• Daryll Rivett

Ningaloo - Exmouth W.A.

Ningaloo Reef is the world's largest fringing reef and one of the longest near-shore reef systems in the world. (Australia's Coral Coast)


The word ‘Ningaloo’ is an Aboriginal word that means a ‘promontory’ which is a headland of elevated land. It refers in modern day terms to the Cape Range National Park and surrounding areas and stretches approx. 300km from Carnarvon's Red Bluff to the Muiron Islands in the north and Exmouth Gulf's Bundegi Beach in the east.

Encompassing the Ningaloo Marine Park, which protects the Reef and Coastal Reserves, and land-based wonders like Cape Range National Park, the area received its World Heritage Listing due to its marine and terrestrial (land) properties, such as rare flora and fauna like the whale shark - 300 to 500 of these megafauna congregate at Ningaloo each year!


Ningaloo also offers great connections to other incredible parts of Western Australia, including - Kennedy Range National Park (3 hours' drive east of Carnarvon), Karijin National Park (8 hours' drive east of Exmouth), and Onslow and the Mackerel Islands (4 hours' drive north of Exmouth).


Although I didn't make it down there, I understand Coral Bay has resident Manta Ray all year round, but can be best snorkelled/dived with in Whale-shark peak season in April-June.


I travelled for personal reasons in the last week of July which is towards the end of the Whale-shark season, but it does crossover with Humpback Whale migration & more......


So, the global crisis has shut-down travel and opportunities to scuba dive in my Australian backyard of Indonesia & Philippines. This led me to re-consider exploring the many wonderful and amazing sights Australia has to offer, which I had been putting on the back burner for many years. My first thoughts went to either Lady Elliot Island in Qld. or Ningaloo W.A. spending my money here in Australia, however I was in a minority as the rest of the country were doing the same thing.


Eventually with the support of Dive Adventures I secured Accom, Dives & Flights to Exmouth, Western Australia for a 10D/9N stay including 5 diving days and 3 whale-shark snorkel days, including the Exmouth Navy Pier. On the 17th July I flew from Adelaide-Perth-Learmonth on a Solo journey to potentially dive/snorkel with Whale Sharks, Humpback Whales, Manta Rays, Sharks, Orcas & Dugongs plus more........


Completing my G2G pass to safely enter Western Australia I landed in Perth and complied with the Authorities with no issues.


I made my way to Gate 12 noticing a lack of other passengers and with only a short connection time to wait for my next flight I found myself humming 'All by Myself' as I sit in a lonely Gate waiting to board.



Flying into Learmonth was a similar experience I have had many times not to dissimilar to flying into smaller cities of Indonesia/Philippines which made my travel senses tingle with excitement🤗. No photo's were permitted here as the confines are within Federal land and serious fines and penalties were at risk.


After confirming my transfer to Exmouth and claiming my baggage I was on the road to my accomodation at The Potshot Resort Hotel. Whilst en-route I tried in vain many many times to text Karen(Wife) to let her know I had landed safely because as I had 'O' mobile service (thanks Vodafone [NOT]). Finally checked in after 12hours of travel it was nice to settle down, but not tooo much as I had to move rooms the next day as the accomodation could not book me in the same room for 9 nights due to peak bookings😩.


A casual evening was called for, exploratory walk of the town to find the shops and pubs etc and it wasn't long (7min walk) until I came across the only shopping centre in Exmouth, seriously the only one and it has 2 IGA Supermarket stores opposite each (what's up with that). I stumbled across the 'Froth Craft Brewery' and settled in for a burger/chips washing it down with a Lager to re-fuel, however my energy levels were still low I decided to head back, pack my dive and camera gear ready for the mornings madness and hit the sack 🛌.


Morning broke with a gorgeous sunrise, however with this came chaos as I had to pack-up, book out, put luggage into storage and await for my transfer - all by 7.15am.


Todays agenda was a 2-dive charter out to the Muiron Islands with Exmouth Dive starting with paperwork and dive certification, checking gear and boarding the wonderful spacious dive boat at the Marina.


