatures are high in summer (mid-30s to low 40s Celsius from November to March), and there is also moderate risk at this time of a tropical cyclone.Hint: bring polarised sunglasses, which make it easier to spot marine life in the water.