Good news for WA divers and environmentalist, bad news for petroleum company Royal Dutch Shell: the stunning Ningaloo Reef, about 1200km north of Perth, has been listed as a World Heritage Site.
The Ningaloo Reef was nominated 1.5 years ago by the Australian government. Last year there were fears that the drilling plans by oil and gas company Royal Dutch Shell, just 50km off the reef's fringe, would jeopardise the heritage listing, but Environment Minister Tony Burke announced on Friday the 24th of June that the request had been granted. The Ningaloo Coast is only the 19th place in Australia to be recognised on the World Heritage List.
Close to shore The Ningaloo Reef heritage site encompasses over 600,000 hectares of ocean on the easternmost point of Western Australia and stretches over more than 200km of coastline. The site is far less known than the Great Barrier Reef, but has just as much to offer to lovers of warm coral seas with an abundance of marine life, if not more. What makes Ningaloo Reef unique is that the reef is accessible from the beach in many places, so you don't necessarily have to go out on a boat tour to see most of the marine life, which makes it a popular spot for diving and snorkelling. Places like Coral Bay and Exmouth attract many thousands of visitors each year, and facilities like camping grounds and hotels are usually fully booked during school holidays.
Unique species The reef has been a Marine Park since 1987 and is a world famous spot for Scuba diving, whale watching and snorkelling, with the massive Whale Sharks being one of the reef's top attractions during the winter months. The Marine Park is also regularly visited by many other types of bigger sharks, and has among its inhabitants schools of manta rays, dugongs, humpback whales, dolphins, and over 500 species of fish. The beaches along Ningaloo Coast are visited by various endangered types of sea turtles, which use the remote area as a breeding ground. The reef has 300 species of bright coral and even houses species of sponges that were new to science until 2006.
This Australian gem will be even better preserved now its value has been universally recognised.