Find out what it is like to explore Ningaloo Reef’s top shore dive, Exmouth Navy Pier.
WA has a lot of adventure playgrounds to be the ultimate observer and be at one with nature; this is especially the case when channelling your inner mermaid or merman exploring the wonder-sea that is the Ningaloo Reef. Our big blue on the west is ever-bright thanks to our colourful World Heritage-listed site, Ningaloo Marine Park stretching a whooping 260km along the coast and thus being the world’s largest fringing reef. And there is no better way to experience the true kaleidoscopic beauty of our thriving reef than going deep-sea diving in one of the world’s most famous dive spots, Exmouth Navy Pier.
Exmouth Navy Pier
There are many good reasons why the Exmouth Navy Pier takes a spot in the top ten shore dives in the world. One: it is the only operational naval base in the world that permits non-commercial divers into its grounds (or waters I should say), making it a unique spot to dive. Two: diving into the depths of it is like being an aquarium created by Mother Nature as its marine life is highly concentrated and diverse.
The Exmouth Navy Pier is situated just 14km from Exmouth town centre and stretches out 300m wide and 110m long. The navy pier also consists of two outlying dolphins that large ships tie up to. Previously, the T-shaped pier had been closed off to public access for over 50 years due to it being a former US naval base.
Thankfully that Golden jubilee of a closure resulted in such a vivid colour show to appear under the pier with marine life gravitating to the structure for protection. Better yet, divers are welcomed to experience Exmouth’s marine mecca with Dive Ningaloo, the only dive operator conducting diving tours to the navy pier.
What is required to dive the Exmouth Navy Pier
Besides having a positive attitude to say hello to our fishy friends below, divers must carry a valid open water scuba diving certification and must present it upon diving.
As it is a working Commonwealth defence base and controlled by the Australian Federal Police, diving at the navy pier requires a valid passport for ID verification. Yes, diving just got serious! Sadly, no stamps of a Ningaloo whale shark or humpback whale makes your passport pages!
What’s it like to dive Exmouth Navy Pier
Most dive spots in the Ningaloo Reef are known to have waters that shimmer with excellent visibility for divers; however, the Exmouth Navy Pier is not one of them. But that is what makes it so challenging yet so unique and full of suspense!
Dives at the navy pier can only be done at slack tide, which means that for a short period, there is no movement either way in the tidal stream. Two 50-minute back to back dives are conducted to ensure that divers can maximise their time under the pier before the tide changes (short 30-minute break between dives included).
Tidal times vary from day to day, and with the tides changing frequently, it means that the nutrients of the sea get swirled around. The challenging part is that those moving nutrients cause low visibility with only being able to see a few metres ahead in murky waters, dependent on weather conditions – but that’s a good thing! Those moving nutrients have enabled the structure to be covered with soft corals, attracting Ningaloo Reef’s marine life to have the ultimate pier party.
Diving the navy pier is like going on a deep-sea safari. The navy pier is home to over 200 residents including grey nurse sharks, monray eels, wobbegongs, sea turtles, barracudas, carpet sharks, octopuses, potato cod, Moorish idols just to name a few. Every head turn is a surprise of what to see, so bring on that round of underwater bingo! It’s also easy to find yourself caught in massive schools of trevally fish, almost cyclone like with the sheer volume of fish swimming around. There is just so much going on with a constant peak hour rush of schools of fish swimming past, it seriously is a whirlwind adventure!
It’s not just the big types that attract divers to descend 12m below the navy pier. Those with a keen eye will be delighted with spotting many postage-stamp-sized nudibranchs. Their florescent, tribal-like patterns are such a fun find for divers to spot.
If lucky, the dive can end on a big note with being greeted with WA’s notorious BFG of the sea: Big Friendly Grouper. The navy pier’s plump resident, BFG is usually found in the same spot under the pier’s lower jetty and can be seen when ascending a few metres from sea level. This ocean goliath and doe-eyed creature poses no threat when getting up close and personal to it. The BFG makes for the perfect photobomb opportunity with the GoPro, snapping away at one of the many epic encounters be had right under the unassuming military base.
Have a sneak peak of what to expect at the Exmouth Navy Pier with this teaser
Dive Ningaloo – Dive Ningaloo is the only dive school in Exmouth to have an exclusive license diving the navy pier. Book your tour today for $150 single dive, $220 double dive with a $50 navy fee per person.
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Julia was a guest of Australia’s Coral Coast and all thoughts and opinions are that of her own.