Coral Bay (Ningaloo Reef)

8 Apr

Yesterday was consumed by our drive from Denham (Shark Bay) to the tiny coastal settlement of Coral Bay. We had heard that Coral Bay was pretty small, but then again, so were all the other towns we’ve been staying in so we didn’t expect it to be that much different. There is literally one road in the whole town, which stretches maybe four or five blocks. As far as I could decipher, the whole of Coral Bay was made up of a small shopping center, two restaurants, a service station, a hotel, two caravan parks, and a backpacker’s hostel. We stayed in the Ningaloo Club… don’t be excited, that’s the name of the hostel. Britt and I came to Coral Bay with the intention of diving with whale sharks, a popular attraction for the Ningaloo Reef between the months of March and July. However the area experienced some bad weather the last two days, which prohibited the whale shark tours from departing. Therefore the people who had signed up for the last two days were rescheduled for the following days, and everything was totally booked out (from all TWO of the snorkeling tour companies). Our hostel receptionist suggested an intriguing alternative for us that we jumped on pretty quickly though: snorkeling with MANTA RAYS! So that was our adventure today.

Around 9am, we received confirmation that the tour had enough people sign up in order for it to depart.. YAY! Britt and I dragged our snorkeling equipment to Coral Bay Adventures, where they shuttled us via bus to a boat ramp a short drive away. Only six of us signed up for the tour… great for us! The boat set off toward the reef, and they let us swim around on a shallow reef while we waited for the spotter plane to take off. In other words, the guides wanted to make sure that everyone actually knew how to swim and use a snorkel. Fair enough. The spotter plane took off around 10am and it wasn’t too long before they found the one and only Manta Ray in the area. They’re fairly easy to spot from above, even in poor visibility, because they prefer the sheltered sandbanks of the inner reef for their food source. I’m glad that they found one, but when the boat caught up to the ray, we discovered there was very low visibility in the area. Bummer! We jumped in the water and were basically chasing a shadow for most of the time. When the guide ducked under the water, that was our signal indicating that we could do the same (so long as we stayed at a distance of 3m away from it).

Britt with the Manta Ray

Manta Rays are the largest species of rays and can grow to have wingspans of over 7m, but the one we were chasing was closer to 4 or 5m. Because of their massiveness, they often are referred to as Devil Rays, even though they are quite harmless. They are bottom and filter feeders, eating plankton and krill. More importantly, they lack the stinging barb over their tail that other rays have! The pictures I took don’t do the creature any justice (darn visibility!), but they certainly live up to their other nickname: Eagle of the Sea. What caught me by surprise was their speed!

Manta Ray

After swimming with the Manta for a good period of time (and I think some of the others became exhausted and dropped back from the group while we kept swimming), they took us to another snorkeling sight. We attempted to go to a shark cleaning station first. It’s simply a popular spot on the reef for sharks to go so that they can get their regular maintenance from the little cleaner fish that pick off all the algae and such that grows on them. The only problem was that there happened to be a tiger shark there, so they weren’t allowed to let us get in the water. It was disappointing news, but I certainly wasn’t keen on swimming with any tiger sharks today! Instead, we found another reef in which we happened to find a pufferfish, some parrotfish, and…. (drum roll)… a SEA TURTLE!

Britt was especially excited because for some reason, every time we happened to see one diving, she was always around the corner or looking at something else.

The current was pretty strong, so it took a great deal of energy just staying in the same place. Clever little guy just ducked right under the reef!

Since it will be awhile before anything else exciting happens in Coral Bay, we decided to kick it and push onward to Exmouth tonight. Hopefully we’ll see some whale sharks soon!

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One Response to “Coral Bay (Ningaloo Reef)”

  1. daniellesmakeupbag 25 February, 2015 at 5:25 AM #

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