Coral Bay is a tiny tourist town on the coast of Western Australia. It seems to exist of only tourist parks, hotels en some small shops, yet it is a not to be missed spot on a road trip down the coast. If you’re on a budget, bring snacks and supplies, because the supermarkets here charge insane prices for the most common things. This had me living on rice, carrots and cabbage for a week.
So why would you even go to Coral Bay? Some people skip the little town altogether after visiting the more popular Exmouth. Unlike Exmouth, Coral Bay has the company of Manta Rays year round. That in itself is a reason to come. I stayed at the excellent hostel at the beginning of the street. There’s a good vibe and even in the quiet season some people to hang around with in the evening.
Within five minutes you can make your way to the other end of town: the beach. It’s a beautiful bay that is also good for snorkeling. You can see a range of colorful fish and if you’re lucky a turtle or stingray. The stingrays also swim at the very edge of the water, so you don’t even have to enter the water to see them.
Another cool thing to visit is the reef shark nursery. If you follow the beach along the rocky part, you’ll reach a small bay. It is a protected area because the reef sharks come here to nurse their babies. From the edge of the water you can see the sharks swimming along with the rays. Bring binoculars or a camera with zoom lens to get a better view.
After all the snorkeling I’d done at the Ningaloo Reef I still hadn’t tired of it and I was excited to combine a scuba diving trip with swimming with the manta rays. If you’re hesitant to do this because of the price, take a deep breath and just go for it. Along the coast you’ll see fish, but further onto the reef you’ll see the most beautiful coral gardens, filled with even more fish and if you’re lucky sharks and turtles.
And the majestic mantas… A spotter plane found them for us and all we had to do was jump into the water and swim with them. They’re quite fast swimmers, so there was no relaxing while watching them. It didn’t matter though. Seeing these huge animals, one of them was 3.7m wide, move graciously through the water was enough to keep me going. You can see their bodies moving slowly with big strokes, while other fish have attached themselves to them and are getting a ride. I can’t even describe this moment properly. It’s exhilarating!
The best way to visit Coral Bay is by car, which gives you all the freedom to move in and out of town. If you rely on a bus, you’ll have to wait for them, like me. They only go a few times each week, so you might end up staying longer than planned. Let’s just say it’s not the worst place to be stuck in.