Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best-Kept Secret

On the opposite side of Australia from the Great Barrier Reef lies Rowley Shoals, one of the ocean's largest unspoiled coral reefs, with more than 200 species of coral and 600 species of fish. Formed by three pear-shaped atolls, the remote reef is one of few in the world affected by dramatic 16-foot tides, which push huge amounts of seawater in and out of the coral lagoons, creating a seascape like something out of Posiedon's very own underwater world.

Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best-Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef

Blue Hues

Everyone knows Australia's Great Barrier Reef. But I'd heard whispers of another reef system on the western side of the continent, about 160 miles off the coast of Broome, that gets a lot less traffic. Seeing the topside attractions — rainforests, ancient rock art and powder-white sands — was almost as cool as going underwater.Sue Thomas
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Diving

Underwater Wilderness

It took a 15-hour overnight boat trip to get here, but the swimming-pool-like conditions were worth it: gin-clear water, perfectly temperate water and new friends.Sue Thomas
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Diving

Still Waters

Just a handful of operators visit here each November during the calm before the start of tropical monsoon season, which means no trade winds, constant 78-degree weather and undisturbed sea life just waiting to say hello.Sue Thomas
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Marine Life

Ocean Dwellers

Rowley Shoals is one of the few reefs in the world affected by tides. This means we had six hours to enjoy exhilarating drift snorkels. We glided above giant clams, parrotfish, cobalt staghorn coral and white-tipped reef sharks, the occassional large green turtle showing up to run the current with us.Sue Thomas
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Coral

Dive All Day ... and Night

We dove and snorkeled about four times a day. Seeing that same reef transform when the sun went down is worth staying for.UnderSea Productions
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Fishing

Great Escape

The Great Escape Charter Company, which has been traveling this area for more than 10 years, knows all the secrets (and were willing to share).Sue Gough Henly
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Fish

Kaleidoscopic Wonderland

The fish couldn't have been more hospitable, inviting us right into their homes — like this potato cod who was attracted to my pink goggles and followed me around lilke an underwater puppy.Jezza Tucker
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Fish

Living in Harmony

Sailfish, marlin and sharks, oh my! We saw fish that could star in a Disney movie and those that would've given Jaws some competition. Big-game fishing is a thrill out here.Jezza Tucker
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Beaches

Eco Travel

Broome is all about protecting what it's got, like Eco Beach where the houses and eco-friendly tents are built with natural materials and in the vein of sustainable development. It's so pristine the whales live right offshore.Rowley Shoals Blues Instagram
Rowley Shoals: Australia's Best Kept Secret | Broome | Barrier Reef | Snorkeling

Visibility for Days

One-hundreed feet down looks as clear as 20 feet. It's the sea life that changes.Sue Thomas