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The Rowley Shoals: Australia’s Secret Underwater Paradise

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In the middle of the open ocean I’m flying along a coral channel whose water is so clear I could be a large black bird finning through the sky. Below me giant clams flash by with their gaudy dance hall smiles, aquamarine parrot fish nibble on coral bommies, white-tipped reef sharks lurk in shadows and schools of tiny neon-bright yellow fish dart amongst intricate coralline structures.

Just ahead, I try to catch up with the “Hey Dude” turtle in Little Nemo. Only we are nowhere near the Eastern Australian Current on the Great Barrier Reef.

What and where are the Rowley Shoals?

Fourteen of us are drift snorkeling on the other side of the continent at the Rowley Shoals, 250 kilometers northwest of Broome. They are three tear-drop-shaped reefs which thrust up a dizzying 400 meters from the ocean floor on the edge of the world’s widest continental shelf. This reef ride is one of the few in the world that is courtesy of a five-meter tide, which rises and falls in six hours...

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