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Swimming with manta rays in Coral Bay

I signed up for a 7-hour Best of Ningaloo tour with Ningaloo Marine Interactions expecting to go swimming with manta rays in Coral Bay and experience some super awesome snorkeling on Ningaloo Reef. But the reality of the day was so much more than I could have imagined.

I’ve been geeking out over the experience and want to share why I love Ningaloo Marine Interactions so much.

Commitment to EDU-tourism

The team at Ningaloo Marine Interactions is committed to providing a fun and educational experience for everyone who boards Utopia. When we understand the world around us, we take care of the world around us. I love that they’re doing their part to instill a love of the ocean so future generations have the chance to love it, too.

Frazer McGregor is the skipper of Utopia and has spent the last 9 years completing a PhD in marine ecology. His thesis has been instrumental in the implementation of the Manta Ray Identification catalogue, with nearly 800 manta rays catalogued.

Did you know that the markings on a manta ray’s belly are as unique as a fingerprint? If you submit a photograph of a manta ray that hasn’t been identified yet, you may get the chance to name it!


Super awesome snorkel spots

Our warm up dive was at a shark cleaning station. We go to the dentist. Sharks go to the cleaning station. So essentially, we creeped on some sharks getting a root canal. We snorkeled over about 10 sharks who swam circles until it was their turn. At that point, the shark opened its mouth and a little cleaner fish swam in and took care of business. Who knew dentistry could be such a dangerous occupation!


Wild animals are, as the name suggests, wild. No tour can guarantee a sighting of a wild animal, but the team at Ningaloo Marine Interactions has been doing this for 6 years and have a pretty good idea of where to look. Plus, they’ve got eyes in the sky with a plane doing some of the more difficult spotting. On the day I went on tour with them, I was overwhelmed with the amount of wildlife we encountered!

Manta Rays

Manta rays spend their life traveling or eating… sound like someone else you know? Moana’s grandma isn’t the only one with a manta ray for a spirit animal.

As Ningaloo Marine Interactions’ spotter plane searched the ocean to find a manta ray for us to swim with, we geared up and learned a little about manta rays. Fraser, the skipper who just so happens to have a PhD in marine ecology, prepared us for our first encounter with these majestic creatures and answered all of our questions. Unlike other rays, mantas are barb-less, rendering them harmless to humans.

Open wide for some plankton! ? ~ Manta rays feeding yesterday on Ningaloo Reef.

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Although manta rays can be spotted in many places around the world, Coral Bay is a special place to swim with mantas because the water is clear and shallow. Swimming alongside my first manta is an experience I won’t soon forget.

Glassy conditions yesterday with Isobel one of our resident and favourite manta rays. On tour with @ningaloomarineinteractions

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In Florida, I had the chance to swim with a manatee… the sea cow of the USA. On board Utopia, though, I got to meet the manatee’s cousin, the dugong! With a perma-smile, I think it’s safe to call the dugong the quokka of the sea! We watched as the dugong swam near the boat, surfacing to breathe and giving us a good look.

The dugong. The happiest looking animal in the ocean @migrationmedia

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Ningaloo Marine Interactions is the only tour operator that lets you get in the water with a tiger shark (pending conditions and its behavior, of course), and I was not going to miss this opportunity! When the spotter plane found a tiger shark, we watched from the Utopia for a few minutes before hopping in. This tiger wasn’t too keen to play though, and we got some good tail views.

The beautiful stripes. . . On tour with @ningaloomarineinteractions

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Humpback Whales

‘Tis the season for humpback whales! We took a detour into the deep blue to cruise alongside two adult humpback whales and a juvenile. The shrieks of excitement almost drowned out the puff from the humpback’s blowhole when it surfaced right next to the boat!

Giants leaping on Ningaloo reef ?. . . On tour with @ningaloomarineinteractions

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I could be reading too much into this… but I think the humpbacks were trying to send us a little love note!

