Snorkellers dig out your gear or treat yourself to a new set because Ningaloo Marine Park surrounds the biggest fringing reef in the world, which you can swim to right off a beautiful beach (hundreds of kilometres of beautiful beaches, actually). You can even snorkel with manta rays or whale sharks, the biggest fish in the ocean, but think about signing up for a tour before you get there to be sure of a place.
The World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Coast is just one of many stunning snorkel locations all around Western Australia, with tours available in a number of parks.
You can also find more detailed information on snorkel trails, including those managed by Parks and Wildlife, at the TrailsWA website.
Some marine life is harmful, so don't touch and be careful where you stand. If your fins don't cover your whole foot, think about bootees or reef shoes.
There are more than 100 species of sharks in Western Australian waters. You should consider yourself lucky to encounter most of them: incidents are not common, especially close to shore, and involve very few species. The Department of Fisheries website has more on shark research and safety.
All the information on swimming at ocean beaches is applicable to snorkelling, so ensure you are familiar with it. Take special care when entering and leaving the water and stay aware of what's around you, not just what's below. Department of Transport regulations do not require snorkellers to display a flag but it is advisable to do so if snorkelling from a boat or where there may be boating traffic.
Swimming with humpback whales
Western Australia is now trialling in-water humpback whale interaction tours in Ningaloo Marine Park. The trial runs from 1 August to 30 November 2016 and existing whale shark tour operators only have been given the opportunity to participate.
If you would like to swim with humpback whales in Ningaloo Marine Park you must book a tour with a licensed operator participating in the trial.
For further information on the 2016 in-water humpback whale interaction trial and the guidelines for interacting with humpback whales, please refer to the (hyperlink) In-water humpback whale interaction in Ningaloo Marine Park Trial 2016 brochure.
People can continue to enjoy watching humpback whales from a vessel according to the guidelines, but we remind visitors for their own safety that they must remain at least 100m from a whale whether on a boat or in the water.
The mantra of don't touch and be careful where you stand is also vital for conservation. Much of the marine life that you enjoy when snorkelling is easily damaged and, if it does recover, will only do so very slowly. Coral is particularly vulnerable. Don't stand on it and take special care not to hit it with your fins. If you're not 100% sure you can do that from above, look from the side where you have more room to manoeuvre or can stand on the sandy seabed.
All wildlife is protected by legislation (check our main website for details) and Department of Fisheries regulations apply. In marine nature reserves, marine park sanctuary zones and some special purpose zones fishing and collecting, of anything and by any means, is not permitted.
If you're on a swimming with whale sharks tour, the operators have an obligation to ensure you follow the code of conduct. If you're extremely lucky and come across one independently, make sure that you do too.