Ningaloo Reef – the Longest fringing reef in the world
Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. At over 300 kilometres long, it is also the world’s only large reef located on the western side of a continental landmass. At its point closest to the continent, the reef is just 100 meters from shore; at its farthest point, it is less than 7 kilometres away.
Ningaloo Reef and the surrounding waters became Ningaloo Marine Park in 1987. The park is home to sharks, manta rays, dolphins, whales, dugongs, marine turtles, more than 250 coral species, and over 500 tropical fish species. The Ningaloo Marine Park encompasses a variety of interconnected habitats: fringing and patch coral reefs, soft sediment lagoons, mangroves, sea grass beds and coastal dunes.
Extending nearly 300 kilometres north from the Tropic of Capricorn, the reef owes its existence to the occurrence of the warm Leeuwin current, which facilitates the occurrence of tropical species at temperate latitudes.
Ningaloo’s more than 200 kilometre stretch of continuous fringing reef is unparalleled in the world and there is no better way to explore it than aboard a unique liveaboard sailing holiday.
Ningaloo Reef is UNESCO World Heritage Listed
On 6th January 2010, the Commonwealth and Western Australian governments formally nominated the Ningaloo Coast for World Heritage listing. It has also been included in the National Heritage List – Australia’s most prestigious heritage recognition.
On 24th June 2011, UNESCO formally recognised the outstanding biological diversity of the region and listed it as World Heritage. an area of 708,000ha, and includes Cape Range on Exmouth Peninsula, a coastal strip extending about 260km south to Red Bluff, as well as adjacent dune fields, marine areas, reefs and islands has been acknowledged as one of the most outstanding natural places in the world.
The Ningaloo Coast nomination meets four of the ten criteria set out by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) for World Heritage Listing;
vii) to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
viii) to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth’s history, including the record of life, significant on-going geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
ix) to be outstanding examples representing significant on-going ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
x) to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
What happens at Ningaloo Reef & when does it happen…
The Ningaloo Reef is a hidden gem. It is growing in popularity with international travelers as a must see destination because of its remote wild untouched nature. View images of the Ningaloo Underwater world
Ningaloo is famous around the world for whale sharks. It was one of the first places in the world to establish an eco tourism industry based on swimming with the gentle giants which can grow up to 16m in length, but Ningaloo has far more to offer than just whale sharks.
In March and April each year the Coral spawns 7-10 days after the full moon releasing billions of tiny eggs and sperm in to the water column. This in itself can be spectacular site but as it occurs during the middle of the night it is rarely witnessed.
The effects of the coral spawning though are hard to miss. The coral spawning is a major source of food for many marine animals. The whale sharks traditionally turn up along the Ningaloo Reef to feed on it during March.
Manta Rays also feed on different types of coral spawning, but unlike the whale sharks that only visit Ningaloo for a few months each year, Manta Rays are seen along Ningaloo all year round. The best way to see a Manta Ray is snorkeling in Ningaloo’s shallow reef waters. Coral Bay is one of the most reliable places in the world to swim with Manta Rays.
With the water temperature peaking during March and April, Ningaloo also becomes home to a small population of Dugongs that come in to feed on sea grass.
When the waters off Ningaloo start to cool down in June, it signals the time to keep your eyes out on the horizon for Humpback Whales. Humpback whales migrate from Antarctica north along the Western Australian coastline all the way up to the warm waters of the Kimberley region. There they mate and give birth.
Ningaloo is along the route that the Humpback whales take and is an excellent place to view them. They can be seen breaching from a good vantage points from shore or there is no better platform to witness their movements than from Shore Thing on the outside of the reef or when they come in to give birth, rest and play in the sheltered waters that Ningaloo offers.
In October and the following summer months, marine turtles return to mate and nest along Ningaloo’s sheltered beaches. Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green turtles nest during the cool of the night. Juvenile turtles can be seen all year round as they feed and use Ningaloo as their home.
Overnight charters range from 3 nights to 9 nights on the World Heritage nominated Ningaloo Reef, departing Coral Bay from the end of February to December .