Ningaloo Reef – The World Heritage Site
The Ningaloo reef is Australia's largest fringing reef and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the expansion of the protection of the reef to the Ningaloo Marine Park. The 2004 decision came after "the Save Ningaloo" campaign stopped the development of a large-scale marina in 2003 with the support of tens of thousands of people from around the world. The decision increased the protected area from 10% to 34%. The park's websites tells us: "Ningaloo Marine Park protects the world-famous Ningaloo Reef – Australia's largest and most accessible fringing reef. Here, you simply step straight off the dazzling white sandy beaches and enter an underwater wonderland of incredible diversity. Stretching 300 kilometers, the Ningaloo Marine Park begins at Bundegi Reef in the Exmouth Gulf, skirts around North West Cape and ends at the southern gateway to Australia's Ningaloo Reef at Red Bluff (north of Carnarvon). It extends 10 nautical miles seaward and encompasses over 5,000 square kilometers of ocean."
Many divers, if not almost all, who have had dives on both the Great Barrier Reef and Ningaloo Reef say that the Ningaloo is the better place to dive. The marine live is plentiful and the corals are not only healthier there is a higher percentage of coverage. A barrier reef such as the Great Barrier Reef is located a great distance off shore. The lagoon behind them is shallower than the deep water in front but is still often 20 to 30 meters deep. A fringing reef such as the Ningaloo reef is close to shore, and in many places are touching the waterline at low tide. There are fewer breaks between reefs and the open area is seldom more than 20 meters deep. There are channels of open area that are deeper and larger species use these channels to come in close to shore. Whale sharks are the largest fish in the sea, and this reef has the largest concentration of whale sharks in the world (estimated at 500). While they are migratory, the season they spend on the reef is also the longest in the world. Sea turtles, sharks, rays, dugongs, and humpback whales are among the fish (500 species), corals (300 species), mollusks (600 species) and many other marine invertebrates that call the reef home.
The World Heritage site includes not only the reef, it also included portions of the land as well. The 300 kilometers between Exmouth and Red Bluff have been called the most stark landscape in the world. Both Exmouth and Bluff are small towns with no towns in between them. Red bluff is a 15 hour drive from Perth. Still 180,000 visit each year.
Like all reefs there are still conservation concerns.