- The Ningaloo-Shark Bay National Landscape is home to one of the world’s largest populations of dugongs; singing hump back whales, ancient loggerhead turtles and friendly dolphins.
- Ningaloo’s turtle nesting season has now commenced and regional experts are expecting a boost in numbers, with early sightings of turtles mating in the area.
- Green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles head to Ningaloo’s shore between November and January each year to lay their eggs on protected beaches between Gnaraloo Bay and Exmouth on the World Heritage Listed Ningaloo coast.
- One of only a few sites in the world to meet all four of the natural criteria for World Heritage listing, the massive 2.2 million hectare Shark Bay World Heritage area is the place to go if you want to see marine life in spectacular abundance.
The world’s largest fish; the earth’s earliest life-forms; dolphins that come to shore and let you hand feed them; and beaches made completely of pearly-white shells. Nowhere else in the world can you experience all this in one place – except in the Ningaloo-Shark Bay National Landscape.
The Ningaloo – Shark Bay National Landscape is where searing red desert sands meet an aquamarine ocean. It’s an outstanding example of ongoing geological processes and major stages in the earth’s evolutionary history; and supports important habitats where threatened animal species survive.
One of only a few sites in the world to meet all four of the natural criteria for World Heritage listing, the massive 2.2 million hectare Shark Bay World Heritage area is the place to go if you want to see marine life in spectacular abundance.
Bordered by Dirk Hartog, Bernier and Dorre Islands, Shark Bay is Australia’s largest bay. The majority of the bay’s warm, sheltered waters are less than 15 metres deep. Spectacular sea grass meadows cover over 4 000 square kilometres of the Bay, with the Wooramel Seagrass Bank being the largest, and having the most species of seagrass, in the world.
Here, one of the world’s largest populations if dugongs dwell; and singing hump back whales, ancient loggerhead turtles and friendly dolphins cruise the protected waters.
Of all Ningaloo -Shark Bay’s natural splendours, the remarkable dolphins of Monkey Mia are one of the most enchanting.
Almost every morning, dolphins visit the beach to interact with visitors. You can stand knee-deep on the water’s edge and help to feed them a small amount of fish under the supervision of park rangers. Visitors can also make an important contribution to scientific research and add to the knowledge about these threatened species by volunteering for four days to two weeks with the Monkey Mia dolphin program or Project Eden.
The warm and enclosed waters of Shark Bay are much saltier than the open ocean - another reason for two of the incredible wonders found here.
Hamelin Pool is a three and a half-billion-year-old step back in time to the dawn of life on Earth. They look like rocks but they’re not. Descendants of one of the first forms of life have created the stromatolites, and Hamelin Pool contains the most diverse and abundant examples in the world. They survive here because the extra salty environment discourages their predators.
In this astonishing place you’ll find a beach made entirely of sea shells. The billions of milky white shells are formed by a small mollusc, and like the stromatolites, its predators don’t like the salinity, so it thrives, creating a glittering spectacle.
But it’s not all about the water. In this landscape you’ll also find National Parks with spectacular ancient rock formations, abundant wildlife and a rich Indigenous history.
More than 130 archaeological sites provide evidence that three Australian Indigenous groups, the Malgana, Nhanda and Yingkarta, have lived in Ningaloo-Shark Bay during the past 30,000 years, depending on the sea and bush for their existence. An Indigenous cultural tour with an Aboriginal tour guide, learning about the land from their perspective, is a magical experience.
These tribes were probably the first Indigenous Australians to encounter Europeans – Shark Bay was the site of the first recorded landing by a European on Australian soil, when in 1616, Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog anchored at the island that now bears his name.
On Peron Peninsula you may catch a glimpse of the chuditch, Western Australia’s a largest native carnivorous marsupial; or Australia’s famous bilby, the rabbit eared bandicoot, which has all but replaced the Easter Bunny in the psyche of true-blue Aussies.
Laid-back Denham is Australia’s most westerly town, and a good base for visiting all the local attractions including nearby François Peron National Park. At Steep Point you can stand on the most westerly point of Australia, and see the magnificent Zuytdorp Cliffs that stretch for more than 150 kilometres along the coastline, while ospreys effortlessly shear off the sloping cliffs, patrolling in search of a meal. Join a sightseeing cruise or take a scenic flight for a birds-eye view of the whole panorama.
Francois Peron National Park, renowned for its dramatic red cliffs, pristine white-sand beaches, salt lakes and rare marsupial species, will reward those with four wheel drive vehicles and an adventurous spirit. The park is home to a bold experiment in environment and conservation – called Project Eden, which aims to reduce the impact of introduced animal species and return the park to its natural state.
Carnarvon, approximately mid-way between Monkey Mia and Coral Bay is an ideal base for exploring Mount Augustus and the Kennedy Ranges to the east. In Mount Augustus National Park stands the magnificent, Mount Augustus, known as Burringurrah by the local Wadjari Aboriginal people. A 50 km drive circuit of the park offers perspectives of the changing faces of the rock, from deep indigo to bright pink, orange, red and green, as well as caves and Aboriginal rock engravings. For hikers, the Kennedy Range National Park is the ultimate wilderness experience camping beneath the stars beside the stark sandstone cliffs.
North of Carnarvon, Ningaloo Reef starts at Red Bluff and extends to Exmouth. Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in the world and unlike many others; you can get to it by just stepping off the beach.
Every year in March, just after the full moon, its waters come alive as more than 200 species of coral spawn and millions of bright pink egg and sperm bundles float to the surface in a spectacular underwater dance.
Soon after, the whale sharks begin to arrive. Whale sharks are docile and feed mostly on krill. From around mid March until mid July whale shark tours operate out of Exmouth and from March until June from Coral Bay. Swimming with the world's largest fish is an experience you will never forget.
At the northern gateway to the Ningaloo Marine Park, Exmouth has diving and snorkelling conditions that are rated among the world's best. The Point Murat Navy Pier is rated as one of Australia’s top dive spots and is a must-do for all divers. If you prefer not to get wet, you can join a glass-bottom boat tour from Bundegi Beach or Tantabiddi and view the reef in comfort, or visit the Jurabi Turtle Centre and learn about Ningaloo’s endangered turtles.
Spend at least a day exploring the sweeping gorges, rugged peaks and amazing red rock canyons of the Cape Range National Park. Four wheel drive tours operate to some of the park's most famous attractions including the Shothole and Charles Knife canyons. A five-kilometre bushwalking trail connects the two and offers some stunning outback scenery. Take a boat tour along Yardie Creek for the best chance of spotting a rare black-footed rock wallaby which live in the rock walls. At Mangrove Bay, the Observation Bird Hide will take you close to sea birds and waders. Birds also abound at Mandu Mandu Gorge, where there's an excellent bush walking trail.
In Ningaloo-Shark Bay climatic conditions evolved over thousands of years have created a landscape of extraordinary contrasts between the ocean, land, earth and sky, making it worthy of a place on the list of Australia’s National Landscapes - unique environments which are recognised for their superlative natural and cultural experiences.
Author: Kris Madden on behalf of Tourism Australia. This article is copyright free and may be reproduced.