Snorkeling at Bill’s Bay straight off the beach in front of Coral Bay town is so easy and relaxing. The water is safe and very calm, protected from the big waves of the open ocean by the Ningaloo Reef barrier about 2km offshore, and the coral and fish are just a short 50 – 100 metre swim from the beach.
Where is Bill’s Bay?
Bill’s Bay is a large west-facing bay within the Ningaloo Marine Park, about half way up the coast of Western Australia. The small town of Coral Bay is located by the beach in the southern corner of Bill’s Bay.
Where to Snorkel in Bill’s Bay:
Coral reefs extend throughout the beautiful, calm lagoon of Bill’s Bay. So enter the water just about anywhere along the 4km-long coastline of Bill’s Bay and swim out 100m or so. Sooner or later you will find yourself swimming among colourful fish big and small, and mostly brownish-coloured coral gardens.
The reef and coral bombies are just about everywhere in the deeper dark blue water of Bill’s Bay, extending right out north into the middle of the bay and also around the point to the south (Purdy Point), so there is a lot of reef to explore!
A Good Place to Start: Snorkeling at Bill’s Bay Right Near the Coral Bay Settlement
The town foreshore beach in front of the resort, shops and caravan parks is the most obvious place to begin your Coral Bay snorkeling adventures.
Now in all honesty, the snorkeling off the town beach is not best snorkeling that Coral Bay has to offer. But there’s still plenty of fish and coral to see, and it can’t be beaten if you just want a safe, relaxing and effortless snorkel on a lazy beach day.
Even if you only snorkel around in the shallow water over the sand and not go looking for the coral, you’re still bound to see a few nice fish, in particular the big North West Snapper that hang around waiting for a feed in the afternoons.
Where is the coral reef closest to town?
The coral gardens closest to town begin only about 50m directly offshore from the north-facing section of beach in front of the resort and caravan parks (or 100m from the west facing beach in front of the New Shops and the houses), just beyond where the water becomes dark blue.
What Coral, Fish and Other Marine Life Is There to See?
There’s an interesting mixture of coral types, mostly dull and brownish in colour, but with occasional patches of green, yellow, pink and purple. The most common varieties are porites, brain and cabbage corals.
The fish you will notice the most are the bright turquoise-coloured parrotfish. Blue-barred parrotfish and North West Snapper are also among the most common fish in Bill’s Bay.
Ayre’s Rock Coral Formation
Look out for huge brain coral (known as “Ayre’s Rock”) about 300m out from the beach in front of the resort in a north-north-westerly direction. It’s one of the largest brain corals in the southern hemisphere.
Coral Bay’s Giant Clams
There are quite a few giant clams resting on the sea floor amongst the coral in Bills Bay. Some of them have brilliantly coloured and patterned mantles in shades of electric blue and green, while others are just brown, like the one in the photo below. I wish I got some photos of the more colourful ones!
Bleached and Broken Coral
While certainly beautiful, some of the coral doesn’t appear to be the healthiest – especially in the area closest to the settlement.
I remember the first time I went snorkeling at Bill’s Bay I was little bit saddened and disappointed by this because I’d been expecting the brightly coloured corals that I’d seen in tourist brochure-style photos that I realise now must have been taken on the outer reef – or at least, a lot further out from the beach than most people go when snorkeling off the beach in front of Coral Bay town.
Bill’s Bay has seen some significant coral bleaching events in the last 20 years or so. The bay is particularly susceptible to bleaching by anoxic water conditions following the coral spawning, and bleaching has also occurred due to water temperature fluctuations.
As well as the bleached coral, in places it looks as if the coral has been damaged by boats or by snorkellers. Hopefully this sort of damage no longer occurs now that there’s a boat-launching facility at Monk Head and only 3 or 4 tour boats are allowed to moore at the Town Beach.
I found that swimming further out to sea north and west of the settlement, the condition of the coral improved and I also saw more fish, too.
To see the best coral near the town beach, enter the water further west, closer to the point. The coral reef a few hundred metres off the beach just around the corner at Purdy Point is another great place to snorkel close to town – in my opinion far better than Bill’s Bay.
Part 2 to Snorkeling at Bill’s Bay:
Snorkeling at Skeleton Beach, in the Northern Part of Bill’s Bay
Skeleton Beach is located within Bill’s Bay, but further north from the town beach, past the rocky shoreline and the point. This is another good snorkeling site if it’s not too windy.
Related Pages – More Coral Bay Snorkeling Sites
- Coral Bay Snorkeling – Main Page
- Skeleton Bay
- Purdy Point
- Oyster Bridge and The Lagoon (Bateman Sanctuary)
- Five Fingers Reef
Last Updated: 2nd October, 2014.
First posted on 28th September, 2014 by Bonny.
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