Reefs are aragonite structures built by living organisms, and the Kimberley’s reefs are divided into two main types; fringing reefs and broad reef platforms. The islands are largely surrounded by fringing reefs, which support a rich and diverse marine environment, including corals, sponge gardens and seagrass meadows. The fringing reefs range from 50m to 2km wide and vary in form, with some covered in mud, such as the reefs in Dugong Bay, and others in dense stands of kelp or algae.
These reef communities provide shelter and food resources for many animal and fish species including turtles, dugong, fish, prawns and birds. The reefs also provide important sheltering areas for Humpback whale cows and calves. The islands of the Kimberley coast have diverse and highly productive intertidal areas, ranging from mud flats to algal reefs, beaches and sand banks.
Named after the surgeon on Phillip Parker King’s Mermaid expedition, Montgomery Reef in Collier Bay is Australia’s largest inshore reef at 292km2. The reef surrounds Montgomery and High Cliffy Islands. On a falling tide the reef appears to rise out of the ocean as water cascades off the reef in a series of natural waterfalls.
Generally speaking, reefs flourish where there is abundant wave action, however, Turtle Reef in Talbot Bayhas proven to be the exception.