The Ningaloo Reef is 260 km long and is one of the longest fringing reefs in the world. It is a physically diverse coastline with rocky shores, sandy beaches, mangrove stands, tranquil lagoons, rich reefs and open ocean.
Fringing reefs are situated closer to land than barrier reefs. The closest part of the ocean-facing edge of the Ningaloo Reef to land is only around 300m offshore, making it nice and easy to get to in any conditions.
The Ningaloo is a divers paradise, with amazingly high biodiversity, hundreds of corals, an abundance of fish, comfortable warm water, as well as all the big exciting stuff which you never know might turn up on a dive! Out on the reef the marine life is truly magnificent, with large schools of fish and rich coral reefs. The Ningaloo supports over 500 different species of fish, from the pretty, colourful, reef fish, to big, hunting, pelagic fish, 300 species of corals, the majority being hard corals, but plenty of pastel soft corals and sponges at the islands and, finally, over 500 species of molluscs, including shells, octopus, squid and nudibranches.
Reflecting how special the reef is, in 1987 it was designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park by the State Government. Then in 2011 the reef and national park area, 2435 km2 in total, were listed by the United Nations as a World Heritage Site. As a result there are very strict regulations on where fishing can be carried out and the amount that can be done, as well as how tours such as ours have to operate to ensure the sustainability and minimize the impact of people on the area. This hopefully means the Ningaloo will maintain its beautiful, remoteness .
The reef is perhaps most well known for its whale sharks, which use the nutrient rich waters to feed, but the whale sharks are not the only mega fauna that are worth visiting the area for. Our Ningaloo ‘big three’ consists of whale sharks, manta rays and humpback whales, all of which return to the Ningaloo or pass through it each year. At the right time of year these huge iconic species are a common sight as they migrate along the coast.
On top of this the Ningaloo boasts dolphins, dugongs, sharks, rays and more turtles than you could imagine! Its beaches are an important breeding ground for the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles, with turtle nesting monitoring programs being run annually – you can visit the Jurabi Turtle Centre to find out more.
Empty, long white sandy beaches run parallel to most of the length of the reef, emphasizing that the Ningaloo really is paradise.