An online visitor's guide to Western Australia's parks, reserves and other recreation areas.
Soft corals at Ningaloo Photo - Tourism WA
The famed Ningaloo Marine Park has an abundance of whales, dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, huge cod and sharks. Ningaloo Marine Park protects the renowned 300-kilometre-long Ningaloo Reef. The reef offers world class diving through to family snorkelling in sheltered lagoons crammed with coral gardens.
Ningaloo is the largest fringing coral reef in Australia. It is the only large reef in the world found so close to a continental land mass; about 100 metres offshore at its nearest point and less than seven kilometres at its furthest.The conservation significance of Ningaloo Reef was recognised in the 1960s by the Western Australian branch of the Australian Marine Sciences Association. The State waters of Ningaloo (and a 40-metre strip along the shore) were declared a marine park by the Western Australian Government in April 1987. The park included about 90 per cent of the reef, and extended for about 260 kilometres from North West Cape to Amherst Point. To give the reef even greater protection, in November 2004 the State government formally extended Ningaloo Marine Park south to Red Bluff (covering a further 38,000 hectares) to include the entire 300-kilometre-length of Ningaloo Reef in the park.
Clownfish bathing in anemone tentacles, attractive lionfish or predatory moray eels are just some of hundreds of species of colourful tropical fish that can be seen. The coral reef fish of Ningaloo are among the most colourful and beautifully patterned of all living creatures. Even the novice snorkeller can swim in the shallows and witness an amazing variety of fish life. They live in and around more than 250 species of coral, ranging from the cabbage corals, brain corals, lavender corals, delicate colourful branching corals, which form gardens in the shallow lagoons. Green turtles have extensive rookeries inside the reef, dugong feed on seagrasses within the lagoons and humpback whales migrate close to the coast. The rugged beauty of Cape Range National Park provides a stark background to this profusion of life under the waves.
From mid-March to mid-May each year visitors from all around the world converge on Ningaloo for the experience of a lifetime diving with the awesome whale shark, the world's biggest species of fish. Ningaloo Reef is the only easily accessible place in the world where these giants appear in large numbers at predictable times of the year. Whale sharks reach more than 12 metres long and weigh more than eleven tonnes. You do not even have to be a scuba diver to swim with these massive animals, as they swim close to the surface.
Exmouth or Coral Bay are also perfect places to view the mass coral spawning, a three day event that begins a week or so after the full moon during March and April. Each night, many species of coral simultaneously release millions of bright pink egg and sperm bundles, which float to the surface of the water, creating a floating slick of coral spawn.
For more information about Ningaloo Marine Park and its amazing marine plants and animals you can purchase an information full-colour book The Marine Life of Ningaloo Marine Park and Coral Bay. It is recommended that you also pick up a full-colour brochure on Parks of the Coral Coast from the DEC office in Exmouth, Milyering Visitor Centre in the park or from the DEC Information Centre in Coral Bay, or download it below.
Although park entrance fees do not apply to marine parks, fees may be payable if visitors are accessing the marine park from Cape Range National Park.Attractions:
- Turquoise Bay
The bay lies 65 kilometres south of Exmouth, this is an excellent dive site for the family because of its ease in most conditions, the rich diversity of coral, fish and other marine life close to shore and the exceptional beauty of Turquoise Bay itself. Not far from shore, there are several large coral bombies as well as numerous smaller coral colonies, particularly brain coral and the slow-growing massive coral. See Dive & Snorkel Sites in Western Australia (see Bookshop).
- Pilgramunna Ledges
Here, snorkellers can discover a surprising diversity of marine life, some beautiful coral formations, multitudes of colourful reef fish and occasional oceanic fish species, as well as rays, sharks and diverse invertebrates. All this is within only 10 metres of the shore. See Dive & Snorkel Sites in Western Australia (see Bookshop).
Fishing is a very popular activity and is permitted in more than 65 per cent of the marine park, but first check with the Fisheries Department on the latest bag and size limits. There are a number of sanctuary zones where visitors are permitted to look but not to take, so please make sure you fish in the appropriately zoned areas.
