Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef off Australia's west coast, 1200 kilometres north of Perth. It is 280 kilometres long and is the largest of its kind in the world. It is also the only large reef positioned so close to landmass, varying between just seven and 10 metres from shore. It's one of the rare places on earth where you are able to walk from a beach straight onto a coral reef.
In 1987 the reef and surrounding waters, which are home to more than 500 species of tropical fish and 220 species of coral, were designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park.
Whale sharks, the world's largest fish, visit the Exmouth and Ningaloo area from April to June. Humpback whales migrate through the area twice annually. While their visits are limited by time, you can snorkel with manta rays year round. Between July and November it's their season and you will see large groups of them, but outside of those months there will still be some around.
Ningaloo Reef Dreaming is all about diving, snorkelling and cruising. One of their special treats is a full day manta ray snorkelling tour. A 35-minute boat ride takes you to the Murion Islands, 15km off the North West Cape where the waters are perfect for snorkelling. On the way you may see dugongs, dolphins, humpback whales and turtles.
There are three sites and waters are three to 20 metres deep, with gardens of hard and soft corals and amusing potato cod. If rays aren't seen in the morning, a spotter plane is sent to locate them. Manta rays can be up to four metres wide, and black manta rays can be as large as six metres. They don't have a barb, so are quite safe.
Reef Dreaming can take you through a scuba diving course at the Exmouth Navy Pier at Exmouth, one of the top 10 dives in the world. The 300-metre-long pier is famous for the quantity of marine life. The pier was part of the submarine communications base established by the American Navy in 1967. It was handed over to the Australian Navy in 1992.
In 2007, the Navy gave Ningaloo Reef Dreaming the contract to operate tours and groups pass through three security checkpoints to access it. Divers see wonderful corals, schools of barracuda, trevally, spangled emperor, sweet lips and some decent-sized grey nurse sharks.
The Ningaloo Marine Park off the north-west coast of Western Australia.
Ningaloo Reef Dreaming half-day Manta Ray Snorkel Tours are $150 for adults and $125 for children. All equipment and snacks are included. The best time is between July and October.
Exmouth Navy Pier Dive costs $120 for a four-and-a-half-hour single dive and $180 for a six-and-a-half-hour double dive. They operate year round.
For further information
Ningaloo Reef Dreaming
1 Maidstone Crescent
Ph: (08) 9949 4777 or 1800 944 210
Fax: (08) 9949 4666
Exmouth Visitor Centre
Ph: 1800 287 328 or (08) 9949 1176
Fax: (08) 9949 1441
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