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Osprey Bay

Osprey Bay

Ningaloo Reef

Getting There - Located about 80km from Exmouth, to reach Osprey Bay head north out of town on Murat Road and take a left onto Yardie Creek Road. Follow the signs for Cape Range National Park and keeping driving until you see the turnoff for Osprey Bay on your right (after Sandy Bay). Turn here and follow the road and park in the Small Boat Launch car park. Enter the water at the boat ramp and head out from there.

The Snorkel - Having done a bit of snorkeling during my visits to Ningaloo in 2021 and this trip in 2023, I was keen to explore a few new spots during the latest holiday. One location that popped up in my research was Osprey Bay, and while the masses of coral reef at places like Turquoise Bay or Lakeside are not found here, the grassy beds of this sheltered bay provide valuable food for the turtles of Ningaloo. With a bit of luck I might even see a Dugong but with my fortune when it comes to spotting wildlife, I wasn't counting my sea cows before they hatched. 

Planning a visit a couple of days after a large swell had rolled through the reef, conditions were less than ideal and more akin to being in a washing machine during the spin cycle. With visibility so poor (see first three photos of the above gallery), it was a great shock when I came across a turtle, as I could only spot them when I was a few metres away. I'm not sure who was more shocked, me or the turtles but it was safe to say that it wasn't the best timing for a visit. I did manage to extract a Smirnoff can from the bay and it was pleasing to report that this was one of two pieces of rubbish I saw for the entire week. Returning a couple of days later, after a morning visit to Pilgramunna, the visibility had greatly improved. The turquoise waters looked inviting, so after taking a few snaps of the surrounding area, I donned the snorkeling gear and headed into the water. The rough plan was to do a big loop of the bay but as I've found with snorkeling, my route is mainly determined by what I see in the water. 


The first fish sighting was a Smallspotted Dart, well camouflaged against the white sands near shore. It didn't take long until I spotted my first turtle, and it was quite happy to ignore me, while I maintained a respectful distance. Being the main goal of this snorkel, I was excited to have seen one so early and as it turned out, it was hard not to find one. On my first snorkel here, I found that the bay was mostly covered in grasses but there were patches of coral dotted about the place that provided home for a few species. Little holes in the harder surfaces of the sea floor also provided refuge for one of my favourite fish, the Lagoon or Hawaiian Triggerfish. Heading away from shore and swimming a fair way out, more turtles started to appear and unlike previous snorkels where I might only see the one turtle, I was quite happy to just glide by and observe, rather than follow it for a photo. One group of fish I did want to photo was a school of Blue-tail Mullet, that seemed happy to investigate me from a distance but quickly split up when I looked at them.

Swimming further out, the vast swathes of sea grass continued, dotted in with lumps of coral that contained a few of the more colourful fish like the Racoon Butterflyfish. The school of Blue-tail Mullet seemed to follow me as I swam around, occasionally popping my head up to get my bearings, like an Orca doing a Spy Hop. Deciding to head back to the start, I ventured closer to shore, staying over the grass beds, where I spotted yet more turtles. Diving down to the side of one but keeping a distance, it slowly turned to face me and I managed to get the best shot of a turtle I've taken, which is the cover shot for this post. Leaving the turtle in peace, I soon spotted a Stars and Stripes Puffer, a species I'm quite fond of after getting a great shot of one at Turquoise Bay in 2021 and being mesmerised by the galaxy-esqe projections in its eyes. Continuing along, you guessed it, more turtles, this time I spotted one that had a fishy friend that was tailing it. While it chomped away on the sea grass, I wasn't able to get a clear shot of the both of them but it was fun to observe. Now heading back along the edge of the shore, I spotted my Mullet friends once again, and a few more varieties of coral that have settled onto whatever they could find.


With the last of the turtle sightings behind me, I neared the boat ramp and didn't really want to get out of the water. I instead decided to see what was beyond the white sands to the south of the boat ramp, just in case there was one last surprise in store. As it turned out, there was, with a grouping of some of the largest Bluebarred Parrotfish I saw on the whole trip. While not a Stingray or Dugong, it was still a nice way to finish the snorkel as I eventually made my way back to the boat ramp, saying hello to the Smallspotted Dart that was guarding that passage. There were a few people at the boat ramp getting ready to head into the water, so I advised them of the numerous turtles before heading up to the tables to find Caris. With the sun out and it being a warm day, it was nice to have a sit while I told her about what I had seen. Photographing the beautiful surrounds as we left, I spotted what I believe is a Mistletoe of some variety and enjoyed the low hills of Cape Range. Unfortunately, this will be the place Caris remembers for leaving her bathers at while getting change but for me, it was the endless turtles cruising around.