Life beneath the sea
The waters of the Ningaloo Coast contain one of the best developed near-shore reefs in the world, a continuous series of more than 200 kilometres of spectacular wave-swept ramparts off a rugged limestone peninsula, including spectacular coral and sponge gardens and the world famous whale shark. The history of tropical marine environments during the last few million years is chronicled in the limestone parapets and wave-cut terraces of Cape Range, which record previous high water levels, earlier reefs and the emergence of the peninsula as an island from beneath the sea.
Life beneath the land
Below the sunbaked surface of Cape Range lies a hidden network of caves, groundwater streams, pools and aquifers, which house remarkable subterranean fauna. These underground animals, which live only in the Cape Range peninsula aquifer, were separated from their free-floating marine ancestors over 150 million years ago as the supercontinent Pangaea broke apart and the world began to take on the geography we see today. The only living relatives of these animals are scattered around the world, restricted to a few communities in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean and Mediterranean Seas.
Archaeological deposits in the rock shelters on Cape Range show Aboriginal peoples' sophisticated knowledge of marine resources between 35,000 and 17,000 years ago. Shell beads discovered at Cape Range have been dated to more than 32,000 old, which is the earliest evidence known in Australia for the manufacture of personal ornaments. Given that only a handful of the caves and rock shelters of this region have been explored, the Ningaloo Coast has great potential to reveal more hidden cultural treasures.
National Heritage List
Due to its extraordinary natural qualities and Indigenous significance, the Ningaloo Coast is considered to have outstanding heritage value to the nation and has been included in the Australian National Heritage List. Places listed in the National Heritage List are protected under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. The EPBC Act requires that approval be obtained before any action takes place that could have a significant impact on the national heritage values of a listed place.
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