Ningaloo Reef

We had spent the night in the small coastal town of Coral Bay. We had traveled over 1200km but were not even 1/2 the way to Broome. But the long distance driving would have to wait for a few days now – Coral Bay and nearby Exmouth were our destinations for the next 3 nights.

The highlight of the area is Ningaloo Reef, a huge coral reef (~300km long) that is right next to the shore, making it unique in the world as the only large reef so close to shore. In spots, Ningaloo is a mere 100 meters from the beach. It’s very accessible and because it’s in a remote, relatively uninhabited part of the world, the reef teems with life and remains relatively untouched. It’s just recently been named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Enough superlatives though, onto the day. Upon our guide’s suggestion several of us joined a speed-boat tour that included whale watching and two snorkels. Not to mention going very very fast. It was a fun (and bouncy) ride, as the boat was an inflatable.

The water was as gorgeous as ever looking as we bounded out to deeper waters. Eventually we saw a whale, a Humpback.

I must say that whale watching always seems to be a disappointing venture. You only get to see such small bits of the massive mammals. It’s neat, but underwhelming to say the least. If you go to Coral Bay/Exmouth during the right time of year, you can actually swim with Whale Sharks, which I think would be far more interesting. The Whale Sharks had moved on by the time I was there though.

But I was looking forward more to the snorkeling anyways. Crystal clear water and a shallow reef? Excellent!

Not surprisingly, there were fish everywhere down here of a variety of colours.

I was surprised at least that most of the coral was a bland olive green / brown colour. I had visions of multi-coloured coral everywhere. But there was some vibrant blue coral to be found.

In places it felt as if the coral became small forests.

As I came to the forest part picture above we were recalled to the boat and made our way to our second snorkel. This was a shallower area that promised to be something special.

The fish here were even more plentiful and colourful, but it didn’t take too long to find the special area.

Sea turtles! We had seen one briefly at the previous spot (and I had seen a reef shark at a distance, but not close enough to get a picture), but here, we got some close ups.

Indeed, as long as you swam slowly and peacefully the turtles would come mighty close. And in this area, there were a remarkable amount of turtles. We counted probably 10-15.

I was watching another turtle when I looked down, and this one swam right beneath me, barely a meter below. Really cool!

Our tour finished and our snorkeling wishes more than satisfied, we had lunch and had some time to relax in Coral Bay. Our drive to Exmouth was a short one and we didn’t leave until the evening. A few of us took the opportunity to return to the beach, this time in search of Reef Sharks. A short walk along the beach got us here – a known Reef Shark nursery.

Unfortunately there were no sharks in attendance, but it was a nice spot anyways. I did find a few small Rays in the water. We headed to Exmouth that evening, with more swimming planned for the following day.

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