I’m only a beginner scuba diver, but when I heard about the Ningaloo reef, I just had to experience it myself. I’d done some snorkelling and was overwhelmed with what I could see close to the surface. I really wondered how much more diving deeper could give me. I decided to do a combination of two scuba dives and a manta ray swim in Coral Bay, Western Australia. I couldn’t have chosen better.
On board we had some snorkelers and scuba divers. All the other divers needed to do a refresher course, so this meant we had to do some exercises as soon as we entered the water. I didn’t mind joining them. It was better than waiting. The first dive was a bit of a disappointment though. It took about 15 minutes for everyone to refresh and that meant a shorter dive. Because an easy dive site was chosen, it was also visually disappointing. The coral didn’t look particularly spectacular and the fish were the same ones I’d seen snorkelling.
Little did I know it was only going to get better. In between the two dives, a swim with manta rays was planned. Earlier on I’d done a dolphin swim and the actual time with the dolphins turned out to be really short. This was an entirely different experience. I got in the water three times and we were able to follow the rays. It is so magical when you are in the water, swimming above a huge animal.
They move through the water gracefully and made us look like, well… humans. I couldn’t help but notice how awkward we all looked next to these animals. The manta we swam with was 3,7m long! It’s fins were flapping, propelling it the through the water. It went so fast, but looked so calm, like the calm waves in the water.
After a lunch onboard the boat we had a second dive. This was the one I’d been waiting for, one of the most popular dives on the reef. We swam through a magical world of corals. It started in shallow waters, at just 3m deep, and that made me feel like I was almost touching the coral garden. It was like a mountain landscape seen from above. We were manoeuvring our way through the tiny mountain streets, one at a time.
The plants were dancing slowly to the rhythm of the current. There were blue hard corals that spiked upwards. There were big corals, several meters in diameter, where dozens of fish had their hiding places. We saw Christmas tree worms, that look like small plants attached to the coral in festive colors.
A little further on the diving instructor gave the signal for sharks. Reefsharks were patrolling the area and coming in for a clean at the sharkwash. This was a place for sharks and fish to come and get a wash by other little fish that eat the dirt off of them. No wonder there were so many sharks. We even saw a pregnant shark here!
My journey through the Coral labyrinth continued and I passed a group of striped catfish that seemed to pretend to be a plant. They moved as a group, performing a ballet performance for us. Another highlight was a giant clamp that stood half-open and revealed a velvety blue and black inside, like it was painted with fluorescent paint.
After a safety stop we had to swim close to the coral again. One by one we went through a tight passage with a strong current. At first I thought I was never going to get through, since the current was against me. Then came the short moment were the current took me forward and I swam like a madman to get through. By then I was almost out of air and it was time to resurface. Reluctantly I left this beautiful other world. I wouldn’t mind going again.