The red earth of the outback. The diamond sand of the coast. The cobalt waters of the reef. And this, the one magical spot you can find the colours of Australia together: the Ningaloo Coast. Some 1200 clicks north of Perth, it’s a speck in the middle of nowhere that plays host to some of the most amazing wildlife and scenery in the country.
Though not as well known as its eastern rival, the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef is Australia’s largest fringing reef and gaining in fame thanks to two things: whale sharks and humpback whales. From March to August, the boats go in search of the biggest fish in the sea – the whale shark, beloved for its enormous (plankton- not people-eating) mouth and blunt nose. From August to October, the gentle giants are subbed out for migrating humpback whales, which roll, preen and smack through the water. Swimming with either of these incredible beasts is a life-stopping moment.
A slightly more lo-fi experience can be had kayaking Blue Lagoon or snorkeldrifting in Turquoise Bay – but prepare for some whiplash when spotting the manta rays, reef sharks, turtles and many species of fish. Easier still? Take in the 260-kilometre length of Ningaloo Reef from the hammock on your deck at Sal Salis, an eco-luxe retreat that sets up camp in the dunes of the Cape Range National Park from March to November. Sal Salis is what you’d call rustic luxury – it offers the chance to be close to nature with all the creature comforts. The walls of your safari-style tent are made of canvas but the bed is uber-comfortable (and there’s plenty of hot water).
There’s no wifi here; you’ll never hear the shrill interruption of the phone. There’s just the sound of the waves lapping at the shore and the thunder of the breakers out back. Plus the promise of what lies beneath.
When the day is done, wander up to the main lodge, grab a drink from the self-serve bar (Western Australian wine, please) and brag about the moments you’ve had. That you can do it over a plate of locally caught blue swimmer crab or goldband snapper makes it all the richer.
And tomorrow? Well, there’s a gorge walk and the chance to spot black-footed rock wallabies. Another snorkel and the hope of finding dugongs. More sun, more sand, more sea. And the colours of Australia, laid out before you.