If you are in Australia or if you ever wish to go there, you must visit the place now I’m going to talk about. With the beautiful surrounding and different species of animals, this place will bring you an unforgettable and remarkable experience. This place is none other than Montgomery Reef!
# What is Montgomery Reef?
Montgomery Reef is situated on the Kimberley coast of Western Australia. This reef also surrounds Montgomery Island. Montgomery reef is in between the Collier bay and Camden Sound and is known as a reef full of biological diversity. With a total area of 400 square kilometers, it becomes the world’s largest inshore reef. It belongs to the Camden Sound Marine Park, also known as Lalang-garram Marine Park which was gazette in 2012. This marine park is very important because it is a humpback whale nursery in the southern hemisphere.
What is the specialty of this reef? Well, let me explain it. This Montgomery reef has a very unusual tidal range. Most of the coral reefs such as ones in New Guinea, Polynesia, and Great Barrier Reef are situated in low tidal areas. But this Montgomery reef is situated in Western Australia which has some of the highest tides in the world. This reef has a tidal range of up to 10 meters and so when there is low tide, central mangrove island, vast lagoons, and sandstone islets are revealed. During the low tide, you can see that more than 4 meters of the reef is revealed and you can see much abundant wildlife such as turtles and fish on the reef top. Actually, it is one of the major tourist attractions of this reef. These low tides not only trap animals, but also it can trap boats as well.
# What kind of wildlife can be seen there?
As mentioned above, this reef belongs to the Camden Sound Marine Park. This park provides a home to six marine turtles named threatened, dugongs, Australian snubfin, humpback dolphins, as well as to saltwater crocodiles. There is a main channel or river through the reef and boats can navigate through it. And also it is the best way to experience the wildlife in this Montgomery reef. Let me bring you information about some of that wildlife.
Sea turtles are one of the common animals you can see around the Montgomery reef. When the low tide is coming, many sea turtles move into the river. A few hours later when the tide is out you can see dozens of sea turtles in the water. And also sometimes you can see some of them stuck on the reef. Some of them who are near to the edge trying to crawl down by scraping using their flippers. But they move very slowly and tides can go up faster than they move. So they give up moving and lay on the reef waiting for the tide to come back.
Most of the time they can survive for a few hours in the sun as there is some water on the reef always. It helps to retain moisture in their body. But it is very unnatural for them to expose most of their body to the sun and it will be an issue to them specially during the middle of the day. So they need assistance to move on. As they are heavy, there should be at least two persons to move them.
You can see various fish species on the reef and in the river during the low tide. Among them, sharks are very special. You can see different kinds of sharks there. Reef sharks are the regular ones that can be seen feeding on the reef. In the shallows, you’ll be able to see catsharks and small epaulette feeding on the reef. Along the edges of the reef, tawny nurse sharks, tiger sharks, and hammerheads can be occasionally seen.
There are some large sea snakes like ‘Stokes Sea Snake’ around this reef. Not only that but also there are smaller banded sea snakes such as Hydrophis species.
There are several number of bird species that can be seen throughout the Montgomery reef. The most common bird of them is the Eastern Reef Egret. There are two colors of them. White ones and dark grey ones. Both of them belong to the same species and interbreed. Besides that Eastern Pacific Ospreys, White-bellied Sea Eagles, Oystercatchers, Tattlers, Caspian Terns, and Beach Thick-knees can be seen in there.
Some different kinds of corals can be also seen on the Montgomery reef. Because of this sometimes this reef is referred as ‘algae reef’. Soft corals are very common throughout this reef and can be easily seen. Sarcophyton and Lobophyton are some of the soft coral species. And also there is a wide range of hard corals such as small staghorn, needle corals, and Horsetooth corals.
# History of this reef
Aboriginal people believe that this reef has a long history. And also some records have information about a race of aboriginal people who lived on ‘High Cliffy Islands’. But when westerners went to this island to verify this, they didn’t find any people. But there was evidence such as some seafood and circles of rocks established as campfires.
The reef and the island were named by king Philip Parker who was a maritime explorer while exploring the area in 1818. The king named this island and reef on behalf of the Ship’s surgeon Andrew Montgomery who was speared in the back by Aboriginal people.
# How can I access this reef?
Well, the nearest populated place to this reef is Bardi. It is situated approximately 130 kilometers to the South West of the reef. You can take a boat cruise from there. And also you can take a flight tour or a boat cruise from Broome or Kununurra as well. These flight tours usually take 2-3 hours and I’m sure, it will be an unforgettable amazing experience in your life!