The Muiron Islands - North and South are located approximately nine nautical miles off the coast of Exmouth and are surrounded by an abundance of coral gardens, rocky ledges and intriguing dive sites. With a wide range of dive sites with a maximum depth of 20mt and usually gentle currents, the dive sites around the Outer Reef or Muiron Islands are suitable for all levels of snorkelers and divers. Swim-throughs and ledges provide plenty of places to search for shrimps, nudibranchs, eels, juvenile angelfish and other timid creatures. In mid-water and against the reefs look for friendly potato cod, large rankin cod, turtles, nurse sharks, soft coral gardens, anemones, clams and 1000's of darting, colourful reef fish. https://www.exmouthdiving.com.au/product/muiron-island-dive-and-snorkel-tour/


Today I did 2 dives with my dive buddy Nicola Rowe guided by staff of the day on 'Whalebone' and 'East Side Bommies' with quite good weather conditions, slight surge to nil current and sunny.

Below are a combination of photos from both dives.


Finally back to land, but first I need to highlight the boat rides in & out to the Islands were dotted with Humpback Whales sightings, Dolphins and we even had a Manta Ray at the surface 150mts from the marina entrance. Such a diverse day with a myriad of marine encounters that I have never seen, oh I forgot we even had a pair of mating sea snakes on the surface - WOW!!!


Safely back to the dive shop it was time to wash all my dive gear and camera equipment to wash away salt residue and hang out to dry ready for tomorrow. Shuttle ride back to my room to unpack my mind from the day along with my personal items, review photo's/videos and settle in to my new room for the next 8 nights.


Just as I totally un-pack and make this room my home, off I toddle to the Bottle-O to stock up my room fridge with the necessary staples (Alcohol & nibbles). As I refresh my thirst with a cold one I organise all of my gear, clothing and charge batteries for another early dive day. A hot shower, fresh clothes and another cold one it was time to relax and review photo's from the days dive.


Today's a new day, a change in location - The Ningaloo Reef and with this come anticipation of what's to come hoping the reefs, marine life and sites are better than the Islands. Out again with my newest and bestest dive buddy Nicola and of course Tibo (Tribout) the boat Skipper to visit 'Labyrinth' & 'The Blizzard' dive sites.


Both dives were higher on the excitement scale with greater marine diversity, swim throughs, clearer water and just better. The Blizzard was a dive you just can't explain in words and needs to be experienced for yourself as the abundance of glass fish, small fish and large fish were in such huge numbers they actually blocked your vision.......


On the descent we dropped straight down onto a cow-tail ray and had such a variety throughout the dive to list them would be exhausting, but I'll name a few - sea snakes, large cod, octopus, (GT) giant trevally and soo much more...

https://www.whatsthatfish.com/fish/cowtail-stingray/2844#6


Continuing on with my daily theme of events I did 4 straight days of diving alternating between the Muiron Islands and Ningaloo Reef dive sites.

  • Whalebone (MI)

  • Eastside Bommies (MI)

  • Labyrinth (NR)

  • The Blizzard (NR)

  • The Maze (MI)

  • Dinner Plates (MI)

  • Hundreds & Thousands (NR)

  • The Blizzard (NR)

Each day did provide Humpback Whale, sea snake and dolphin sightings during the boat drive in and out to dive sites, however one day with confirmation from Tribout we did have a rare sighting of Minke Whale (mum & calf).


Below is a selection of photo's from days of diving


On the 4th day of diving my 2nd dive of the day was to be my 600th dive and to celebrate that moment Tribout chose The Blizzard dive site.


I started scuba diving late in life at the tender young age of 52 yrs and haven't stopped since, becoming a Dive Master in 2014, travelled Oceania and volunteering in Indonesia. So to re-cap I am now just shy of 61 yrs and achieved 600 dives in 9 yrs and have experienced sooo much.


Day 5 of diving comes with a change of location and style of diving with a diversity of marine life that needs to be seen and experienced by all scuba divers world-wide.


