There can’t be many places in the world where you surface from a dive and have to wait before snorkelling back to the dive boat because a humpback whale is blocking the way, just loitering and blowing! But that is what happened to me on the Muiron Islands at the north end of the Ningaloo Reef. We had heard lots of whale-song on several dives – the whistling and singing that humpback whales make as they migrate past – but we had been diving on the reef itself and you don’t expect to whales get that close, do you? Well, on the Ningaloo Reef it seems to happen quite often.
The ‘big three’ very charismatic species of whale sharks, whales and mantas were great to see but they don’t really cover the half of it. Turtles, sharks of many kinds were common, and while having lunch between dives on the dive boat between the reef and the shore one day we saw a dugong in the seagrass beds. And the coral reef life was also superb. There can be few places in the world where such a variety exists in such close proximity and there is more than enough here to rival the Great Barrier Reef, but it is far less well-known.
Catering for small groups, our dive operator, Dive Ningaloo, was great for us, as they specialise in going to areas where most people do not go, such as the Muiron Islands and places a little further south on the reef than most dive boats go, which may be why we were so lucky with all that life. The reef sites selected were all exceptional, rich in marine life or with complex structure with gullies and swim-throughs all around. Catering for smaller groups meant there was always plenty of room on the boat, where all the equipment was ready and waiting for us every day. They knew our interests lay in marine and reef life so they aimed to please from that perspective too (and they certainly succeeded!)
Our whole diving experience in the Murion islands was a delight, and we made the most of photographing the underwater scenery and coral reef life. Between dives we went on shore for a picnic lunch. There was no rushing and hustling with this company, not only with the dives themselves but during the day as a whole – it was designed just for us. We had the whole of the Muiron Islands to ourselves.
One dive there was a drift dive between the North and South Islands. With an eye on the tide tables, skipper Dave dropped us at the east, and for 50 minutes floated above us in the boat as we drifted westwards. Our instructor/guide, Kirsten, came too simply because she still greatly enjoyed the place even after what must be a lot of diving here, and also to make sure we didn’t miss any of the sights. This colourful part of the reef was really magical! Kirsten told us this was one of their favourites, and I could see why.
Amazingly perhaps, the prices for single or double dives in a day with Dive Ningaloo were no more than they are for boats taking many people who just pop around the corner to well-used dived sites. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to take a reef snorkelling tour as they have about a dozen motorised sea scooters for those who cannot dive but who also want to enjoy the reef. Their secret perhaps is that they are themselves very enthusiastic conservationists so, with their own deep knowledge of the reef, comes a much more interesting itinerary and selection of sites.
We will be back!