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Paradise Beach Drift Snorkel

Paradise Beach Drift Snorkel

Coral Bay

Getting There - Located off the main beach in Coral Bay, the Paradise Beach Drift Snorkel begins on the other side of the small cliffs on the western side of the beach. From the main beach overlooking Bills Bay, walk towards the cliffs and wade around them to reach Paradise Beach. Walk south until you reach the point and enter the water there. Swim north to enjoy the drift snorkel and circle back into Bills Bay when you reach the cliffs. The Ayers Rock Bombie is located about 50m south west of the Kayak Buoy, that is a few hundred metres to the north west off the beach at Bills Bay.

The Snorkel - Heading back to Exmouth in 2023 to swim with the Whale Sharks, I had planned a day out to Coral Bay as it was a place we didn't visit on the last trip. Unfortunately between these two trips, there was a devastating event on the reef that killed off a large proportion of the coral. At the time of the coral spawn in 2022, unfavourable winds kept the coral spawn trapped in Bills Bay, where it sunk to the bottom, decayed and then starved the water of oxygen. This killed off about 16,000 fish and the reef in Bills Bay was left in a pretty bad state.

Knowing this, I had booked a quad bike tour out to Five Fingers Reef, as by all accounts this spot had not been affected by the natural phenomenon. This proved to be a good decision but I still wanted to see what Bills Bay was like for myself, and to see if there was any change to the reef after the subsequent coral spawning in 2023. There was also a little spot called Ayers Rock that was a few hundred metres offshore that sounded like it had survived, so that would at least provide some life. After enjoying a spot of lunch at Bills Bar after our quad bike tour, we had a look around the shops at Coral Bay before moving down to the beach at Bills Bay. Caris wasn't keen on a second snorkel for the day, so we found a shady spot for her to sit and read a book while I headed into the water. The entry point for the snorkel is around the bay, and with the dunes under repair, it's best to wade around the orange cliffs and walk along the beach. Picking a spot to enter the water at the southern end of Paradise Beach, I was keen to see what condition the reef was in.


The shallow water over the white sands leading to the reef contained a few fish and this was a promising sign. Much like the Turquoise Bay Drift Snorkel, reaching the start of the reef doesn't take long and soon I was staring at some of the smaller structures. While the reef was looking as bad as what I had expected, there were still a lot of fish around including a Floral Maori Wrasse, a Yellowbar Parrotfish, a Threadfin Butterflyfish and a Redblotched Wrasse. Relieved that there was still life on the reef, I continued on and started the drift north. The currents during my visit weren't as strong as what I had experienced at Turquoise Bay, so it was relatively easy to backtrack and get to interesting areas. Now over the main bit of the reef, my main thought was how beautiful this place must have been before 2022. Large sections of different reef types and lots of it would have been spectacular in the vibrant colours that I've seen elsewhere along Ningaloo Reef. The monotone colouring of dead reef wasn't helped by the average visibility caused by big swells a couple of days prior.

Diving down a few times to try and get better photos of the various fish swimming around, I did notice some patches of colour. Whether this was new coral from the 2023 spawning or survivors of the 2022 event, it was a hopeful sign. Scientists suggest that the reef will recover within five years, if there are no more traumatic events, so keep that in mind if you're reading this in the not too distant future. Swimming over the masses of coral, it did feel like a graveyard sometimes, with the occasional fish popping up from the gaps in the coral but then there would be large congregations. At one point I came across a large school of Striped Barracuda and this was an unexpected find. Popping my head out of the water, I looked over to shore and saw I was level with the orange cliffs. With the kayak buoy in sight, I decided to make a beeline for it and try to find Ayers Rock. The reef didn't get much deeper as I made my way offshore but the same ghost-like feeling remained. Reaching the buoy, I lined myself up with the directions the man at the visitor centre had told me and started the search. It took me maybe five minutes of going back and forth before the giant structure became visible. 

It was a relief when I did see it, a bright yellow beacon of life in a sea of colourless coral. About 5m tall and 10m wide, this survivor is now an underwater oasis for fish to congregate. On one of my first dives down to explore the base, I spotted a fully grown Harlequin Sweetlips just hanging around, and it wasn't shy when I was taking photos. Moving on, I did a full circuit of the bombie, photographing all the fish that were enjoying life here. Returning back to the side where I found the Harlequin Sweetlips, it was still there and obliged for more photos. While visibility wasn't great and the photos reflect that, it was nice to be in the water and seeing life in a place that I didn't have high hopes for. Having said that, I had been in the water for over an hour at this stage, so I thought it was best to head back to the beach. The swim back wasn't too bad but if you're not a strong swimmer then I suggest thinking twice, and not to head out alone. As I swam back, one of the snorkel tour boats crossed my path and the skipper must have been wondering why I was here when all the good reef was much further out. Nonetheless, I still had a good time and if you are interested in visiting healthy reef while you're in Coral Bay, then definitely check out one of the tours.