Your knowledge of Ningaloo Marine Park

Jan 24th, 2009, 06:24 AM
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Your knowledge of Ningaloo Marine Park

Hi - We're Canadians travelling to AUS in March.Arrive Sydney, thinking of heading sw to Melbourne and then on to Perth and Ningallo Reef. Prices on Tiger Air from Melbourne to Perth look affordable and then local airline to Port Headland or ? We do still hope to travel cross (fly) and do the east coast too - we have a month. Will need to spend some time in Newcastle area (family at Uni)but not too interested in Gold Coast. Byron Bay,Fraser Island, Whitsundays, and GBR (if weather good) are our goals.
Can you give any advice on Exmouth and snorkelling reef.Understand Coral Bay, Shark Bay, Monky Mia all worthwhile. Help? Thanks, Saradipity
saradipity is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 01:34 PM
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I don't know why you are not interested in the Gold Coast when there is some of the nicest country around that area, flora and fauna, best beaches, restaurants, attractions etc. The weather will be good at that time so travelling from Byron - Fraser - Whitsundays and GBR will be delightful. Before you actually book for West Australia check the prices out for travelling to Ningaloo because it is out of the way somewhat and can be expensive, also check out when the whale sharks are there because that I suspect is the main reason for going. If you are going to the GBR then you may find that you are just doing the same on the other side of Australia. One month is not that long to see the GBR, Sydney and surrounds and everything else thats available so make as many enquiries possible before deciding. Monkey Mia is known for its dolphins but you can do that elsewhere and as for Shark Bay and surrounds - Australia would have been under another country's flag if Dirk Hartog had not turned away at the sight of the West Australian Coast saying that it was not fit for man nor beast! On the other hand Ningaloo Reef is fantastic for swimming with Whale Sharks at the right time of year so check about that as well.
LizzyF is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 05:18 PM
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Yes, Tiger have introduced a new level of cheap fares, so cheap enough to get over to WA.

Depending on when in March you arrive, you could still have some summer stormy weather, even possibility of cyclonic action in more northern regions right through to late March and it'll still be damm hot, quite likely 35+C or thereabouts up Ningaloo way.

I have not been to Ningalloo myself and so cannot comment on how it compares to the GBR but get the impression it is more diverse yet of a much smaller area, the GBR extending over some 2000 km. as a series of reefs and atolls/islands.
Ningaloo also has Whale Sharks there whenever the season is and people go in the water with them.
But it'll be the weather if anything you need to be aware of.

If you want a dolphin experience, Monkey Mia has on some reports been over exposed, one story a while back being that caravan park effluent pollution had put it on the nose for some dolphins, if not they on the nose!
There is Rockingham, not far south from Perth where you can swim with Dolphins, or just up the highway not too far from Newcastle, also a similar deal at Forster- Tuncurry, so may a days outing for everyone.

It sounds like you're more into nature and I can understand the GC not being such a great attraction having lived there a number of years, more a concrete jungle than a natural one than ever before, but some nice if touristry [as anywhere just about is] hinterland areas.

Some beaches there are OK, but because of the long open expanses of many, they are also highly dangerous too, many rips etc. can suddenly develop, more so than with headland sheltered beaches Lizzy.

Byron Bay is a bit touristy too, but still a nice vibe to it.
Bearing in mind what the weather could be like, you might want to save time/cost of WA trip and seeing you like the sound of Fraser Island and why not!, a lovely spot; but put on the itineray, it being an eco resort right on the GBR, furtherest south, and look under bookings and you'll see a LEI/Fraser Island combo package of reasonable looking value.

That way if the weather further north is also wet and stormy looking and will be warm and heavy with humidity anyway, you still get to see the GBR.

Extra time? > Paradise in spades by Howe - and not too expensive for a flight out there from Sydney and say back to Brisbane that gets you in LEI/Fraser and BB neck of woods.
Also some great beaches btw on Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane.
Bushranger is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 05:53 PM
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Well Bushranger, give me the Gold Coast beaches with Life Guards and shark netting and shark watching planes any day of the year to the beaches of Western Australia which have none of those and I say that from someone who used to be a long distance competitive swimmer and therefore able to swim in many conditions. Does Saradipity know that there is no swimming either on Fraser Island unless you want to chance it with the sharks etc? The distances in W.A to the north of Perth are vast and the beach communities sparse. It is not like the eastern seashores where you have trees and greenery etc or hinterland which is nice for that matter. Port Headland is a mining boom town and about as boring as you can get so I am suggesting that they do sara does a lot of research on what exactly she does want to see and do. The weather in WA will also be hotter than Qld as well.
LizzyF is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 06:30 PM
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I wasn't comparing the beaches of the GC to WA [and there are many beautiful ones btw], nor to Fraser Island where you have the options of lakes and creeks swimming and some rock pools.

