Western Australia’s Ningaloo Reef, a cheeky 12 hours north of Perth, is isolated bliss. Coral Bay is an untouched paradise famous for manta rays – here’s how to snorkel its stunning shallows.

Lewis Burnett is the bloke behind @huntingforparadise. We profiled him the other month but he’s back for more – this guide’s classic We Are Explorers. Big on thrills but easy on the budget. Dive in!

Highlights

  • Pristine sub-tropical waters
  • An abundance of marine life including manta rays!
  • Great to escape southern winter
  • Remote beaches to get away from it all

Snorkelling Coral Bay

If you’ve been locked up in iso for too long dreaming of endless white sandy beaches spilling into warm, clear waters, then Coral Bay might just be your next adventure.

Famous for its resident manta ray population, for whom daily wildlife tours operate, Coral Bay also offers plenty of hidden snorkel spots to get away from it all without having to book onto a tour!

You can ask any local in town to give you directions to these beautiful spots, with some shopfronts even offering small homemade ‘reef maps’ to keep you on track.

Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing reef and unlike its once great cousin, The Barrier Reef, it’s been lucky enough to avoid most of the detrimental impacts of encroaching industries. As a consequence, it’s in very good health and offers some of the best opportunities for interaction with marine life in the Southern Hemisphere! The prolific list of ocean species would impress even the most avid diver.

As for newbies to the underwater world, don’t worry, there’s plenty for you too!

 

Reef life, photo by Lewis Burnett, @huntingforparadise, ningaloo reef, western australia

The Lavender Patch is a local favourite, offering drift snorkels just south of the bay. It’s easily accessible from shore and the perfect starting point for your underwater explorations.

Suitable for children and novice snorkellers, all you need to do is grab a mask, snorkel and fins and head south of Bill’s Bay until you reach the 5 knot sign, swim out between 20-50m from the shoreline and the current will do the rest! A gentle push as you slowly drift over pristine coral gardens teeming with small reef fish and, if you’re lucky, the occasional sea turtle.

The best part of this snorkel is that once you’re tired of exploring, the current has taken you back closer to home so there’s less distance to walk!

For those of you a little more adventurous, Five Fingers Reef is well worth a day trip.

About 4km south of Coral Bay itself and accessible only by a 4WD track that starts next to the boat ramp, this reef is the perfect chance to get a little more adventurous and try and see your first shark. Ningaloo is lucky enough to have a very healthy shark population – while this sounds scary at first, hear me out.

Grey reef sharks, photo by Lewis Burnett, @huntingforparadise, ningaloo reef, western australia

Sharks are apex predators in an ecosystem, which means they play a vital role in regulating the ocean environment, keeping everything in balance and check. So don’t stress about the idea of encountering one on a snorkel, if anything you’ll be one of the lucky few who have seen them in their natural environment and not on the news!

Of course, the reef is also well known for its population of majestic manta rays. You’ll be totally awestruck when one of these guys glides past – start practicing holding your breath!

Essential Gear

  • Snorkel and mask
  • Fins
  • Rashie or wetsuit
  • Reef safe sunscreen (this one’s important, read our guide to sunscreen that protects coral)
  • Towel
  • Sunnies
  • GoPro

How To Get There

Coral Bay is accessible from the main road leading up to Exmouth, it’s well signposted and your maps will know all about it! For the local sites ask one of the snorkel shops and they’ll happily point you in the right direction.

Activities

  • Snorkelling
  • Freediving
  • Swimming
  • Sunbathing
  • Photography
  • SCUBA Diving
  • Kayaking

Skill Level

Beginner to Intermediate