The Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s second largest coral fringing reef, and far less well-known than its eastern cousin. Half way up the western coast of Australia – some 1100km north of Perth and 1100km south of Broome, this 260km fringing reef may be nearly 10x smaller than the 2000km long Great Barrier Reef of Queensland, but it has two major advantages:
– It’s far less busy, and
– It comes right up to the shore!
There are two main centres nearby to the reef for visitors – Exmouth and Coral Bay (some 150km further south of Exmouth). Exmouth is a larger village with more services and cheaper accommodation and facilities. However, it doesn’t face directly onto the reef – Coral Bay is the only settlement of any size actually facing directly onto the reef.
Accommodation in Coral Bay
This is often the first hint from website like https://www.casinoadvice.io/ that visitors get as to how small and expensive (for the budget traveller) Coral Bay is. There are two campsites, which according to local tourism businesses are often booked up to a year ahead at peak times, and at AU$30/US$21 per unpowered (and typically unshaded and tiny) pitch are one of the most expensive sites in the north or west of Australia for a solo traveler. A better option for the solo budget traveler is to stop in the backpackers hostel, the Ningaloo Club, where a bed costs AU$24-26/US$16-17 a night depending whether the traveler chooses a 4, 6 or 10bed dorm. Alternatively, for the less budget-conscious traveler, the Ningaloo Reef Resort offers a more upmarket alternative.
The vast majority of these are more expensive than a traveler might expect. However, there are some good-value options that won’t break the bank.
1 hr Glass-bottomed Boat Cruise
Glass-bottomed boats are a gentle and relaxing way to see the coral from above –especially for those preferring not to get wet (or with an aversion to snorkeling), and at AU$32/US$22 for an hour cruise are one of the few sensibly priced activities in Coral Bay. Tours can be arranged through various operators in the village, but best prices are often found through the hostel. Some of the best online casinos have details information about it.
Two-hour Snorkel and Kayak Adventure
Alternatively, for the more active and adventurous, the excellent kayak and snorkeling tours run by Ningaloo Kayak Adventures are great fun and very good value. AU$40/US$27 buys the traveler two hours of kayaking and snorkeling.
A small group of participants paddle out in stable but fun 2-seater sit-on kayaks towards the outer reef, which are then moored to a buoy shortly before the surge zone of the outer reef. Then participants don snorkeling gear and follow the tour guide through the water to see more marine life in its natural habitat than it’s possible to name. Likely creatures to be seen include several turtles at close range, wobbegong (carpet sharks), banded snake eels, and of course a multitude of schools of fish and the coral itself.
If conditions allow, and the group is willing (very weak swimmers may struggle), the guide may take participants through the surge zone and over the shallow-water coral before dropping into welcome “rest-holes” – areas of lower-lying coral that are naturally sheltered from the powerful surge. Guides on this trip have excellent local knowledge of where certain creatures are likely to be found – and a high success rate of finding marine life – especially turtles.
While most accommodation and tours are fairly pricey in this tiny village in the middle of nowhere, good value options do exist for the budget-conscious traveler to enjoy the coral and marine life of the Ningaloo Reef.