backpackers Perth

Exmouth home to Ningaloo Marine Park and the Cape Range National Park.


Ningaloo Reef is a vast coral reef located on the Western Australian (WA) coast approximately 1200 kilometres north of Perth, the State capital.
Whilst perhaps not as well known as Australia's 'other reef' the Great Barrier Reef in Queensland, Ningaloo Reef is just as spectacular in terms of marine life and corals. Unlike the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo reef is unique in terms of accessibility and can be seen and explored easily from the numerous beaches that dot the coastline. All that is required is a snorkel and set of flippers and a short stroll into the warm crystal clear waters of the Indian Ocean.

Ningaloo reef is known as a part barrier/part fringing reef ranging from a few meters to 200 hundred meters offshore. The reef, which covers some 5000 square kilometres of ocean,  is unusual in that the corals appear further south than most tropical reefs this being due to a south flowing stream of warm tropical water that runs along the coastline. This warm current is known as the 'Leeuwin Current'. The name Leeuwin comes from a Dutch vessel ('the lioness') which explored the coastline in 1622 (for more info see; www.calm.wa.gov.au).

The name 'Ningaloo' comes from the local Aboriginal people and means a 'promontory' or 'point of high land jutting into the sea'. The actual promontory is the nearby Cape Range Peninsula with the reef running parallel to this for over 260 kilometres.

Ningaloo Marine Park protects one of Australia's most important coral habitats. It is one of the few places on earth where the worlds largest fish, the Whale Shark can be predictably found and studied at close hand. Using spotter planes which follow well known routes offshore, visitors to Ningaloo (using the services of regular boat trips) can swim with these magnificent animals.

In addition to Whale Sharks, the reef supports more than 500 species of fish, 250 species of Coral and in excess of 600 species of Mollusc. Green Turtles have extensive rookeries inside the reef which also supports Dugongs and huge 'fields' of sea grass located within lagoons. Humpback Whales are regular visitors their migration routes to and from the Southern Ocean taking them close into the reef. A vast array of tropical fish can be seen many of them unique to this part of WA.

Cape Range National Park.

Around 20 million years ago, the northwest corner of WA was covered by a warm, shallow sea. Later, as the crust of the earth crumpled, a huge anticline rose upwards to form the magnificent Cape Range Peninsula we see today. The main part of the range is fossil bearing Limestone laid down on what was once the sea floor. The Range is notable for over 50 kilometres of beautiful unspoiled sand beaches and breathtaking Canyons.

Cape Range was declared a National Park in 1964. The first European settler was a Mr Thomas Carter who, in 1889, opened a pastoral station. Evidence indicates Aboriginal occupation to be in excess of 30,000 years.

Cape Range has an abundance of wildlife including the largest specie of Kangaroo, the Red Kangaroo. In addition, the Range is home to the remarkable Rock Wallaby, Euros, Goannas, Snakes and nearly 100 species of bird. 630 species of flowering plants dot the Ranges, which cover around 218,000 hectares. For more information see www.calm.wa.gov.au.

The 'Western Shield'.

Detailed research over many years has indicated that since European settlement, many native mammals found earlier in western Australia (and in fact the entire Australian Continent) have dramatically declined. Notably, the Cape Range Peninsula has seen a drop from 38 mammals to just 17 in the last 200 years or so. In particular, 2 of these species are now sadly totally extinct with 2 others found only on offshore Islands. Much of this destruction is believed to be due to the introduction of the European Red Fox.

The Western Australian Government in conjunction with their agency, the Department of Conservation and Land Management (CALM) have formulated a plan to address this decline in native creatures entitled 'The Western Shield'. This is considered to be the largest nature conservation project of its kind in the world.

Western Shield has several inter connecting elements. Fox baiting either by vehicle or by air is being undertaken on a massive scale with over 5 million hectares of land being targeted throughout WA. Research into the management and eradication of feral Cats has been increased and this already has been shown to have, had a positive effect on recovery rates for the number of native animals.

CALM, in conjunction with specialists at Perth Zoo and wildlife carers have established a number of successful breeding programs designed to re-stock native animal numbers. The Numbat, WA's emblem has been brought back from the point of extinction as have 3 other species: the Woylie, the Quenda and the Tammar Wallaby so much so that all three have now been taken off the Threatened Species List. For more information see www.calm.wa.gov.au

Things to do.

