Ningaloo Reef is one of Australia’s best-kept secrets and is WA’s answer to the Great Barrier Reef. If you love diving with marine animals, the reef will be your dream come true; depending on the season you’re likely to see whale sharks, manta rays, turtles and reef sharks.
Coral Bay & Exmouth
You can book a tour in Coral Bay or Exmouth, which both have great options for snorkelling, too. Coral Bay, however, has reefs that are easier to access – in Exmouth you’ll need a car to drive to Cape Range National Park. In the national park, there are several bays where you can access the reef, but don’t just flock to where the rest of the tourists are headed – you’ll be rewarded if you suss out the private spots.
The Navy Pier
One of the best dives (and one of the top 10 pier sites in the world) is the Navy Pier in Exmouth, which is a marine sanctuary bursting with biodiversity. While it’s close to Bundegi Reef, it’s not a reef itself, although it is just as packed with underwater life. Wobbegong sharks, white tip reef sharks, enormous cod and gropers, moray eels and barracuda all inhabit the pier. The list of species you’ll see is endless: expect to glimpse more creatures on one dive here than you would normally see on several elsewhere.
Night dives on the pier are equally remarkable and are offered to advanced divers when tides are favourable. The pier is still a working US navy base, and security is very tight so don’t forget to bring your passport or driver’s licence for the ID check at the gate. Note: to dive the Navy Pier you need to have dived within the last six months.
Much further north are the Rowley Shoals, a collection of three coral reefs. The tepid water in the lagoons, amazing visibility and marvellous corals make the Rowley Shoals one of the world’s best dive sites. The shoals rise almost vertically out of the water and are sitting on the remains of three volcanoes, 180 nautical miles west of Broome.
Under the water, you’ll be awestruck by the masses of colourful coral – there are 28 species of staghorn coral alone. The tides and currents can be strong but make it ideal if you like drift diving, with and without tanks.
Above water, the superb sunsets and desert islands put Pirates of the Caribbean to shame. The easiest way to get to the Rowley Shoals is to fly to Broome, where you can meet up with a boat charter out to the Shoals; make sure you book first.