Already commented on likely weather aspects and that there are other options to consider, giving some Lizzy.

But it remains that a lot of beaches on the GC are not exactly all that safe, the reason in itself for many life guard zones.
Bushranger is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 09:02 PM
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Is it possible for you to fly into Exmouth or Carnarvon instead of Port Hedland? It is so much closer to Ningaloo and there really isn't anything to see between Port Hedland and the turnoff to Coral Bay and Exmouth.
One of the advantages of Ningaloo Reef over the Great Barrier Reef is that it is much closer to the mainland and therefore you aren't spending as much time actually getting to the reef.
marg is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 09:33 PM
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I agree with Marg, fly into Exmouth.

Maudie is offline  
Jan 24th, 2009, 10:40 PM
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"One of the advantages of Ningaloo Reef over the Great Barrier Reef is that it is much closer to the mainland and therefore you aren't spending as much time actually getting to the reef."

Only if you're going to be in the area for in context of the continent, it's going to be something close to if not over 4000 km. to get to Exmouth from Sydney whereas you're looking at less than 1500 km. to closest part of the GBR.

And yes, Exmouth is where you would fly to and Sara no doubt with a ? just wasn't sure herself.

Bushranger is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 10:01 AM
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Hey guys - Sorry! Didn't mean to create such a controversy over Gold Coast or the whole East vs. West coast. Our dream was the GBR but we didn't do our homework very well before we booked and have realized that we didn't choose the best time to go for that and I've been searcing for an alternative. The distances don't seem so bad when you think of how far we're travelling to get to AUS. What I would really appreciate, cause we are beach people and we want to snorkel and swim as much as possible is your further advice on safe (no shark, jellyfish, rips etc)options that don't cost an arm and a leg (ha,no pun intended) where we can enjoy your beautiful beaches. Bushranger I will look at your suggestions - thank you. LizzyF its only the high density of all the buildings that had us thinking of skipping the Gold Coast for further north as we wanted to see a more 'natural' AUS. Having said that we ARE scared of your scary stuff and need advice from you guys on how to minimize those risks. Thanks again.
saradipity is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 11:45 AM
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Lets get back to basics - Firstly the weather should be great when you come for just about anywhere in Australia short of some unseasonal happening but in any case it should be short-lived. Secondly having lived in Western Australia and Queensland I can assure you that although Ningaloo is a fantastic destination it would not give you the all over enjoyment that the whole of the GBR will do seeing that the reef is only a small portion of the pleasures of that area of Australia. The area around Ningaloo, Shark Bay & the like is desert whereas the Queensland coastal areas are tropical with rivers, rain forests, waterways, waterfalls and plenty of other things to do and see. So you might say that you would get more boom for your buck and certainly more flora and fauna.
The beaches from Sydney to the Sunshine Coast in Queensland are lovely and all the main ones have life guards and shark netting. Further north in Queensland you have the reef which curtails the wave activity on beaches but that does not detract from the enjoyment of swimming there. As an ex-lifesaver/guard myself the best advice I can give anyone is to take heed of what the signs on the beach say and swim between the flags on any beach as that shows people where the safe areas are. If you get into difficulties then raise your arm and someone will rescue you. There is no rocket science in all of this. The reason beaches are patrolled in Australia is that many thousands of people go to them every day and only a few know anything at all about rips and tides etc. Also it is one way to make sure that the board surfers do not get in the way of the swimmers. In North Queensland & around the GBR there are beautiful lakes and tropical water pools to swim in, the islands are gorgeous and you can choose to be a day tripper or spend time on them. My favourite is Hinchinbrook Island which has just about everything anyone would want. Fraser Island is lovely BUT its mainly a family camping and fishing island and it does not have life guards nor patrolled beaches - yes it has some nice rivers to swim in and beautiful lakes but you can only get to them with a 4 wheel drive car because you have to drive on and over the sand dunes to get there and unless you have these things the tours are expensive. Heron island is lovely surrounded by reef but it is isolated and expensive to get to as its not on the main flight paths. Same for Lady Musgrave Island. The Whitsunday Islands are fantastic and there are 73 of them. You can stay on the mainland and do trips to the islands, you can find your own uninhabited island or you can join in the fun on an island there. But for my money the area around Cairns is the best for diversity, wild life, scenic attractions, reef trips etc etc. If you want to swim with dolphins you can either do that in the areas in New South Wales or on Morton Island just off the coast of Brisbane.
My comments on the GBR versus Ningaloo Reef area is a bit like your comments to me would be if I were going to Canada for snow and my ideas were either Banff National Park, Alberta area or the couple of low hills just to the north of Edmonton, Alberta ( both have snow BUT..................) and yes I know that area well because I lived there too!
However if your hearts are on Ningaloo and that area I am sure that you will find you will enjoy yourselves and I do agree that flying into Exmouth is preferable to Port Headland.
As they say in Queensland " beautiful one day, perfect the next". So don't unduely worry about bad weather.
LizzyF is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 03:32 PM
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Again, depending on when in March you'll be about may depend on what you would face with weather for with February regarded as our hottest month, that can have temperatures lingering into March bringing with it in the tropical north still the chance of tropically stormy weather but it may not make your trip so bad, just warm weather very likely and yes good for swimming though avoid middle of the day and slip, slop slap as we say here, slip a top on, slop on some sunbloc and slap a brimmed hat on.

