North West Cape and Ningaloo Reef, Australia
North West Cape is a large peninsula of land in the north west coast of Western Australia. It includes the towns of Exmouth and Learmonth.
Cape Range, a national park, runs down the spine of the peninsula and Ningaloo Reef runs along the western edge.
Ningaloo Reef is a fringing coral reef, of 280 kilometers in length. It is Australia’s largest fringing coral reef and the only large reef positioned very close to a landmass.
In 1987 the reef and surrounding waters were designated as the Ningaloo Marine Park.
It is known for its seasonal feeding concentrations of the whale shark, and the conservation debate surrounding its potential tourism development.
Although most famed for its whale sharks which feed there from March to June, the reef is also rich in coral and other marine life.
During the winter months, the reef is part of the migratory routes for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales.
The beaches of the reef are an important breeding ground of the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles. They also depend on the reef for nesting and food.
The Ningaloo supports an abundance of fish (500 species), corals (300 species), mollusks (600 species) and many other marine invertebrates. The reef is less than half a kilometer offshore in some areas, such as Coral Bay.