Never before in my life have I had the chance to swim with a turtle… let alone a wild one! When we planned to visit the Ningaloo Reef though, I made it my goal to change this sad little fact and enrich my life by getting up and close with a wild sea turtle.
The Ningaloo Reef spans 260kms of Western Australia coastline from Exmouth in the North to south of Coral Bay. The differentiating point that makes it so special (as good as or some say even better than the Great Barrier Reef) is its proximity to the shore and therefore ease of access for divers.
I’d heard from other travellers and snorkelers that there are a few good spots along the coast that is super easy to find and swim with wild turtles without needing a boat. I snaffled up this information and as soon as we arrived in the region I put it to the test.
Thank god I did… a day later I had one of the best experiences of my life when we found a swam with a wild turtle for a good 15 minutes, and then again the day afterwards.
I loved the experience so much that I thought I’d share with you these three amazing spots to get close and personal with turtles at Ningaloo.
1. Just South of Coral Bay’s main beach
My brother let me in on this little gem of a secret. He told me to park at the end of Coral Bay’s main beach, grab my snorkelling gear and walk south past the lookout to the next beach along. Walk about 50 metres down the beach and jump in the water. You’ll need to swim quite a way out onto the reef (around 100-150 metres) and the further you go the more likely it’ll be you’ll see a turtle.
We did exactly as he said and made our way through the amazing gardens of stag coral out into the reef. The view under the water here is amazing, and we got caught up in the beauty of the corals – their interesting shapes, sizes and colours. All of a sudden out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a very large fish. At a closer glance it was the mottled green/brown shell of a medium sized sea turtle.
I almost inhaled a mouthful of salty water as I yelled to everyone else and pointed dramatically in the direction of the turtle. In the end we had a good 15 minutes swimming and relaxing with her and really got the feel of how they swim and react under water. Check out the video below for a quick taste of what it was like:
2. Ningaloo Station beaches
Ningaloo Station sits smack bang in between Exmouth and Coral Bay. Its privately owned property, but if you register at the homestead they’ll give you a key to access all the beaches on their land for the day for free (if you want to camp a night or two you can pay for a spot).
A lot of the beaches allow super easy access to the reef – swim a few metres and you’ll be among the coral and the fish.
Lefroy Bay is a favourite for snorkelling and a lot less congested than other public beaches – meaning you’ll have more of a chance to see turtles up close and personal.
3. Turquoise Bay, Exmouth
This stunning white sanded beach is famous for snorkelling and although the coral here isn’t as impressive as at the aptly named Coral Bay, the plentitude and variety of wildlife is breathtaking enough. In just an hour we saw sea cucumbers, an octopus, hundreds of varieties of fish, a white-tipped reef shark and another sea turtle.
This time the turtle was chilling under a rock and having a lazy nap so we were able to get really close to have a look. Although we dived down to say hello countless times, the turtle was very happy to sit and let us swim around her with no worries at all. What an experience.
If you dive these three spots once each, its highly likely you’ll make at least one new friend and get to witness the beauty of a sea turtle from under the water.