Aug 11, 2016

Treasures of the deep

The first thing that strikes you is the shocking blue water. And not just at Turquoise Bay. Though the region is also daubed in the richest of ochres and sublime pastels, at first sight visitors are captivated by the heavenly colour of the sea around Ningaloo Reef.

Then there’s the endless sunshine, pristine white sandy beaches, kaleidoscopic sea life and nearby Cape Range National Park. All this, and more, makes Ningaloo the stuff of postcards and full memory sticks, and a destination that bestows immediate bragging rights. This aquatic paradise may be remote - 1,200 kilometres north of Perth, but once you’re here, reaching the reef can be as easy as diving in from the beach. Parts of the reef are just off the shore and the perennially warm water is as clear as one of WA’s perfect Argyle diamonds.

There are many ways to enjoy the wonders of the World Heritage-listed, 260 kilometre long Ningaloo Reef and Marine Park off the coast of northwest Western Australia -and a scenic glass bottom boat excursion is one of the most memorable.

The Coral Viewing Fantasy ecotour features a one-hour look at the incredible and diverse underwater inhabitants, viewed safely through the large glass panels on the floor of a comfortable 30-seater boat. On this up-close encounter, you’ll be joined by a passionate local marine guide who will provide fascinating commentary as you cruise over spectacular coral gardens and bommies, discover green sea turtle habitats and see a multitude of colourful fish. The tour concentrates on the unspoiled Tantabiddi Sanctuary Zone, a fully-protected area often described as an off shore aquarium.

Ningaloo Reef also hosts the wide-mouthed whale sharks (the world’s biggest fish) between March and June and snorkelling with these gentle spotted giants is the adventure of a lifetime. Dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, humpback whales and green, hawksbill and loggerhead turtles are also regular visitors throughout the year.

The best hotel accommodation option in the area is the Novotel Ningaloo Resort in Exmouth on Sunrise Beach. Yes sunrise, for even though you are on the west coast which is famous for its sunsets, up here on the tip of North West Cape, you can enjoy blazing orange sunsets and sunrises over the water. (The heritage Vlamingh Head Lighthouse is a particularly impressive place to view nature’s morning and evening shows).

The beachside Novotel Ningaloo is ideally placed to reach the region’s unique attractions and is a luxe sanctuary to return to at the end of an action-packed day and features the Gold Plate award-winning Mantaray's restaurant. The Novotel also boasts a bar, lounge, resort style swimming pool and gym.

As you head south along the coral coast towards Carnarvon, a must-do pit-stop is stunning Coral Bay, 150 kilometres south of Exmouth at the base of North-West Cape. Coral Bay is just 50 kilometres north of the Tropic of Capricorn and the weather is perfectly warm and mild without the humidity often associated with tropical climes. At Main Beach at 3.30pm you can feed the schools of snapper that swim into shore at this time every day. This serene township boasts a perfect beach - with reef access just metres from the shore - and some of the friendliest and – unsurprisingly – most relaxed people on the planet.

This is just a glimpse of the extraordinary treasures available on our Scenic journeys that include Ningaloo Reef, a place that will live long in your memory.