Bay, 1100km north of Perth, is a small settlement lying adjacent to
Maud's Sanctuary Zone in the Ningaloo Marine Park and is the best
location to access the Ningaloo Reef.
At 260 km long, Ningaloo Reef is Australia's longest fringing barrier
reef and unique in its proximity to a continental landmass. It forms
a discontinuous barrier approaching to within several hundred metres
from the beach at its closest point and less than 7 km offshore at
its furthest. In contrast to the declining health of coral reefs around
the world, the Ningaloo reef is generally considered to be in a near
pristine condition. It supports a prolific abundance of life and surveys
have revealed a very diverse community with at least 250 species of
coral, over 600 mollusc and approximately 570 fish species recorded
to date. Ecologically, the reef is extremely valuable since it supports
the second highest rate of endemism in the world and many rare and
protected species such as the whale shark (Rhincodon typus), blue
whale (Balaenoptera musculus), dugong (Dugong dugong) and loggerhead
turtle (Caretta caretta) are regular visitors.
A broad range of ecosystems occur
within Ningaloo Marine Park. Enclosed and protected by the reef is
a shallow, sandy lagoon system within which seagrass meadows and corals
occur which support their own rich and distinct variety of marine
life. Passages or breaks in the reef occur every few kilometres where
currents are generally strong and marine life is prolific. Beyond
the outer reef is a steep drop off to approximately 25m. The caves
and ledges that have been weathered in the wall-face, which runs almost
the entire length of the reef, provide a valuable habitat for a vast
array of marine life including many typically pelagic species. The
proximity of the continental shelf to the Ningaloo coast further contributes
to the diversity of the region. From the tip of North West Cape it
is only 2 nautical miles and reaches a maximum of about 20 nautical
miles off Point Maud.
The reef lies in relatively high latitudes, between 21°47'S and
23°47'S where the transition zone between the temperate waters
of the south and the tropical waters of the north occurs. The reef
is able to exist in such a southerly latitude due to the influence
of the Leeuwin Current, a body of warm, southward moving water.
Bay is approximately 1100km north of Perth, 250km north of Carnarvon,
550km south of Karratha and 150km south of Exmouth.
By car, the journey from Perth takes between 12 and 14 hours however
it is advised to allow 2 days so as to avoid driving after dark when
there is more wildlife on the road.
Greyhound coachlines run regular services from the south and north.
It is a 15-hour trip from Perth and costs approximately $150 one-way.
closest airport to Coral Bay is Learmonth, 40kms south of Exmouth.
Skywest fly daily from Perth. The closest airport serviced by Qantas
Coral Bay is located at the southern end of the Ningaloo Marine Park
on the edge of Maud Sanctuary Zone.
Access to other coastal areas is generally by boat or 4-wheel drive.
From Coral Bay a 4-wheel drive track runs north along the coast as
far as Yardie Creek Crossing in the Cape Range National Park. From
here a sealed road continues round to Exmouth. Exmouth Gulf can be
easily reached from the main road.