Atolls are formed when coral reefs create a circle that can either partially or totally enclose a lagoon. They can be found in many of the oceans in the world and are commonly found in areas such as Australia, the Maldives and many other regions. They are areas of natural beauty and are known for being popular with tourists and divers alike.
Here are five of the most popular atolls in Australia.
1) Lihou Reef
This atoll is located in the Coral Sea and it is the second largest of its type in Australian waters. Unlike many of the other atolls, Lihou Reef is shaped like a U, with an opening at one end. The lagoon that is ‘inside’ the atoll is huge, around 100km at its widest point, which makes it stand out from many of the others which are much smaller. While the atoll itself is large the land area is not, in fact there less than 1km square of land available within. With this in mind this atoll is best seen from a boat or you might want to explore underwater by diving.
2) Mermaid Reef
Mermaid Reef is one of the three atolls that join to make Rowley Shoals which are a cluster of reefs, lagoons and land masses that are located on the north west coast of Australia. Mermaid Reef is a diver’s paradise as there are so many underwater species to observe. Anyone who dives in these clear blue seas must be at an advanced level as the geography underwater, along with the depth of the dives makes it more difficult. Due to the amazing sea life which can be found in Mermaid Reef, the area is now a nature reserve.
Mermaid reef is a fantastic tourist location for diving.
3) Imperiesuse Reef
This is the second of the atolls that make up Rowley Shoals and lays at the southerly tip of the shoals. It is around 16km long and 8km wide, making it one of the larger atolls in terms of land area. It has many different reef formations and two impressive lagoons that fill with water as the tides ebb and flow. There is an islet on the atoll that has a lighthouse on it which has been standing for more than 100 years.
4) Clerke Reef
This area is just over 22km away from Mermaid Reef and it is also known as Minstrel Shoal. It is around 15km long and 6km wide and it features many coral patches, a 2m high sand cay and dry areas which are revealed at different times of the day. There is a wonderful natural passage that you can follow which will bring you out into a lagoon that is breathtakingly beautiful.
5) Ningaloo Reef
You can get to Ningaloo Reef from Coral Bay and it is most easily reached by a short swim from the shore. You will find some of the most amazing underwater life at Ningaloo Reef that is only found in this part of the world. You will be able to swim with turtles, manta rays and even whale sharks in the clear, warm seas and it is an experience not to be missed. The colours of the reefs are nothing short of stunning and as soon as you go underwater you will feel as though you are in another world.
Visiting an atoll is something that you should do if you are in Australia. The diversity of wildlife that you will find there is out of this world and you will never see anything like this so close to home. If you are a keen diver check out the life under the water or if you prefer to keep your feet dry book yourself onto a glass bottomed boat for a view of what is going on under the waves.