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What Marine Species will I see at the Ningaloo Reef?

29 September 2023

Nestled near the town of Exmouth on the Cape Range Peninsula in Western Australia lies the spectacular Ningaloo Marine Park. This marine sanctuary is home to the Ningaloo Reef—Australia's largest fringing coral reef. Beyond its impressive size, the reef is filled with a diverse array of marine life, making the park a dream destination for nature enthusiasts. As you investigate further, prepare to uncover the captivating marine species that thrive in this unique Western Australian gem.


History and Importance of Ningaloo Reef

The Ningaloo Reef has been around for a very long time, growing bit by bit over millions of years. It's important on a global scale being home to an abundance of marine species. These species rely on the reef for food, shelter, and places to have their babies. Due to its exceptional ecological significance and striking beauty, the Ningaloo Coast, anchored by the reef, was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2011, affirming its status as a globally recognised natural marvel.

Top Marine Species to Encounter

Whale Sharks

Whale Sharks Whale sharks, the gentle giants of the ocean, are often the star attraction of Ningaloo. These spotted behemoths can grow up to 12 metres long but feed primarily on plankton. Between March and August, they grace Ningaloo's waters, offering the best viewing opportunities. Their presence is crucial for the ecosystem, attracting diverse marine life and aiding in nutrient distribution.

Humpback Whales

Humpback Whales Humpback whales are truly one of the ocean's most mesmerising inhabitants. With their immense size, reaching up to 16 metres in length, they are a sight to behold as they breach and slap the water with their flukes. Between August and October, these majestic creatures migrate through Ningaloo's waters, making it an ideal time for whale-watching. Their annual journey plays a significant role in the marine ecosystem by influencing prey distribution. Additionally, their migration fosters interactions among marine species, enhancing water biodiversity.

Coral Communities

Coral Communities Specifically, at Ningaloo Reef, there are over 300 species of hard corals and 50 species of soft corals. This is a relatively high diversity, especially considering that Ningaloo is a fringing reef, and its location in Western Australia is more temperate compared to the tropical waters of the Great Barrier Reef. These living marvels are essential, offering both food and shelter to countless marine creatures. 


Turtles  At Ningaloo, turtles are more than just fleeting visitors. Three primary species, namely the Green, Loggerhead, and Hawksbill turtles, are regulars. These ancient mariners, true icons of the marine world, often grace Ningaloo's shores, especially between November and March, when they come ashore to nest. In the vast marine web, they are instrumental in regulating jellyfish numbers and promoting healthy seagrass beds. Flatback turtles also drop by occasionally, and for the truly lucky, a rare sighting of the elusive leatherback turtle might just make your day unforgettable.

Manta Rays

Manta Rays Both the reef manta ray and the oceanic manta ray can be found gracing the waters of Ningaloo. With their sweeping, wing-like fins, they elegantly glide through the lagoons and channels, especially from May to November. As efficient filter-feeders, they play a pivotal role in the marine ecosystem, helping to maintain a balance among various prey populations.

Fish Species

Fish Species It is estimated that there are over 500 species of fish in the Ningaloo Reef. This makes it not only a haven for marine life but also a prime destination for divers and snorkelers looking to experience the colour and varied underwater world. Some of the commonly found fish include Clownfish, Butterflyfish, Parrotfish, Angelfish, Surgeonfish, Groupers, Wrasse, Damselfish, and Barracuda. Their existence ensures a balanced ecosystem, aiding in coral health and providing food for larger marine creatures.

Other Notable Species

Other Notable Species The reef is also home to dugongs, playful dolphins, and agile reef sharks. Dugongs graze on seagrass beds, while dolphins' acrobatics are a sight to behold. Reef sharks, although smaller than their open ocean counterparts, are vital for maintaining the health and balance of marine life in Ningaloo.

Best Time & Ways to Experience Ningaloo's Marine Life

Whale Shark Tour

Season: Early March - Late July Our Whale Shark Tour at Ningaloo Reef offers an unparalleled aquatic adventure. Ningaloo is a prime hotspot for these gentle giants, especially during their migration season. Travel along the pristine West Australian coastline aboard our state-of-the-art vessels. With the guidance of our spotter planes, jump into crystal-clear waters to swim alongside the mesmerising whale sharks. Along the way, you may also encounter turtles, manta rays, and a myriad of marine wonders. Guided by our knowledgeable and dedicated team, rest assured of a memorable and secure adventure for all participants. Leap into a dream and book your whale shark tour in Exmouth today!

Humpback Whale Tour

Season: Early August - Mid-October Ever thought about swimming side by side with humpback whales? Ningaloo Reef offers one of the world’s most impressive opportunities to see these incredible creatures in their natural setting. When you tour with us, you seize the unique opportunity to not merely observe but to immerse and actively engage with the natural world around you.  Dive into clear blue waters, listen to the captivating calls of the whales, and feel a deep connection with the natural world. Don't miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime wildlife experience. Book your humpback whale tour in Exmouth today!

Off-Peak Whale Shark & Ningaloo Reef Tour

Season: Early August - Mid-October Embark on a voyage across the radiant coral coast. Spend a day amidst Exmouth’s marine life, glide alongside manta rays, and witness the serene beauty of turtles and reef sharks beneath you. Also, there’s even a chance of spotting playful dolphins! Discover the wonders of marine life during whale shark season Exmouth with Three Islands Whale Shark Dive. Contact us at +61 1800 138 501 for an extraordinary coral coast voyage.

Brittney Billington

Assistant Manager at Three Islands Whale Shark Dive
Brittney Billington is the Assistant Manager at Three Islands Whale Shark Dive, an established whale shark tour agency in Exmouth. With her exceptional skills in social media marketing, office management, customer service, and staff management, she has played a vital role in the company's success. Brittney's expertise in tourism, hospitality, sales, marketing, and travel management has made her an invaluable asset to the team. With years of experience in whale shark tours in Exmouth, Brittney is a reliable source of information and insights in this field.

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