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Exmouth and Coral Bay Ningaloo
Coral Bay, Exmouth and the entire Ningaloo Marine Park are places where you can see some of the most amazing wildlife in Australia. People travel there from far and wide to swim with whale sharks and manta rays and to snorkel on the pristine Ningaloo Reef - where you can swim amongst coral, colourful fish and even sea turtles in shallow water within a few hundred metres of the beach.
And it's not only the marine life...
Inland from Coral Bay and Exmouth, in the Cape Range National Park and on the stations, Australian wildlife typical of the outback are seen all the time by travellers.
On the drive between Coral Bay and Exmouth, for instance, you're almost certain to see some emus on the road. If you spend some time walking or camping in the region, you can also encounter kangaroos, birds of prey, euros, monitor lizards and rock wallabies.
Watch This Video to See Amazing Footage of the "Big Three" of the Ningaloo Reef - Whales, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks:
When should I visit Coral Bay, Exmouth and the Ningaloo Reef?
The seasons, and other patterns of nature over time, determine to a large degree both the variety and the prevelance of wildlife at Ningaloo, Coral Bay and Exmouth.
The Coral Bay Exmouth Wildlife calendar on this page details what times of the year you should visit the Ningaloo Marine Park and North West Cape depending on which wildlife you most wish to see.
The good news is, every month of the year is the special season for something. If it's not the whale shark season, then perhaps it's the turtle nesting season, or the time of year when the baby reef sharks are congregating in the shark nursery at Coral Bay's Skeleton Beach.
Some of the wonderful Ningaloo wildlife, including the whale sharks, is migratory - calling Ningaloo home for only a few months of the year. Other animals, like the manta rays, are always present but are seen in greater numbers during certain times of the year.
North West Cape and Ningaloo Wildlife Calendar
March/April to June/July
The whale sharks arrive in the waters behind the Ningaloo reef every year following the coral spawning, which provides them with plentiful food. Depending on the exact time of the coral spawning event (which itself is related to the phases of the moon), the whale sharks start appearing in either late March or early April and they stay until the end of June or into July.
Whale shark swimming tours leave every day during the season from both Coral Bay and Exmouth. Swimming with one of these huge sharks - they can reach lengths of 12 metres or more - is an awe-inspiring experience that in my opinion is not to be missed if you have the chance (and the $!).
all year - nesting season November to February
Turtles are commonly seen while snorkeling all year round, however they're even more common during the nesting season from November to February. During this time, they come up onto the beach to lay eggs, and later in the season the eggs hatch and the baby turtles make their way to the sea. The Green Turtle is the most common species on the Ningaloo Reef, but you may also see a Loggerhead or Hawksbill turtle.
June to November
Humpback whales pass by close to the Ningaloo Reef between June and November on their migration north.
You can sometimes view the whales from afar from the shore, but if you want to get up close to them you can join one of the boat tours that leave from Exmouth and Coral Bay during the whale season.
All year (May to November for tours from Exmouth)
Manta rays perform graceful dances underwater, and swimming with them is for many people the best boat tour on the Ningaloo Reef. They are prevelant in the Coral Bay area all the time (though at certain times more than others), and tours leave year round. Some people even see them close to the beach when swimming off Point Maud and other places along Bateman Beach.
You can also see the manta rays on a boat tour from Exmouth, but these tours only run between May and November.
All year (May to November for tours from Exmouth)
Ningaloo has a healthy population of dugongs (large marine mammals similar to a manatees and seacows), and there's a small possibility of seeing a one while snorkeling or scuba diving. They're present throughout the year, but are shy and elusive.
Frequently seen year-round on the outer reef
Blacktip reef sharks, whitetip reef sharks and grey reef sharks can all be seen year-round at Ningaloo, mostly while diving and snorkeling the outer reef.
Coral Bay Reef Shark Nursery
In early spring, baby sharks school in the shallow water of Skeleton Bay - the northern half of Bill's Bay, Coral Bay. Follow the link to the Skeleton Bay page to see photos and a video of the reef shark nursery.
Mass Coral Spawning
The Ningaloo coral spawning is very predictable, occurring twice every year, about 6 to 10 nights after the March and April full moons (although it can occur any time between 4 and 14 days after the full moons).
The mass coral spawning event happens over the course of about 3 or 4 nights and is an amazing spectacle for snorkelers and scuba divers. The corals spawn en masse to ensure that there is too much spawn around during that time for all of it to be eaten by predators.
Here is a video of the 2007 spawning event, filmed at Coral Bay (actual video starts 10 seconds in):
Black Foot Rock Wallaby
Rock wallabies live on the cliffs and ledges of the Yardie Creek Gorge. Unlike many Ningaloo animals, they are present all year, but like all Australian native wildlife, seeing a rock wallaby takes a certain degree of luck. I remember seeing lots and lots several years ago when I last did the boat tour down Yardie Creek, but when I walked along the trail at the top of the cliffs in March last year I didn't spot one, even with binoculars!
In the arid desert landscape of the North West Cape and the Gascoyne-Pilbara deserts to the east, a lone red kangaroo bounding across the red sand and desert scrub is a common site. You might even see one in the sanddunes or on the beach, as my friends and I did one time when walking from Monks Head to Five Finger Reef.
The emus are another iconic Australian animal that's often seen in the Cape Range National Park and elsewhere on the North West Cape. You can even sometimes see them wandering around the streets of Exmouth! You're highly likely to see one when driving between Coral Bay and Exmouth!
Any time, anywhere
Lizards, big and small, goannas, geckos and perenties - you just can't miss them in Coral Bay, Exmouth or anywhere on the North West Cape! There's a wide variety of them, including some very big ones over a metre long.
In Coral Bay, just take a stroll along Bill's Bay where the shoreline gets rocky or up into the dunes and you'll see plenty. And a few large perenties frequently scare unsuspecting caravan park guests!