Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef located off the Western Coast of Australia, approximately 1200 km north of Perth. The reef is 260 km long and is Australia's largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass. It is known for its seasonal feeding concentrations of the whale shark, and the conservation debate surrounding its potential tourism development. In 1987 the reef and surrounding waters were designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park. In 2011 the reef and surrounding areas were World Heritage listed by the United Nations. Although most famed for its whale sharks which feed there during March to June, the reef is also rich in coral and other marine life. During the winter months, the reef is part of the migratory routes for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales. The beaches of the reef are an important breeding ground of the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. They also depend on the reef for nesting and food. The Ningaloo supports an abundance of fish (500 species), corals (300 species), molluscs (600 species) and many other marine invertebrates. The reef is less than half a kilometre offshore in some areas, such as Coral Bay. In 2006, researchers from the Australian Institute of Marine Science discovered in the marine park’s deeper waters gardens of sponges that are thought to be species completely new to science.
(Barossa Valley, World Heritage Area of Ningaloo Coast)
As you float patiently in the open ocean, a submerged cage is all that protects you from the sea’s fiercest predator.
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