The north west coastline of Western Australia is vast, uncluttered and unique.

Nothing quite prepares the visitor for the huge stretches of beautiful sandy beaches, the clean fresh turquoise ocean or the dramatic red ochre' coastline. Sunsets over the endless Indian Ocean have an intensity unmatched anywhere else and for star gazers, the clean warm air provides a truly memorable panorama of the heavens.

Volumes have been written about the north west and we would encourage prospective visitors to read and learn as much as possible prior to and during any trip. Below however is a summary of some intesting places to visit plus some comments on 'things to do'.

Exmouth.

Exmouth was founded in 1967 and is approximately 1270 kilometres north from Perth, the WA State capital. Originally settled as a support Town for service men and women at the Harold E Holt Naval Communication Station, the Town has grown into a thriving community of some 2,500 people.

Ideally set to provide a sound base for exploring the area, Exmouth has a number of tourist attractions. Notably these include the Cape Range National Park; Ningaloo Marine Park which provides fabulous fishing,  beautiful beaches, superb deep water harbour and spectacular gorges.

The Aquafest is a significant local event held in September each year drawing visitors from across Australia and overseas.

Fishing.

Some of the best fishing in the world is available year round in and around Exmouth with the Leeuwin Current providing the ideal habitat for over 500 species of fish. These include the giant Coral Trout, Spanish Mackerel, Red Emperor and the famous local delicacy 'Snapper'. Game Fishing flourishes in the waters being home to the giant Marlin and Sailfish. For recreational fishermen young or old, Exmouth is a superb location for heavy or light tackle with numerous fishing spots dotted along the coastline. For more information refer to the Conservation and Land Management site (CALM) or www.natiurebase.net

Diving/Snorkelling.

The vast healthy and clean Ningaloo Reef runs along the coastline for some 260 kilometres parallel to the imposing cliffs of the Cape Range Peninsula.

Huge varieties of coral, believed to be in excess of 250 make up the reef which uniquely, can be accessed by a short 20 m stroll into the ocean direct from the beach. Such easy access makes the reef accessible by all visitors young and old. All that is needed is a mask, ideally some flippers and an inquisitive outlook.

The waters are warm throughout the year and visibility is excellent. Local Dive companies provide various levels of diving experiences from short boat trips to coral outcrops to the more adventurous expedition where visitors can swim with giant Whale Sharks that follow the coast. Dugongs, Mantra Rays,  Turtles and large Cod Fish can be seen up close and personal.

Cool Spots.

Coral Bay is a small but lively settlement located within the Shire of Carnarvon some 1000 kilometres north of Perth. A wide selection of accommodation is provided from fully serviced camp sites to modern hotel units. Ningaloo Reef can be easily accessed from the beach where snorkelling, scuba diving and swimming is available all year round. Visitors (aside from the humans!) include Humpback Whales, Dugongs, Mantra Rays, Turtles and Bottle Nosed Dolphins. Truly paradise.

Turquoise Bay.

Appropriately named, this crystal clear lagoon offers world class sandy beaches, diving and snorkelling or simply lazing about soaking up the sun.

Surfers Beach.

Only 17 kilometres south of Exmouth, this beach provides the ideal sub-tropical 'break'. By far the best spot for surfers on the north west coast.

Charles Knife Canyon.

A truly 'outback setting' pioneers Charles Knife and his colleague, Jack King set about forming an access road into the vast Cape Ranges where an exploratory drilling rig was established. Whilst no mining operations exist today, the formed gravel road allows visitors exceptional views across the Exmouth region.

Yardie Creek.

Either by boat or by foot Yardie Creek is a truly awesome eco experience. Rock Wallabies are abundant as are the majestic giant Ospreys which soar above the landscape on rising currents of warm air.

Milyering Visitors Station.

Situated within the Cape Range and constructed of 'rammed earth' and powered by solar panels, this centre is the ideal spot to learn more about the north west region of WA. Interactive video shows and literature provide the visitor with everything to make a visit to Exmouth and beyond with a lifetime of memories and experiences.

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