PHOTO Live Ningaloo

Meaning ‘deepwater’ in local Wajarri language, the World Heritage-listed Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing reef in Australia. Stretching for 300 spectacular kilometres, the Ningaloo Marine Park begins at Western Australia’s Exmouth Gulf and ends at Red Bluff, just north of Carnarvon. What’s special about this particular reef? Aside from its phenomenal biodiversity – we’re talking 500 species of fish and more than 250 types of coral – this undersea playground’s main merit is its proximity to the mainland. There are ample beaches from which the reef is only a few fin-kicks from shore, so you can snorkel to your heart’s content without having to step foot on a boat. You will, however, need your sea legs to get up close with Ningaloo’s most famous residents – whale sharks.

More holiday-makers than a permanent population, these gentle giants congregate annually offshore from Ningaloo from mid-March until July, and swim tours depart seasonally from the beachside towns of Exmouth or Coral Bay. Yep, you read right – swim tours! Channel your inner Attenborough by diving in alongside these colossal creatures. This surely trumps watching the National Geographic channel in your hotel room.

Stay: At Sal Salis Ningaloo Reef – a luxury beachside safari camp nestled in the dunes of the Cape Range National Park. Each of the 15 private wilderness tents has sensational views of the beach and surrounding bushland, and the Ningaloo Reef is only a shell’s throw from your handmade jarrah king-sized bed. Bliss.