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Ningaloo is home to the world's largest fringing reef and can be reached by just a short swim in many places. Nowhere else on the planet can you access a large coral reef so easily. What's more, it's made the UNESCO World Heritage list for its incredible biodiversity and the 'bucket list' as one of the few places in the world where you can swim with the largest fish in the ocean, the gentle whale shark. For your Ningaloo escape, head for Coral Bay or Exmouth. Flights from Perth get you to nearby Learmonth airport in 2.5 hours. Alternatively, you can make the 2 day drive from Perth or join an extended tour. Reaching nearly 20 kilometres seaward and covering 5,000 square kilometres of ocean, Ningaloo Reef brings you face-to-fin with some 500 species of fish, graceful manta rays and turtles, as you glide over 300 varieties of coral. Or, if you'd prefer to stay dry, glass-bottom boat tours offer a window to this underwater wonderland. For real adventure-lovers, nothing compares to the exhilaration of swimming with the world's largest fish - the whale shark - which visits Ningaloo between late March and mid-July and can grow up to 16 metres long. Between June and November, Ningaloo welcomes another mammoth visitor, as humpback whales make their annual migration. Whale watching tours operate from Coral Bay and Exmouth, but if you miss the boat, you might catch the turtle nesting and hatching season when tours run from late January to February. For a different perspective, explore the rugged red canyons of Cape Range National Park in a four wheel drive or on foot. Take a guided walk up Mandu Mandu gorge, stopping to spot native wildlife, and be sure to stop at Vlaming Head Lighthouse on the way back to take in a Ningaloo sunset. To add to the adventure, go camping or 'glamping' in Cape Range National Park. Alternatively, make Coral Bay or Exmouth your base - both offer options to cater for all budgets, from backpackers, caravan parks and chalets to motels, lodges and resorts.
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