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What is the difference; Ningaloo Reef and Great Barrier Reef

Australia is home to not one, but two stunning coral reef systems. Off the western coast of Australia lies Ningaloo Reef, 260 kilometres of Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. Ningaloo Reef is located approximately 1,200 kilometres north of Perth and is the only large reef positioned close to a landmass.

At the other end of the country is the world-famous Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef lies off the north-eastern coast of Australia and stretches for over 2,300 kilometres from the Torres Strait in the north to Fraser Island in the south. The Great Barrier Reef is world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms and can be seen from outer space.

Divers and snorkellers in Australia are treated to two very different and distinct reef systems. As a fringing coral reef, Ningaloo Reef is easily accessible from the shore, with the nearest point less than 500 metres away from shore at Coral Bay. Access to the Great Barrier Reef takes a little bit longer, and visitors usually have to jump on a marine vessel to reach the reef, which is about 70 kilometres from shore.

Both reef systems contain an abundance of marine and coral life. The Great Barrier Reef is home to over many species including over 30 species of cetaceans, six species of sea turtles, 125 species of sharks, stingrays, skates and chimeras and close to 5,000 species of molluscs.

The Ningaloo Reef is perhaps most famed for its whale sharks which feed there from March to June. It is also part of the migratory route for dolphins, dugongs, manta rays and humpback whales. Sea turtles such as the loggerhead, green and hawksbill turtles depend on Ningaloo Reef as their breeding, nesting and feeding grounds.

Image credit: trvl.com


For visitors looking for something off the beaten track, you can’t go past the Ningaloo Reef. The lack of tourism infrastructure means it is harder to get there, but the uncrowdedness, peace, and quiet is well worth the extra effort.

On the other hand, there are many well-established and experienced tour operators working in the Great Barrier Reef. This means that that a reef trip is only ever a phone call away, and rest assured these tour operators will take you to the best spots on the reef to experience the diversity of the world heritage site.