Coastal and Aquatic Adventures
The waters off WA’s 12,000 kilometre long coastline are regarded as some of the most pristine in the world – and home to a myriad of marine life. Here’s our W ‘A’ list of coastal and aquatic adventures.
Have a ‘whale’ of a time at Ningaloo Reef.
Without a doubt, swimming with the world’s largest fish is one of life’s most exhilarating marine experiences. Ningaloo is regarded as one of the best locations in the world to swim with whale sharks – due to the clarity of the water, regularity of the whale sharks and professionalism of the tour operators. Visitors will also have the opportunity to swim with humpback whales from July to October at Ningaloo Reef, with a number of local operator’s trialling the swim tour for the first time in 2016. Easily accessible from shore, World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is also home to Manta Rays, Sea Turtles and Dugongs. Ningaloo is among the most biologically diverse marine environments on earth, and is also the closest coral barrier reef to a land mass in the world – meaning that visitors can walk straight off the beach and snorkel over superb coral gardens teeming with colourful fish mere metres from the shore.
Let’s go surfing.
It’s no secret some of the world’s best surfers – think Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning – visit WA’s shores to catch some of the world’s best waves in the famed Margaret River region, in the State’s South West. See local, national and international surfing stars compete at the annual Margaret River Pro, held every April, or find a local surf school (they operate around the State), grab a board and hang ten.
Perth’s own ‘car free’ island paradise is a short ferry ride from Fremantle, Perth or Hillarys with Rottnest Express or Rottnest Fast Ferries. Relax on the beach or cool off at one of the island’s 63 beaches and 20 secluded bays. The diversity of fish, coral species and shipwrecks in the waters around Rottnest – or ‘Rotto’ as the locals call it – make it one of the most fascinating snorkel and dive sites to be found in such close proximity to a capital city. Hire snorkelling gear from Rottnest Island’s Pedal & Flipper, join a snorkelling or diving tour with Charter 1 or from September to April take an eco-adventure tour for a close up encounter with seals, dolphins, turtles and humpback whales (in season). Rotto is 11 kilometre long and 4.5 kilometre wide so it is easy to explore by bike or on foot.
Swim with the dolphins and see them at play.
A short drive south of Perth, Rockingham Wild Encounters and Bunbury’s Dolphin Discovery offer a unique ‘swim with wild dolphins’ experience. There’s no enclosures here, the dolphin swims are in the sheltered waters of the Shoalwater Marine Park (Rockingham) and Koombana Bay (Bunbury). At Monkey Mia (850 kilometres north of Perth), a small pod of dolphins regularly visit the shallows to play. In Broome make sure to take the new snubnose dolphin boat tour at Roebuck Bay.
See one of the greatest shows on earth.
WA hosts one of the longest whale-watching seasons in the world. Each year from May to December, humpback, southern right and rare blue whales call WA’s oceans home. Albany, Augusta, Broome, Exmouth, Perth, Fremantle, Hillarys, Denham, Kalbarri, Geographe Bay and Rottnest Island offer top vantage points and tours. Then, there’s Bremer Bay in WA’s South West where the Bremer Bay Canyon is attracting hundreds of killer whales each February and March. Visitors have the opportunity to join a Bremer Bay Canyon Expedition with Naturaliste Charters to have an up-close encounter with killer whales.
Meet the wildlife.
An easy drive south of Perth you’ll find Penguin Island, part of the Shoalwater Marine Park. Visitors can see and learn more about WA’s largest colony of little penguins at the Discovery Centre. The island is also home to many species of seabirds and Australian sea lions. Jurien Bay Marine Park, just a three-hour drive north of Perth, is also famous for its sea lions and marine life. In Esperance on WA’s south east coast, take a cruise to Woody Island and see New Zealand Fur Seals, Australian Sea Lions, White-breasted Sea Eagles and Dolphins. Also in Esperance, make sure to head to Lucky Bay to spend time with the friendly local kangaroos who like to sunbake on Australia’s whitest beach.
There are hundreds of shipwrecks along WA’s coast – in the South West, HMAS Swan at Dunsborough is WA’s most famous prepared wreck, while the HMAS Perth, sunk to 36 metres in Albany, is the largest. Also in the South West, Busselton Jetty is one of Australia’s greatest artificial reefs – hosting tropical and subtropical coral, sponges, fish and invertebrates. Exmouth’s Navy Pier, in WA’s Coral Coast, is rated as one of the top ten shore dives in the world.
While nowhere in WA is crowded, there are some very special places, which you’re likely to have all to yourself. The Rowley Shoals rank among the most remote and pristine marine areas in the world – see colourful coral gardens, giant clams and schools of tuna and mackerel. The Abrolhos Islands are home to 19 shipwrecks, including the Batavia, and some of the finest diving, snorkelling and fishing in Australia. The clear waters off the Mackerel Islands offer incredible visibility for snorkelers and divers, and the Montebello-Barrow Islands Marine Park is teaming with wildlife. In the waters off Esperance you can snorkel among sea-dragons or advanced divers can tackle the Sanko Harvest shipwreck. Part of the Shark Bay World Heritage listed region, Dirk Hartog Island off the coast of Denham is home to crystal blue waters teeming with marine life including dugongs and humpback whales in season. 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the island’s European discovery by Dutch explorer Dirk Hartog.