The Seasons Of Ningaloo Reef

Here in Exmouth, we’re perfectly positioned to enjoy the tropical climate that comes with sitting just north of the Tropic of Capricorn. This means we’re lucky enough to enjoy warm weather and blue skies year round, interspersed with some spectacular monsoonal thunderheads and lightning displays in the first quarter of the year.

Visitors to the North West Cape can observe the dramatic changes the passing of the seasons brings to the landscape and lifecycles of our indigenous flora and fauna year round…but the influence of the seasonal patterns on life undersea isn’t always as obvious.

While on land traditional seasons are marked by visible changes in weather, ecology, and daylight, the seasons of Ningaloo Reef trigger events of a quite different scale.

Here’s our season-by-season overview of the amazing marine life you can expect to see and experience when you join one of our Exmouth snorkel, dive, or swim adventure tours.

Summer (December to February)

Turtle season at Ningaloo Reef lasts through summer and beyond, typically from November through to March. During this time you’ll get the chance to observe three of the world’s marine turtle species nesting on the shores of the Coral Coast, as well as the islands surrounding Ningaloo Reef.

Green Turtles, Loggerhead Turtles, and Hawksbill Turtles are hugely popular attractions on the North West Cape, but with self-guided turtle-viewing opportunities increasing in recent years, licensing is now in place to protect and respect our turtle friends so as not to interrupt their important egg laying process.

The Jurabi Turtle Centre offers non-invasive educational viewing opportunities so you can participate in a land-based Ningaloo turtle watching experience and observe different turtle species nesting in their natural environment.

For the chance to witness the underwater beauty, grace and agility of marine turtles up close and personal, you can’t go past one of our outer reef adventure snorkel tours. Click here for our full range of immersive snorkel tours.

Autumn (March to May)

March to August is whale shark season, with everyone’s favourite ‘bucket list behemoths’ visiting our peaceful waters by the hundreds between March and August in their quest for food. Autumn also kickstarts the annual spawning of coral which, along with zooplankton, plays a vital role in the whale sharks feeding habits.

There’s no place in the world quite like Ningaloo Reef to meet naturally-feeding whale sharks in such a large congregation across such an extended season! Make a giant tick off your bucket list in autumn with one of our regular or deluxe Exmouth Whale Shark Swim Tours. You’ll find full details of each of our personalised ‘must do’ tours here.

Manta rays are also extremely active between April and November, so chances are excellent you’ll witness numbers of majestic Manta gliding through the waters with their incredible wing span on your adventure swim, dive, or snorkel tour. You’ll also catch the tail end of turtle season in March, and the first of the humpbacks!

Winter (June to August)

While much of Australia is rugging up for winter, here on the North West Cape daily temperatures range from the mid to high twenties. These temperatures extend to the crystal waters that hug the Coral Coast, with the water temperature at Ningaloo Reef and the Muiron Islands maintaining a balmy 24°C.

Apart from the great swimming conditions, winter is the best time to witness humpback whales. You’ll find these beautiful mammals frolicking along the coast from June, with humpback season lasting right through to late October / early November.

As many as 35,000 humpback whales travel north from Antarctica as part of their annual migration cycle, arriving at Ningaloo in late May. They use our warm, gentle waters as a resting place and to mate, taking advantage of deep water of the continental shelf at the rear of Ningaloo Reef.

Our humpback whale season extends right through to late October, and the constant arrival and departure of whales passing through Ningaloo ensures excellent encounters with not only humpback whales, but other species such as southern right whales, pigmy blue whales, false killer whales, and orca.

For a chance to witness these gentle, playful creatures showing off their natural grace and acrobatic prowess, book one of our in-water or on-board whale encounters. Our Humpback Whale Tours guarantee another bucket list tick.

Sharing the water with the humpback whales, you’ll still find plenty of whale sharks and manta rays about throughout winter and beyond.

Spring (September to November)

Ningaloo Reef teems with life! While whale shark season has just ended, there’s still great humpback whale watching opportunities to be had, and a whole world of tropical fish, colourful coral, and exotic marine life of every species waiting just below the surface.

The best way to experience life at Ningaloo is to act like a fish yourself. Slip on a snorkel, or strap on a tank and let us show you life underwater Exmouth-style with one of our Scuba Diving or Snorkel Tours at Ningaloo Reef or the Muiron Islands. With over 450 different species of marine life, and 250 different species of coral, you can expect to see:

  • Manta Rays
  • Green Turtles
  • Giant Cod & Coral Trout
  • Sting Rays
  • Loggerhead Turtles
  • Dolphins
  • Hawksbill Turtles
  • Leopard Sharks and other species
  • Thousands of tropical fish
  • Soft & hard coral
  • Dugongs
  • Mackerel and Tuna
  • Leatherback Turtles
  • Crabs, crustaceans, and mollusks

And that’s just for starters!

Ningaloo Marine Park offers excitement, adventure, and unparalleled beauty year-round.
Whichever season you visit you’re assured a memorable and meaningful experience, however to maximise your visit we recommend March through to the end of October as the optimal time to explore the beauty and diversity of Ningaloo Reef
and make those ‘bucket list’ ticks.