16 things you really should do at Ningaloo Reef
(1) Microlight Flight
This is the most exiting thing to do outside the water!!! Out there in the open, you feel a freedom combined with an adrenalin rush and the sheer beauty of Ningaloo! One step up from the scenic flight! Best thing hands down, and an experience you will talk about for a long time and never forget!
(2) Whale Shark Tours (Mid March to end of August)
2012 and 2013 were 100% successful! Every day the operators were able to go out the have seen Whale Sharks! That answers the question “How is the chance for me actually to see a Whale Shark?” Ningaloo is the worlds leading Whale Shark destination with a non sighting policy in place, so if you don’t see a Whale Shark on your trip, you get the next possible spot for free (Not always the next day though!!!!) This is a whole chapter in itself so please read more on the Whale Shark page.
(3) Manta Ray Tour in Coral Bay (all year round)
Coral Bay is the only known destination in the world to have all year round Giant Manta interaction. In Exmouth we have them around all year too, but nobody offers any specific tours. There is a good chance you will see Mantas during a Whale Shark or Dive Trip. Snorkelling with these harmless, gentle giants is an experience of a lifetime! There is no guarantee to see them in Coral Bay, but the chances are very, very high. Similar to the Whale Shark operations, they use a spotter plane to find the Mantas. Several cleaning stations and the massive shallow turquoise lagoon offer the perfect place to snorkel with them. These gentle giants grow up to a 7 meter in wingspan, yet most of the Mantas are around 3-5m! Coral Bay is only 150km south of Exmouth (a mere 90 min. drive) along some spectacular valleys full of giant termite nests! Start early in the morning and head for Coral Bay, do the Manta Rays and enjoy a snorkel along some magnificent corals or grab a quad bike tour! Loads of fun and return to Exmouth the same day!
(4) Humpback Whale Watching (July to November)
Not many people know the West Coast of Australia has the largest Humpback Whale population in the world! It was estimated approximately 33,000 Humpbacks make their way up the coast from Antarctica to the calving grounds from Ningaloo northwards in 2012. The Exmouth Gulf plays an important part in nursing the young calves in preparation for the long journey back to the Antarctic! In 2007 there were 4 times more whale sightings than in Harvey Bay on the east coast of Australia! (the officially best place to see Humpbacks! )) Pods usually spend 6-8 weeks in the Exmouth Gulf, breaching in spectacular fashion, “tail sailing”, or slamming their fins and tail on the surface. Because the Exmouth Gulf is very shallow and has a sandy bottom, it is a safe haven and place to rest. Most humpbacks are very curious and come right up to the boats! An incredible experience!
(5) Turtle Tour at night to see them laying their eggs (October to January)
4 of the 5 known Sea Turtles lay their eggs at Ningaloo. Special tours are organised by DEC (Department of Environment and Conservation) and some operators are taking customers out at night to see them laying their eggs! The real deal right in front of you – a night you will never forget! 6-8 weeks later baby turtles hatch! They are soooooo cute!
(6) Scenic flight
Driving into the region is nothing short of boring! It is an arid region, with hardly any rainfall so don’t expect a tropical rain forest! Having said that, it works out to be spectacular from the air! The rough Cape Range, deep red coloured dunes, rough gorges mixed with the white beaches, turquoise lagoons and the deep blue Indian Ocean! Simply breathtaking! During the Whale Shark season it is amazing but when the Humpback Whales are around in the thousands, it is then when it is all happening. Yet the colours in summer are of such beauty and intensity, I can’t find the right words to describe it! Leaving Exmouth without having seen it from the air is like not having seen it under water! You missed the best!
(7) 4WD tour
Yes I know what you are thinking: ‘we do it ourselves or, been there done that…’ Believe me, the stuff you are going to see with a guide is just unbelievable and you would never have known how diverse the Cape Range is! If you think you need to save a buck, don’t save it on the wrong thing! The wildlife you will miss out on, the history and insight information makes one of these trips priceless!
(8) Sunset at the Lighthouse with a drink
Sitting at the Lighthouse overlooking the Indian Ocean at sunset eating some snacks and having a cold one is just magic. What more can you ask for? Cheap and breathtaking!
(9) Glass Bottom Boat Tour
I can hear you saying, ‘done that before….!’ I am telling you that the Ningaloo Ecology Cruise is not only entertaining and fun but is highly educational and exciting! I have done approximately 2500 dives out here and I still love going out with Alec. He is the most entertaining and knowledgeable bloke. His understanding of this part of the reef he has been working on for several years now is amazing. You will literally hold your breath when he goes over big coral bommies and you think he is going to run aground! He finds sharks, turtles and rays and encourages everybody to snorkel! So even if you are a scuba diver, this is a great trip!
(10) Snorkelling Turquoise Bay, Oyster Stacks and Lakeside
With Ningaloo Reef right there in front of you, it takes only a few meters to swim and you are in a pristine coral reef! If you don’t snorkel yet, you can learn it. This is the biggest attraction here and you need to have a look at it! Drifting downstream with the light current parallel to the beach, over some of the best coral reefs in the world, there is very good chance you will come across a reef shark, turtle, leopard shark, sting rays and a myriad of tropical fish. We hire out snorkel gear and help you in our pool if you need some time to get used to the mask and snorkel.
(11) Sunbathing at Sandy Bay
This is one of the most beautiful and romantic bays! The pure clean white beach slopes slightly into the turquoise lagoon! Crystal clear warm water and just sand, sand, sand. Most people miss this bay because it is not well advertised! Perfect for kids as well, as it is so shallow and slopes in very slightly.
(12) Visit Milyering Visitor Centre, Yardie Creek, Shot Hole Canyon & Charles Knife Gorge
The Visitor Centre in the National Park has a superb range of information, a library and ‘cinema’. I recommend you spend an hour during the heat of the day in there to get out of the sun. It is also the only place where you can buy a snack or drink. The gorges described are a must see. Spectacular views and wildlife! Take your time if you can! You will be rewarded with some great wildlife encounters.
(13) Dive the Navy Pier, Lighthouse Bay and Muiron Islands
The Navy Pier is listed as one of the best 10 shore dives in the world! Diving in Lighthouse Bay is just amazing and shallow – only 12 meters average. Going to the Muirons – it is an hour to get there and I recommend you take a tablet if you are prone to seasickness as it can be quite rough! Once at the islands it is a new world with a very different reef, mainly soft coral, but great dive spots await you!
(14) Fly Fish the flats at Bundegi and Ningaloo Reef
Not many people know that this region is also a world-class fly fishing destination! Bonefish, Tarpon, Giant Trevally, Milkfish and Permit are building the Holy Grail of fly-fishing. Exmouth has the only known Bonefish population that can be fished all year round! People from all over the world come to Exmouth to catch and release these challenging fish!
(15) If you can afford it, stay a night or more at Sal Salis Wilderness Resort
This resort is all-inclusive with everything taken care of – right on the waters edge at Ningaloo Reef. You get your own guide, all tours are included and the coral reef in front of your luxury tent is as good as it gets! A world of its own, not cheap, but it is sooooooo nice and the best food and service, I promise!
(16) Dinner at Whalers and Pinocchio’s Restaurant
If you are in for some great tucker, perfect service and good value for your dollar then you’d better book a table here! At Pinocchio’s they have a beautiful verandah and sitting outside is the go! Live music at the Whalers almost every Wednesday, so if you are after a romantic dinner you might want to choose a table a bit away from the music.
Please remember you need a car when visiting Exmouth!
I hope that this insight helps you to have a wonderful time in this beautiful region.
Axel Passeck Managing Director and 16 years in Exmouth