Yes, you'll see flagged swimming areas at patrolled surf beaches and Lizzy ain't the only one who has been a surf life saver but I said before that the more dangerous beaches are those away from headlands and that stands true, the gold coast not having too many of them in proportion to open beach which rips and gutters can be far more unpredictable.

I mentioned the LEI/Fraser Island package and that is a good deal, not too expensive at all when you compare all up costs of alternatives and whilst Lizzy refers to it as a family/fishing island, it is certainly popular in that respect but you have obviously heard of it and it is not to be missed, being the largest sand island on the planet but also being covered by rainforest for much of its area.

She has also mentioned Lady Musgrave Island [you can take the LMI boat out there and camp but you have to pay the fare both days and it becomes expensive camping]and that is accessed from a place called Town of 1770, named so because that is where Captain Cook first set foot on land in Queensland, 1770.
The adjacent real town of Agnes Water has the furtherest north surf beach, a beach stretch of about 5-6 km and with a small population there I'd suspect visitors would have it to themselves very often.

As for sharks, though there have been shark attacks on mainly surfers over the years and occasionally on others swimming sometimes where they shouldn't [too close to deeper water channels] or snorkelling as was the case just recently at a beach south of Perth, I've yet to hear of a tourist being taken by a shark, though many have drowned over the years on the Gold Coast.

It is what is commonly known as Stinger season in the far north tropical regions and they do with northerly currents and prolonged northerly winds get brought further south but not for sustained periods; current weakening, winds change and some beaches get readily safe again - I have been to Agnes Water at the height of summer on various occasions and seen the beach closed a couple of days but open more often than not.
The stingers Box and Irukandji jelly fish and both, particularly the former can be fatal.

But be it sharks, the stingers, crocodiles or snakes, most people have heard of them but rarely ever see them unless they go looking or live in an area [most areas of rural Australia] where you would expect to find snakes but they usually look for some place not to be disturbed by us.
Bushranger is offline  
Jan 25th, 2009, 09:08 PM
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Hi Saradipity,

I have been to Ningaloo Reef and the GBR. Personally, I would prefer Ningaloo over the GBR.

We camped at the Cape Range National Park and literally just footsteps from our campsite we were snorkelling and seeing wonderful sites. Ningaloo is not all about the whale sharks - there is plenty to see.

The water was a beautiful aqua blue and the beaches were beautiful white sand.

We had a wonderful time at both Coral Bay and Monkey Mia.

Now just to clarify - we were there in 1997 and I haven't been back but I understand there is a resort there somewhere. The National Park only provided pit toilets and you had to have all your own water etc.

We liked Ningaloo because of its 'non commercial appeal' and the fact that you didn't have to travel for hours on a boat to actually get to the reef.

I am a Queenslander born and bred but I do think the natural appeal of Ningaloo is more what you're looking for. We loved that part of WA (well, actually we loved all of WA but that was particularly fantastic). Oh and if you get to see the whale sharks well, that would just be the most wonderful experience ever - something on my wish list of things still to do.

Like Lizzy, I too love the Gold Coast and there are lots of fantastic beaches there and as long as you ALWAYS swim between the flags you will have no safety issues at all.

I've had some wonderful camping holidays up at Fraser Island as well but I'm not a fan of Byron Bay but that's just me.

Honestly, I personally think that Ningaloo is well worth the effort to get there - I would have said it was worth the effort even without the attraction of the whale sharks - when we there it was one of the most pristine places I'd visited.
stormbird is offline  
Jan 27th, 2009, 07:33 PM
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Seeing you will be in Newcastle anyway, Saradipity, you may be able to snorkel and swim with dolphins, seahorses etc at Nelson Bay, an hour or so north, if someone will drive you there. I just googled "Nelson Bay snorkel sea horse" and found lots of info.on tours. It's a local,not an international tourist area and March should be lovely. Mind you, I would love to go to Ningaloo one day too!
Carrabella is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 07:43 PM
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Gosh, this thread is making me rethink my own trip to Australia!

I'm also heading there in March, and was planning a tour from Perth to Exmouth with stops in Galbarri, Coral, Bay, Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth...I realize it's a long stretch of nothing, but it seemed great! I need to be in Perth anyway, since I'm visiting friends there...

