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Pilgramunna Ledges

Pilgramunna Ledges

Ningaloo Reef

Getting There - Located about 70km from Exmouth, to reach Pilgramunna 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 Pilgramunna on your right (between Kurrajong and Sandy Bay). Turn here and follow the road until you reach the small carpark before the creek (it floods on high tide so be wary if you don't have a 4x4).

The Snorkel - With Ningaloo Reef stretching hundreds of kilometres from Exmouth down to Carnavon, there are no shortages of spots along the coast to jump in the water and swim among the excellent coral. While the popular places like Turquoise Bay and Lakeside attract the larger crowds, there are lesser known locations that can provide an excellent experience in the right conditions. Having found a copy of CALMs Dive and Snorkel Sites in Western Australia in a second hand bookshop on my travels many years ago, I had been keen to explore Pilgramunna during my first visit to Ningaloo in 2021.

Unfortunately, it was last on the list to visit on that trip and by the time we got around to it, a storm was rolling in. This resulted in a mass of Sea Tomato jellyfish washing up in the inner reef, and visibility was like snorkeling in a hearty broth. Dodging the Sea Tomatos wasn't fun and in the end I got stung on the back of the knee, vowing to return one day and experience this site that looked so promising in my book. Fast forward to 2023 and a return trip to Exmouth to swim with the Whale Sharks meant I had another opportunity to snorkel here. With more time in the week for snorkeling, I was certain that I would get decent enough conditions on one day. With a big swell hitting the reef earlier in the week, I had to wait until the day before we departed to get decent enough conditions, so organised to spend pretty much the whole day in the water. I had come here a couple of days before and it didn't look right, so drove further south to Osprey Bay, where my decision was justified, as visibility was super poor. 

 

Arriving back on what would be a lovely day of sunshine, snorkeling and new discoveries, Caris would be joining me for her only snorkel of the day. Parking before the creek crossing (not sure our i20 hire car would make it through), we walked across the dry creek that was knee deep on my visit a couple of days ago. There were a lot of 4x4s on the other side, plus a tour bus, as this is a popular spot for fishing, launching small boats and kayaking. The fisher people are something you need to be aware of, as they cast off the ledge and right into the best snorkeling area, so just let them know when you enter the water where you'll be. Thankfully there was no one there, so Caris and I found a spot for our gear and set about entering the water in the sheltered bay before the main ledge. Visibility was much better than a few days prior as we made our way along the edge of the rocky ledge and around the point. Early finds included lots of Convict Surgeonfish, Oualan Bullseye and Blackaxil Pullers. 

The basic route you can take is to follow the edge of the ledge as it runs along the coast, eventually ending at a beach, then return back via the coral formations a bit further out from shore. This was the theory but in the end, we just followed whatever we thought was interesting, heading back and forth between ledge and reef depending on what we saw. The ledges are really cool and provide safe haven for fish looking to escape the hooks of the humans on land, although I'm not sure how the fisher people don't snag their lines on every cast given the rocks around here. Looking under the ledges was fun and with light streaming through gaps in the rock, it looked quite cool. Caris called me over at one point as she had seen a tail disappear under a ledge and so I dived down to see what it was. Lucky us, it was a Bluespotted Fantail Ray that was happy to stay still enough for a photo. Heading out to explore the reef, the variety of corals here was nice to see, and we eventually met a Green Sea Turtle casually swimming around.

 

The cool finds continued as we spotted a large Bluespine Unicornfish, that Caris and I dubbed the "Penis Head Fish" before we correctly identified it. Heading back to the ledge, I was keen to spend as much time in the water as I could. The ledges were great places for schooling fish to congregate and there were surprises around every corner. I was having good luck on this trip finding Giant Clams and there would be a couple clinging to the edge of the rocky ledge at Pilgramunna. Being a big iNaturalist user, I am always looking for new species I haven't seen to log (like Pokemon but for the natural world), and I saw my first Mangrove Jack, Margined Coralfish and Saddleback Pigfish (great name). Spotting another turtle on the way back to the start, this was a lovely spot that was everything I was expecting. Snorkeling along the shallows next to the ledge leading back into the bay, the fish here were plentiful, with a last find being a Yellow Box Fish that was more black than yellow. Exiting the water, we both agreed that was a fun snorkel and a lovely way to start a day on Ningaloo Reef.