This morning I am being picked up by Dive Ningaloo to dive the Exmouth Navy Pier which has been voted as one of the top 10 dive sites in Australia, and one of the top shore dives in the world and it is right here on Australia's doorstep!


The 300m long pier is situated just 14kms from Exmouth and is still an active Navy Pier, and can be used from time to time by Navy ships for servicing the Naval base, it is therefore not accessible to the general public and must be dived through a licensed company.


The Navy Pier is a photographer’s dream as it boasts a huge variety of marine life to delight every type of diver, those who love big impressive sights and those who love the small stuff. Nudibranch's of all shape and colour, flat worms, scorpion fish, frog fish moray eel, toad fish, shrimp and octopus fill every nook and cranny. Cruising through the shadowy structure are also big schools of snapper, rabbit fish and fusiliers, huge grouper, sea snakes and sharks, commonly grey nurse, reef and wobbegongs.


The structure itself is covered with soft corals and sponges that utilise the currents to feed and this attracts colourful reef fish, butterfly, angel, moorish idol and parrotfish.

https://www.diveningaloo.com.au/scuba-diving-tours/the-exmouth-navy-pier/


As stated above, this is a special dive site for those lucky enough to visit and dive considering the unpredictability of tidal movements and low visibility which the site is renowned for.


The day started out a slow one compared to my other diving days, as pick-up was at 12.00 midday with a visit to the dive shop to complete the necessary paperwork and approvals as the site is on Federal Land. Commitments and payment done, dive gear checked and loaded it was back onto the transfer bus to head out to the site. En-route we were subject to several videos covering safety, dive briefing, Federal Law requirements and history of the site.


Finally we reach the Pier (Jetty), unload and suit up into our nominated groups and walk cautiously down the Pier stairs to a landing where all divers must do an approx. 3mt. high giant stride into the water. Wow, I must say I was a bit apprehensive on a 3mt. giant stride as I have never jumped fully kitted up so high before, but I must say if executed correctly it wasn't actually that bad.


Once in the water and in our groups we descended down the line to make our way to the righthand side of the main structure with the aim of reaching the right side Dolphin (smaller structure). We were advised this is a low vis site and I would suggest we did only have 5-7mt visibility, but the marine life I initially saw under the structure was fantastic with schooling fish of many varieties, colorful growth on the pylons and larger fish towards to ocean floor.


As we continued past the main structure and head towards the smaller structure (dolphin) I typically scan the waters for signs of life and other divers when - I unexpectedly saw a Manta Ray majestically gliding towards us. Wow, my favourite marine creature without doubt, frantically I finned hit record on the GoPro to capture as much majestic time as possible.


I continued to watch and follow in awe as he/she glided off into the distance 😩😩😩 and re-commence the dive as normal. Shortly after, our guide pointed out a Nudibranch on-top of a small outcrop for the group to see.....as a 'Nudi' lover I had seen this common Nudi many many times before and finned back to let the others have a clear and unobstructed view.


As I and my dive buddy were just chillin' mid water above waiting for the group to catch up I again started to scan the area and above towards the surface, it was then 😮WOW😮-😱WOW😨 a once in a lifetime moment happened. To my astonishment and disbelief I was witnessing and looking at a juvenile Humpback Whale swimming through to Pier directly above me no more than 3mt's from my head.


It took a milli-second for me to comprehend what I'm seeing and realising the rarity of this interaction, instinctively & almost immediately I fired up my GoPro to video this, as a common saying in diving is "No Photo-Didn't Happen". The next action I recall doing whilst never loosing eye contact was to try and get the rest of my dive groups attention for them to see the Whale by using my Duck Call alert. Aaah😩 to no avail as they didn't hear the call and alas it was too late with the speed of the whale and the low visibility it was just a memory in the distance.


I'll let the video evidence speak for itself here.


Seriously after these 2 moments of miraculous pelagic marine interactions how do you continue the dive with a clear mind....realising what I was just fortunate to witness. After a calm slow breath to absorb this moment I followed our group back into and under the main Pier structure to swim side-by-side with 2 large Grey Nurse Sharks - does this dive deliver or what!!!!!!! and then a picturesque moment of a large cod in midst of cleaning action with a Schooling Banner fish and Bluestreak cleaner Wrasse.


