What to Expect on a Ningaloo Reef Snorkelling Tour

Armed with a snorkel kit and a camera, German travel writer Freedi Franze takes a dive into the watery wonders at World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef.

To be perfectly honest when I thought about a Ningaloo Reef snorkelling tour, I was a bit scared. Although I was raised close to the coast, I have to admit that Germany’s Baltic Sea is terribly boring compared to our departure point at Coral Bay. With chattering teeth I climbed aboard the Ningaloo Marine Interactions boat, nervous of what might be expecting me down there in the depths. Our skipper Fraser immediately noticed that I was a bit frightened, so he promised me that my fear would disappear when I was in the water, and he was right!

You'll see fish and turtles everywhere

As a small group of eight adventurous snorkellers we started our Ningaloo Reef snorkelling tour by getting familiar with the equipment in calm waters. With the first glance through my goggles I fell in love with this stunning underwater world! There were colourful fish everywhere, in addition a large green turtle jovially crossed my path, and it felt like I was floating through a sea of flowers and colour. I was delighted!

Be prepared to see big marine life!

It got even better when we sailed further over the reef towards the open sea, and out to meet the king of all rays – the manta. The team explained how we should behave around the manta rays we were about to meet. It is important not to frighten them, and we were told how to observe from an appropriate distance, which we did. Together we slid into the water and almost immediately they inquisitively swam around us. The manta rays seemed as interested in us, as we were in them. Watching them swim in a dipsy-doodle way underneath our feet, I was so entranced and amazed that all fear was gone. I could have watched them for hours but Fraser called us to get back on board, where the rest of the crew welcomed us with super tasty burgers. Mesmerised, I had totally forgotten how hungry I was. Thankful for this awesome experience and the food, we sat in the sun on the boat surrounded by at least 40 turtles which came to the water surface to stretch their small heads up for breathing. A hundred metres away dolphins splashed about while we suddenly noticed another highlight swimming in our direction. “Wow, it’s a big stingray!”

While I prepared myself to dive in, the rest of the group seemed a little intimidated due to the animal’s big shadow. So it was only the two of us watching the huge stingray from a safe distance. It seemed he was searching for food and compared to other stingrays I’d seen, he looked totally different. Tom, the tour’s photographer told me later on that this impressive creature must have been about 4 meters long. I could hardly believe how lucky I was to meet such an animal in its natural environment.

If you're lucky you'll see reef sharks...but don't be scared!

Back on the boat we raved about our adventure, when only a few moments later we arrived in an area frequented by a shoal of reef sharks. While the whole group prepared for the encounter, I suddenly felt nervous again. The word shark triggered fear but our crew was just great and they took the time to explain to me, how harmless these little journeymen are and that there would always be the option to return back on board. Knowing this and also feeling the curiosity in me, I followed the group. Although I must admit, I didn’t feel completely contented when the sharks passed us silently. It’s interesting to feel how much your thoughts, imagination and the media perceptions matter. Whenever I hear “shark” I get a little scared and would like to run away, but this time I managed to stay and took the opportunity to observe. In the end I had the impression that the sharks were more aloof, and far less interested in trying to get close to us.

This was a great and important experience for me and helped me to overcome my fear of sharks and to realise that it’s great to not only try new things, but to also be open to enjoy them completely. Most of all I am very thankful to our local Ningaloo Reef snorkelling tour guides Fraser, Ann and Tom. They were a great help and never tired of sharing all their knowledge of Ningaloo Reef, its inhabitants and this lovely piece of land with us.

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