Humpback whale on tour with Ningaloo Marine Interactions swimming with manta rays in Coral Bay


“First you were like woah! and then you were like WOAH! and the you were like woah! You got some serious thrill issues dude…” I felt a little like Crush from Finding Nemo as we encountered wildlife at every turn. One stretch of water was a (not so secret) hiding place for turtles and we saw little heads popping out of the water on every side of the boat.


Vying for happiest animal in the ocean is the dolphin… and we had the chance to cruise alongside a few dolphins who were out for a lazy morning swim.

Dolphins in glassy water

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Incredible photos

Ok, y’all. I’m fan-girling hard over here, but Alex Kydd is an incredible wildlife photographer, and he’s the Ningaloo Marine Interactions on-board photographer. After the tour, you’ll have an opportunity to purchase photos from the day. The embedded photos in this post are Alex’s from his Instagram… so if you like what you see, give him a follow!

Ningaloo Reef

The Ningaloo Reef is a UNESCO World Heritage listed site, and rightfully so. It’s the world’s largest fringing reef at 162 miles (260 kilometers). While the Great Barrier Reef is the world’s largest reef system, it’ll take you hours on the water to get there. (Hello seasickness!) A fringing reef means Ningaloo Reef is accessible with a quick boat ride or even from the shore. Plus, Coral Bay has a 3 hour flushing rate, which means water that enters the bay is gone in 3 hours, so there’s less pollution and good conditions for healthy coral.


I couldn’t write a post without filling you in on the food situation. Boat-life can be chilly, but a constant supply of tea and coffee is bound to help! And sugary treats for morning and afternoon tea are just what the doctor ordered. Plus, after swimming with the manta rays, nothing could be better than fueling up with hot cheeseburgers, grilled on board.

Cheeseburgers after Swimming with manta rays Ningaloo Marine Interactions

Just after I snapped this photo, I looked down to see a shark swimming next to the boat. Keep your eyes peeled throughout the day, because you never know what you’ll see!

Have you encountered a manta ray up close? Would you swim with a tiger shark? What part of Ningaloo Marine Interactions’ tour sounds best to you?

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Swimming with manta rays in Coral Bay Australia with Ningaloo Marine Interactions

Disclaimer: The activities mentioned in this post were received free of charge. All opinions are my own, though, and I wouldn’t recommend anything to you that’s not awesome!





Pilot Mark

Thursday 24th of August 2017

What fascinating creatures. It looks like you had an amazing time. I think one of the most interesting creatures I´ve swam with in the sea has to be the swimming pigs in the Bahamas! They are adorable and surprisingly agile.


Sunday 27th of August 2017

It was the best day! All the highlights of Ningaloo in one day.. I felt so lucky! I'd love to see the swimming pigs one day.. I hope they're still around when I make it there!

Ryan Biddulph

Sunday 6th of August 2017

Geez Brittany you saw everything LOL! Most tours I see cover a few critters; yours offered you epic shots of some rare animals. I would have loved to see the dugong and the manta ray, and would have been scared of the tiger shark LOL...but would want to spot it up close and personal, of course. Seem to have the food and drink areas covered too which is sweet.


Monday 7th of August 2017

I still can't quite believe how awesome the day was! I mean.. I didn't even know dugongs EXISTED a year ago!! A few more days like this and I may never leave WA!! :) I hope you make it here sometime!

Thomas @ BestTravelsandVacations

Friday 4th of August 2017

EDU-tourism is really needed to explore the knowledge.


Sunday 27th of August 2017

I agree 100%! I love getting to see really awesome things in a responsible way... I find that the experience stays with me much longer that way!


Friday 4th of August 2017

It all sounds wonderful! Thanks for sharing your adventures. I love them (you too!).


Friday 4th of August 2017

Seeing any one of those animals would have been a good day.. seeing them all was awesome! Wish you could have been here to do the tour with me!

JOyce mccoy

Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

YOu continue to amaze me with your adventuresome spirit and love for life Brittany. Just keep,swimming! Love you. ?


Wednesday 2nd of August 2017

Thanks so much, Joyce! I hope one day we can adventure together again!