Below are a few of my favourite photo's


Sadly it was time to surface and change tanks for our second dive with a cup of hot soup and fresh bread. Time to check my camera gear, change GoPro battery and kit up for another 3mt giant stride to see what else this site can deliver.


Unfortunately in such a short amount of time the visibility had dropped to around 3-4mt so my dive buddy and I decided to stay close to the main structure as we were diving un-guided. Again the schooling fish hiding and meandering in and around the pier structure was mesmerising.


Again the 2 grey nurse sharks were still chillin' around so I took opportunity to dive parallel to them (within 1mt.) casually taking photo's. Whilst I was out past the pier I found a pair of Sailfin Catfish (photo above) which I have been told are endemic only to the Ningaloo Reef, and FYI are quite hard to photograph given their dark bodies in and against the white sand and in and under dark ledges.


We also found BFG (Big Friendly Groper) hiding up near the surface within the pier structure (photo above) https://sowherenext.com.au/exmouth-navy-pier-38937 along with a friendly Moray Eel and Parrot Fish. I could go on and on, but best experience this site for yourself.


Well, another change in direction for the next 3 days as I am booked in for full days of Snorkelling with Whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef with 2 seperate Charter Co's. Day 1 and 3 were with Exmouth Dive and Whale Sharks with Day 2 with 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive.


The snorkel day's comprise of local pickup, informative touristy drive out to the boat ramp to board a small tender (boat) to be transferred out to the larger cruise boat for the day. Once everyone is aboard the generic Safety Protocols are covered and people are assigned either Group 1 or Group 2 for the days snorkels.


After reaching a local shallow reef all participants are required to do a compulsory snorkel to ensure their gear fits and works well and the crew are assured everyone is a competent snorkeler. After that at approx. 9.30 a.m. the 'Spotter Planes' hit the skies panning the waters looking for Whale Sharks for the associated Co's they are aligned with.


Out on the Reef as we cruise the waters waiting for news from above there are still moments of awe as we spot Humpback Whales breaching, tail & fin slapping. One day we were very fortunate to be part of an Orca Pod, watching and trailing them (at least 5) as they cruise the reef.



After 3 days of Whale Shark snorkel days and sightings on each day I swam with Ferrari like pace in a poor attempt to keep up with them for photo/video opportunities. I got to swim/snorkel with them on several occasions each day, and I must say this is a serious workout trying to keep up with a giant of the ocean who seem to be just cruising and hardly moving - a real honour to be in the water with such a majestic fish, yes a 'fish'.


Below is a compilation of my 3 days of Whale Shark snorkel's


On my last day on the Ningaloo Reef after swimming with Whale Sharks, it was time to relax somewhat and go for an afternoon snorkel on an inner reef, sort of an exploratory swim. After this, as time was on our side after having early W/S sightings the Skipper (Andrew) cruised around the reef and bommies searching for Dugongs.


Fingers & Toes crossed, this would top off my 'To See' list for the trip;

  1. Whale Shark

  2. Humpback Whale

  3. Manta Ray

  4. Grey Nurse shark

  5. Orca

  6. Dugong plus more...........................

Success, he found a mum & calf cruising the inner reef in and around the small bommies and it seemed by the behaviour that this were teaching/training techniques as the mum and calf surfaced, dived and re-surfaced many times as they meandered around the reef.


Please enjoy this precious moment I captured of Mum & Calf


Finally to re-cap my week in Exmouth W.A. on the Ningaloo Reef - Amazing - Memorable - Incredible - Stunning - Unbelievable - Surprising - Shocking - Wonderful & Marvellous, but most importantly I AM THANKFUL.


So I now share with you some more images to celebrate my week


Thank-you for reading and sharing my experience to explore with me travel experiences, photography, videography, conservation and scuba diving adventures.


Another 'Rivetting Moment', to inspire & ignite the traveller in you, to broaden life challenges & experiences!!!














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