Australia's Coral Coast in Western Australia
From Cervantes to Exmouth, there's more than 1000 kilometres of coastal magic to explore. Highlights include Ningaloo Reef, whale shark encounters, The Pinnacles and the famous dolphins of Monkey Mia, just to mention a few. The best time to visit is during the driest months - July to April.
The whale shark, the earth's largest fish, is a shark by name but not by nature. It eats plankton and krill.
Ningaloo Reef snorkelling and diving
World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef blooms with life and colour. It's the world's largest fringing reef and in some places is only metres from the shore. More than 300 species of coral and around 500 fish species live on and around the reef, including the planet's largest fish, the whale shark. It's a shark by name, but not by nature - whale sharks eat plankton and krill.
Because the Ningaloo Reef is so accessible, snorkelling off the beach is the easiest way to discover its beauty. Between Carnarvon and Exmouth, there are many snorkelling opportunities that require just a short swim from the shore. Between March and July every year, Ningaloo Reef tours from Exmouth or Coral Bay will take you offshore for an unforgettable encounter - swimming with whale sharks. Humpback whale interactions are also possible between August to November, and up-close manta ray experiences operate year-round. Scuba diving Ningaloo Reef is a year-round activity.
If you want to see the wonders of Ningaloo without getting wet, then take a glass bottom boat tour from Coral Bay or Exmouth.
Monkey Mia for dolphins and more
At Monkey Mia, which is within UNESCO World Heritage-listed Shark Bay, dolphins and humans have become great mates. The friendly wild bottlenose dolphins that live in the area arrive at the beach about three times a day to feed. Their interactions with people are carefully managed by the Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPAW), to ensure the safety of both dolphins and humans. Admission to the reserve is only a few dollars, so it's a great family activity. Ask the locals about Monkey Mia dolphin feeding times.
There are other Monkey Mia attractions too, such as catching a boat tour to see dugongs, also called sea cows. This area has large meadows of sea grass, where the dugongs love to graze. You might also see turtles, manta rays and sharks. From June to November, humpback whales migrate up the coast on the way to their summer breeding grounds. The Hamelin Pool stromatolites are another must-see in the Shark Bay area. They're not strictly creatures, but they are alive. About 3,500 million years ago, these things were everywhere!
National parks in Western Australia
The Western Australia Coral Coast isn't only about marine experiences. It also has spectacular national parks full of ultra-Australian scenery. In Nambung National Park you can see The Pinnacles, ancient desert sculptures created by time and weather.
Kalbarri National Park is another gobsmacker, where wind and wave erosion has created scenic masterpieces of red sandstone formations. This park is also famous for wildflowers, which are at their best in spring and early summer. Kalbarri offers horse riding, canyoning and abseiling adventures. During and just after the rainy season, kayak and canoe safaris are also possible.
For powerful images of red earth, white sand and blue water, visit Francois Peron National Park on the shores of Shark Bay. A former sheep station, this conservation area is home to many rare and endangered species. If you look down into the ocean from the cliffs, you can see manta rays, dugong, turtles and sharks swimming in the water below. Bottle Bay and Big Lagoon both have camping grounds. Driving in Francois Peron National Park requires a 4WD vehicle, or you can find a local tour operator.