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While concerns grow about the health of the Great Barrier Reef, Australia’s Indian Ocean coast boasts one just as grand but far less well-known. Whether viewed from a surface snorkel, a swim with whale sharks, a fishing boat or a microlight, Ningaloo Reef rewards the effort required to get there
The microlight bobs and lurches just a little as it takes to the massive sky, then steadies and climbs in the burning air over Exmouth, Western Australia. The earth beneath is sun-baked dust-crusted brown, a parched furnace of a landscape, but suddenly it is replaced by the twin textures of the Ningaloo Reef and the Indian Ocean. They are so very… so very…
The trouble with Western Australia is that it shows up how inadequate your vocabulary is. There just aren’t enough variations of ‘blue’ to explain the infinite range of colours on the Ningaloo Reef, the aquas and turquoises and indigos and azures. Tim Winton’s built a lifelong career out of finding the right w
ords for these submerged landscapes.
Take one single patch of the reef, viewed from the air, and try to convey the variety of its shades and nuances, the darkness of the clusters of brain and table coral and the lightness of the gaps between them, the subtle shifts that come with different depths. They say painters, though utterly addicted, have a tough time with this landscape: there are just so many shades to create.
Ningaloo is the reef that isn’t dying.