Coral Bay – a Ningaloo Marine Paradise

Book a week at Coral Bay and I can almost guarantee your first impressions will be, ‘what on earth am I going to do for a whole week.’ It won’t take you long to realise how wrong you are. For such a tiny town there’s a heap of adventures to be had.

Our first major trip here was twelve years ago when we rented a house for a week and came up here with eight friends and relatives.

Twelve years ago dressed for our Hawaiian night to celebrate our 50th milestone.

After dinner we watched the sunset over the bay.

and after the sunset -the ladies dancing in the moonlight – it was a great night, great memories!

The trip was to celebrate Paul and I reaching the mid century mark, and to commemorate the occasion we decided we’d like to swim with the Whale Sharks. What an experience that was – AMAZING!

There’s so many experiences to be had. As I mentioned there’s boat tours from here that take you out past the reef to swim with the Whale Sharks. If you enjoy snorkelling – this is definitely a ‘bucket list’ experience not to be missed. They visit Ningaloo from around April to June to feed on the coral, so plan your trip here at the right time of year to coincide.

There’s also boat trips that take you out to swim with the Manta Rays – gentle giants not to be confused with Sting-rays. This is still on our bucket list, but we’re undecided if we’ll do it on this trip, and whether we’ll do it from Coral Bay, or a little further up the peninsula from Exmouth.

There’s quad bike tours that take you out adventuring through the countryside and to surrounding bays where you’ll see turtles swimming.

There’s deep sea fishing charters. We’ve seen people coming back with some fish worthy of a photograph or two for their albums, not to mention several tasty meals from each fish.

There’s canoe coral snorkelling trips too. On our 50th birthday trip here we went on one of the canoe tours courtesy of our daughter. It was something we would never have looked at doing ordinarily, but I’m so pleased we did it. The coral we saw was awesome. I’d suggest another bucket list adventure for any snorkelers – it won’t disappoint.

And for the Littlies (and the not so little) there’s afternoon fish feeding of the North West snapper that live a protected life, in the protected bay. The crowd gathers in the shallows at 3.30pm Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, standing with legs apart. Small portions of fish food is distributed to the visitors to drop for the fish. Squeals of delight abound as the 50cm long Spangled Emperor dart in and out of legs with the sun bouncing off their iridescent blue scales. What a delight!

One of many Spangled Emperor, most of which are around 50cm long.

We were here at this same time of year in 2005 as we’re here this time. However, last time it was considerably warmer. This time the breezes are a bit stronger, and any breeze seems to drop the water temperature several degrees. My memories from twelve years ago are that we were all in the water virtually from sun up till sun set. With the breezes up this year, we are getting in most days, but it’s not ‘bath warm’ as it was then, so an hour at a time seems to be the longest we can manage.

As the main bay is a sanctuary zone, there’s plenty of tropical  fish swimming in the shallows just a metre or two off shore that will keep you spell bound for as long as you can stay in the water. There’s still remnants of the coral that used to abound in the bay, but unfortunately most of it has been eroded in this section now. Sadly things like coral reefs and tourists don’t co-exist very well without sanctions, and, in this case, the sanctions came a little too late to preserve the reef in it’s entirety. I’m pleased that the sanctions did come though, and in time to still preserve enough of Ningaloo Reef for us still to enjoy.

Fish living the life of Riley in their protected zone.

Tropical Zebra fish.

Pretty Sting-rays happily grazing on the sea floor.

Unlike the Great Barrier Reef where you have to visit on a big boat taking an hour or two to get you out to the reef, the Ningaloo Reef comes almost up to our shore. As I’ve said you can row out in a canoe taking less that half an hour to get to some amazing coral structures. However, you don’t even need a canoe. Apart from the small bits left in the main bay, a short walk around the point will bring you Paradise Beach.

A short walk past this point to Paradise Beach – amazing coral only twenty metres from shore.

Drop your towel at the point and walk about 100 metres south, don your snorkelling gear and swim out about 20 metres. Then drift back with the current – I’ve seen more fish and better coral on this 100 metre drift only 20 metres off shore than I saw on several snorkelling stops at the Great Barrier Reef. We haven’t as yet done the shore to Coral swim this trip as the breezes are creating a bit of water chop – but watch this space in few days time when hopefully we’ll have some awesome pictures of coral for you to see.

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