Ningaloo highlights

Every year from April to July whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, swim along the Ningaloo Reef - one of the world's largest fringing reefs, stretching for 260 kilometres off Western Australia's mid north coast. Ningaloo highlights
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Ningaloo Highlights

Every year from April to July whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, swim along the Ningaloo Reef - one of the world's largest fringing reefs, stretching for 260 kilometres off Western Australia's mid north coast.  

These graceful giants of the sea congregate in and around Ningaloo Marine Park giving visitors the chance to swim and snorkel with these massive but docile creatures. Daily tours operate out to the park from both Exmouth and Coral Bay. You'll also get the opportunity to spot some of the Ningaloo's other amazing marine life including humpback whales, manta rays, dugongs and spinner dolphins.

If you're thinking of making a trip to swim with the whale sharks, there are plenty of other amazing activities to keep you busy while you're in this amazing part of the world. 


Five things to do in Ningaloo:

Swimming with the Whale Sharks, Ningaloo, Exmouth, WA

1. Meet intriguing marine life

The amazing experiences with animals doesn't stop with the whale sharks. The Ningaloo reef offers a host of marine wildlife for you to interact with. Between June and November you can book a whale watching tour and see some of the 30,000 humpback whales that visit the Ningaloo Coast on their way to their breeding and birthing grounds off the Kimberley. Between July and October the whales gather in the Exmouth Gulf and many of the humpbacks are mothers with newborn calves which can be seen at close range.

In the summer months of January and February you can watch the green and loggerhead turtles hatch on guided, eco-interactive tours.  Watch as the hatchlings emerge and make their dash for the safety of the sea. For the more adventurous, take a sea kayak from Exmouth to spot migrating whales and visit remote sites teeming with dugongs and turtles. Or jump in the ocean and get up close and personal with the manta rays. The rays can grow up to 5.5 metres (18 feet) wide, making them amongst the largest creatures in the ocean. The Ningaloo is one of the few places manta rays can be reliably located year round. The manta ray tours let you swim with these very inquisitive and playful creatures. We recommend Coral Bay as a manta ray hot spot

Find out more about Australia's marine wildlife here

2. Slip on a snorkel and flippers

Snorkel through coral lagoons and gardens in calm, protected Coral Bay and meet graceful manta rays, dolphins and brightly coloured fish. Exmouth's snorkeling sites are all located in the Cape Range National Park, roughly 42 kilometres (26 miles) from Exmouth. There are a number of sites you can snorkel from. Lakeside is a great  spot for swimmers of average fitness and capability, Turquoise Bay is the perfect spot for beginners to practice their skills and Oyster Stacks is great for fish life and is best accessed on a high or incoming tide. In Coral Bay, you have Bill's Bay where the sheltered waters make for an ideal swimming and fantastic snorkeling, and Purdy Point which is 500m south of Bills Bay. Other recommended sites such as Oyster Bridge and The Lagoon require 4WD access. We recommend booking a snorkel tour for these areas. 

If you’re ready for deeper water  jump on a glass-bottom boat or book a scuba diving tour to discover the fantastic coral formations, whale sharks, manta rays, dolphins, humpback whales, nudibranchs, starfish and anemone. There are many excellent diving locations like Exmouth Navy Pier which is rated as one of the top ten shore dives in the world, Muiron Islands with its warm tropical waters and Lighthouse Bay at the northernmost tip of the Ningaloo Reef. 

Find out where else you can go diving in Australia here.

Coral Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Ningaloo Marine Park, WA

3. Stay in salty seaside towns

Exmouth is the main town so is the first port of call for many people. Exmouth is a two and a half hour flight or a 15 hour drive north of Perth. The beautiful coastal town is where the rugged gorges of Cape Range National Park meet the pristine white beaches of the Ningaloo Marine Park. You’ll find accommodation to suit all budgets, from self-contained apartments to backpackers and campsites. We recommend staying at Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef, a wilderness camp located within Cape Range National Park overlooking Ningaloo Marine Park. You'll stay in tents, furnished with king-size or twin beds, solar showers and spectacular views over the reef.

If you're wanting to explore a bit further, Coral Bay is a beautiful option. Situated at the southern gateway to the Ningaloo Marine Park, 155 kilometres (96 miles) from Exmouth, Coral Bay has something for everyone, whether you're looking for adventure or a safe environment to relax and unwind. Coral Bay has limited accommodation, so you'll need to book but there are options for all budgets: the Bayview Coral Bay Caravan Park, the Ningaloo Club Backpackers and the Ningaloo Reef Resort. You get to Coral Bay via airport transfer from Learmonth (Exmouth) Airport, or you can hire a car from the airport. 

4. Have adventures on land and sand

The adventures on Ningaloo aren't exclusive to the water. The Cape Range National Park, 40 kilometeres (24 miles) from Exmouth has some of the most incredible gorges and canyons in WA, as well as amazing wildflowers, wildlife and 50 kilometres (31 miles) of pristine beaches.  Join a four wheel drive safari tour of the Cape Range National Park, or drive Shothole Canyon Road or Charles Knife Canyon to Cape Range National Park yourself and camp where the gorges, carved by ancient rivers, meet Ningaloo’s coral reefs, clear blue seas and sandy beaches. (A special note: be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the rare black footed rock wallaby!)

To see the wildlife and wildflowers, there are numerous walking trails, like the three kilometre (1.8 mile) walking trail through Mandu Mandu Gorge which will give you panoramic ocean views, or the walk to Vlaming Head Lighthouse to watch the sun set over the sea or spot humpback whales during their annual migration from June to November.

Love walking? Learn about the Great Walks of Australia here

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse, Lighthouse Bay, Exmouth, WA

5. Go castaway

Want to get away from it all? Join a day tour to the tranquil Muiron Islands, classic desert islands with tropical waters teeming with marine life and complex coral reefs. You can dive or snorkel at Turtle Bay, a nesting sanctuary for turtles. You’ll find many other great dive sites just offshore, with colourful coral gardens in depths of 3 to 20 metres (9-65 feet). Laze on a deserted beach or cast your line in the shallow waters for a giant trevally. For the ultimate in solitude and romance, get permission to camp overnight.

There's also Turquoise Bay, located within the Cape Range National Park, 63 kilmotres (39 miles) from Exmouth. The unique combination of white sandy beaches with fantastic coral snorkeling only metres from the shoreline in calm, crystal clear water makes Turquoise Bay a must see escape. 

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