Keep the comments coming, have not yet booked the tour
Celine is offline  
Jan 29th, 2009, 08:05 PM
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One thing for sure Celine, that'll be one hot neck of the woods in March any year, with even possibility of cyclonic weather just to mix it up for you.
Bushranger is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 12:59 AM
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But just to keep things in perspective, March can be rough weatherwise in Northern Queensland too! Bushranger may be able to remind me - when was Cyclone Larry - the one that wrecked homes and businesses and put paid to the banana crop for months?

Wasn't it in March?

Celine, you know the GBR is so popular not because it is so beautiful (of course it is) but because it is easy to get to. IMHO Ningaloo is superior (primarily because it is a lot, lot less busy, and the coast of WA has its attractions. Monkey Mia is a tourist trap which I personally didn't much like. But the Shark Bay area in which it is located is stunning.

Everyone has a different take on developed v. less developed; the path well trodden v the path many people don't even put on the short list.

Have a wonderful time whatever you decide to do in the end!

afterall is offline  
Jan 30th, 2009, 03:18 AM
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March 26 or 28 it could have been afterall and I've already commented on weather possibilities eastern side further north too.
Bushranger is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 02:29 AM
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My husband and I flew into Exmouth (Learmonth Airport) in May 2002 to scuba dive on Ningaloo Reef (out of Coral Bay) and to snorkel with whale sharks (out of Exmouth). While we were in Coral Bay we also snorkeled with manta rays. And while we were in Exmouth we also scuba dived off the Navy Pier, which is considered one of the best shore dives in all of Australia.
As a qualifier, I should say I love to swim, snorkel and scuba dive. I love the ocean as well as aquariums. I go out whale watching once a year. But snorkeling with the whale sharks out of Exmouth was the greatest aquatic adventure I had ever experienced. We swam alongside gorgeous gentle sharks, which seemed oblivious to us--they were so busy eating.
Although we snorkelers were instructed to keep a respectful distance from the sharks, sometimes they swam directly at us with their huge gaping mouths--and we swam out of their way as fast as we could. They are quite a sight--they are covered with spots. The whale sharks we saw were surrounded by entourages of yellow jacks. Remoras had also latched onto them.
I have read that they can be up to 55 feet long, but the ones we saw were in the range of 20 to 30 feet long. I believe we swam with three or four whale sharks.
The whale shark excursions are expensive, around US$200. Though we were told if we did not spot any whale sharks, we would have the option of going out again on another day free of charge.
The operators use spotter planes to locate the whale sharks, so it isn't as hit and miss as you might imagine. One of the dive guides also videotapes the encounters, so you can purchase a souvenir of the excursion, if you so choose.
The manta ray snorkeling was also wonderful as we witnessed part of a manta ray mating sequence.
The Navy Pier dive was spectacular, like scuba diving in a well stocked aquarium tank, with reef sharks, octopus, lionfish, wobbegong sharks, frogfish, trevelly, and countless other colorful fish. The boat dives to Ningaloo Reef out of Coral Bay were also nice, though there weren't as many fish as we expected. This was due to a massive coral die-off two months earlier, which also killed off a lot of the reef fish. (This happens if there is no wind on the reef after the massive coral spawning. A coral slick covers the reef and the fish become starved of oxygen and die.)
We did see a good many dolphins, including the distinctive Indo Pacific Humpback Dolphin.
I also thought the outback around Exmouth was beautiful. Many birds. The beaches were also great, and practically deserted.
In 1998, we scuba dived on the Great Barrier Reef. We went out on a liveaboard boat trip out of Cairns, spent two nights on the reef, making many dives. Earlier on the trip, we also went out on a dive excursion out of Cape Tribulation.
Because of the coral die off in Ningaloo which killed off so many fish, I don't think I got a very typical view of the reef life of Ningaloo. However, based on my experience, I would say the GBR had more beautiful and plentiful coral. I was particularly impressed by the soft corals. I was also amazed by the enormous and colorful giant clams, the humphead maori wrasses and big cods. The GBR also offers wonderful variety. Sea turtles are often spotted on both the GBR and Ningaloo Reef.
Diving on the GBR was fairly easy, but the boat trip out to the reef was miserable--many folks got sick.
Diving the GBR is also affordable, probably due to the abundance of operators, thus more competition.
Of course, northern Queensland is lovely, green and lush (lots of info on Queensland on this board, so I needn't say more about this).
We also enjoyed scuba diving off Bicheno in Tasmania a few years ago, fantastic sea horses and sea dragons in the kelp right off shore. It was quite memorable and unique as leafy and weedy sea dragons can only be found in certain parts of Australia, and nowhere else in the world.
Diamantina is offline  
Jan 31st, 2009, 03:03 AM
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Here is a link to a Fodor page on the whale sharks of Ningaloo:
Diamantina is offline  

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