Sanctuary zones are one of the most effective ways of protecting the nature conservation values within marine parks. Sanctuary zones of the right size in the right areas can also increase fish populations outside the zones, as adult fish move out of the ‘no take’ zones into adjoining areas, thereby providing additional secondary benefits to fishers. Fertilised eggs and larvae also drift out of sanctuary zones to settle in other areas. For example, research by Dr Mark Westera of Edith Cowan University at Ningaloo Marine Park has shown that there are twice as many emperors in sanctuary zones than in the neighbouring general use zones, where fishing is allowed.
Soft corals at Ningaloo Photo - Tourism WA
Green turtle Photo - Tony Howard
Snorkelling. Photo courtesy of WA Tourism Commission
Staghorn coral. Photo - Suzanne Long/DEC
Snorkeller and baitfish. Photo - Suzanne Long/DEC
Beach fishing. Photo courtesy of WA Tourism Commission
Ningaloo Marine Park from the air Photo - Tony Howard
Marine invertebrates. Photo - Tony Howard/DEC
Manta ray. Photo - courtesy of WA Tourism Commission
Videos on YouTube
*Disclaimer: The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) makes the material on this website available on the understanding that users exercise their own skill and care with respect to its use. The material at this site may include views or recommendations of third parties, which do not necessarily reflect the views of DEC or the State of WA or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action.
Ningaloo Marine Park is about 1200 kilometres north of Perth. The park stretches for some 300 kilometres, from Bundegi Reef in Exmouth Gulf around North-West Cape to Amherst Point, south to Red Bluff. The park extends about three nautical miles out to sea.
Visitors planning to drive from Perth should allow two days. Large numbers of kangaroos after sunset make driving hazardous.
Commercial aircraft fly to Learmonth Airport, which is 37 kilometres south of Exmouth and coaches operate to both Exmouth and Coral Bay. Access along the shore of the park is by four-wheel-drive in some areas.
If you want to see whale sharks you need to visit between April and early July. SCUBA diving is good all year round. Water temperatures range from the low 20s to the low 30s (?C). The area has pleasant dry temperatures, often reaching the mid-40?C in summer, with occasional southerly winds. While summer cyclones do occur in the Pilbara region, they are infrequent in the Ningaloo area.
Whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, sharks, coral reef, spectacular coral spawning, boating, coral viewing, snorkelling, diving, fishing (outside sanctuary areas), and swimming are also popular. The coral gardens of Coral Bay are an easy snorkel from the shore, and you can also view the coral gardens of Coral Bay by glass-bottomed boat. Vessels take people whale watching from Exmouth and Coral Bay, mainly from August to October. Diving and fishing charters are available in the marine park.
Regardless of whether you are snorkelling or scuba diving, always display a dive flag to warn boaters you are below and dive with a buddy. If diving from a vessel, make sure someone is left to watch the boat.
For all information about camping in Cape Range National Park and for bookings please see dec.wa.gov.au/campgrounds. Camping areas are signposted (no campfires are allowed in the park) and fees apply. Some areas are for day use only. Water is available at only one bore within the park and visitors are advised to bring their own water for drinking. You can also stay at a wilderness camp within the park (swags and safari tents are provided). Just outside the park boundaries, chalets, units, on-site vans and caravan sites are available at Yardie Homestead and at Lighthouse Caravan Park, just three kilometres from the Tantabiddi boat ramp.
The park lies offshore from the resort towns of Exmouth and Coral Bay, which are fully serviced. Contact Exmouth Tourist Bureau (08) 9949 1176 for bookings and additional information. Fishing tackle, diving instruction and compressed air are available from both towns and diving gear is available for hire. Milyering Visitor Centre is situated in Cape Range National Park, just adjacent to the marine park. There are concrete boat ramps at Bundegi (just north of Exmouth), Tantabiddi Creek and Coral Bay. Small vessels can be launched from the beach at several other locations.
Sun sea and Surf
Guide available: http://www.everytrail.com/guide/ningaloo-coast-world-heritage-area-bundle