Our dive marketing guru, Charlotte, just returned from an epic trip to Western Australia. Like many divers, she has a bucket list of places and species she wants to explore, and this year she decided to tick off two: seeing whale sharks and road-tripping along Western Australia's coastline. While she went for the delights of Ningaloo Reef, she was also blown away by the beauty of the land. Having explored above and below the surface, she can safely say that it was worth the 20 hours of flying. Read on to find out where she travelled to…

Pinnacle desert showing the bright yellow sand and limestone rock formations

Nambung National Park

My road trip began in Perth, where I met up with one of my oldest friends (our mothers met in a pregnancy group in Sydney), and we hit the road driving north for the next week. Our first stop was Nambung National Park, about two-and-a-half hours north of Perth. Within the park is the surreal Pinnacles Desert, a geological mystery (scientists are still debating how it was formed) of sun-yellow sand and thousands of pointy limestone formations that stretch over 75 square miles.

Pink lagoon in Western Australia, showing the pink water and blue sky

Pink Lake and Kalbarri National Park

We spent the night in the sleepy town of Geraldton before making our way further north. For the first four days, we drove around eight hours a day, but contrary to expectations, these drives were anything but boring. The roads stretched endlessly, showcasing raw, natural beauty typical of Western Australia, with red dirt, clear blue skies, bright yellow wildlife warning signs and the occasional hopping kangaroo or slow-moving emu.

We enjoyed a picnic lunch in potentially the most Instagrammable place: Hutt Lagoon Pink Lake, about six hours north of Perth. The strawberry-pink waters sparked my first of many 'wow, the nature here is something else' moments and after delightedly paddling, we continued to Kalbarri National Park.

This park offers another photogenic opportunity: Nature's Window, a perfect formation of red rock layers overlooking a seasonal river from a cliffside gorge. Pro tip for future travellers: invest in a fly face net; those little insects love tourists. Our journey continued with a few hours of driving along two roads: Monkey Mia and then Shark Bay Road for the final 74 miles.

Landscap photo showing the red dirt and bush lands of Western Australia with blue ocean and blue sky

Monkey Mia

The sunrise in Monkey Mia was spectacular: a slow transition from almost black to strips of yellow and orange to clear cerulean. We spent our morning in the company of playful bottlenose dolphins then hiked along trails that quickly took us from flour-soft sand to red dirt as we headed into the bushlands. Again, I was blown away by the colours: the white sand beach, red dirt and brilliant blue sky created the most amazing backdrop.

ground level photo showing thousands of white shells making up a beach with blue sky in the distance

Shell Beach

We made a pit stop at Little Lagoon for a swim, then went shark gazing at Eagle Bluff. Here, you can spy slinking sharks in the gin-clear waters of Shark Bay. But the unexpected joy and highlight of the day was the stop at Shell Beach. Here, millions of tiny, perfect white shells make up the beach which gently runs into azure waters.

Above photo showing a manta ray swimming close to the sandy bottom

Coral Bay

Coral Bay, with its pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters, is the perfect introduction to the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef. This small coastal town, home to just 220 residents, exudes a slow-paced, nature-centric charm.

A morning jog toward Five Fingers Reef led me along red rocks and sand dunes, where a kangaroo's silhouette bounded along the ridge while blue waves gently caressed the shore. We took a break from driving to explore walking trails, snorkel over vibrant coral reefs and occasionally spot a shark fin slicing through the water's surface.

The highlight was undoubtedly the manta ray tour. Swimming with Freckles, a four-and-a-half-meter-wide manta ray, was unforgettable as she gracefully cruised beside us. To my delight, we also encountered dugongs, reef sharks and turtles among the coral gardens.

Underwater photo showing healthy brown coloured coral reefs


Our final stop was Exmouth, where we stayed for four days, immersed in nature. Cape Range National Park exceeded our expectations. Yardie Creek, a must-do hike, led us through rugged terrain to the sapphire waters of Ningaloo Reef. The gorge, filled with deep blue waters and framed by red limestone cliffs, is home to the rare black-footed rock wallaby. Every hiker that we passed shared the joy of spotting these elusive creatures, eagerly pointing out new viewpoints.

While Turquoise Lagoon was picturesque, Oyster Stacks was breathtaking. We snorkelled for hours over vibrant, shallow corals teeming with life. Chubby sky-blue starfish, lazing turtles and sleek sharks were among the many marvels that joined us for the day.

A whale shark swimming close to the water surface

Whale shark serenity

But the crème de la creme of Exmouth was the whale shark tour. Initially, spotting them was challenging as they kept diving and changing course, unusual behaviour according to our guides. The reason became clear when three orcas cruised by, followed by a majestic humpback whale. To say that we were excited would be a serious understatement. After observing these monochrome marvels from the boat for nearly an hour, the spotter plane alerted us to several whale sharks ready to swim close by.

Slipping beneath the surface, we swam alongside the peaceful juvenile whale sharks for the best part of an hour, a truly unforgettable experience. Swimming out in the open ocean can prompt the occasional intrusive thought (even among shark lovers like myself) when you look down and see nothing but dark blue water below you, yet somehow, keeping pace with the whale shark was so enchanting that I almost forgot where I was or that I was even on a tour with other people. The whale shark's presence calmed the over-excitement I'd felt above the surface and was a complete confirmation of why these animals are deeply adored worldwide.

Underwater photo of a free diver swimming down to a ray resting on the sandy bottom

Final thoughts...

While our trip to Western Australia (and particularly Ningaloo Reef) was a reaffirmation of my love of the ocean, it was life-changing for my friend. He began the holiday terrified of the water (and had neglected to tell me this when I planned the ocean-centred adventure), but by the end of the holiday, I couldn't keep him out. The health of the corals, the calmness of the characters found in the water and the joy of being in the big blue had left a life-changing impression upon him and we're already planning our next ocean-based adventure - he even said that this time he might try diving with me…

If you enjoyed this blog, you may also like: Top Ten Hammerhead Shark Facts, Just Back From... Island Hopping the Maldivian Atolls​​​​​​​ and Just back from the Red Sea