Whale Sharking

Coral Bay felt like a bit of a holiday away from our holiday. We stopped for almost a week without moving, and with the luxury of power and a camp kitchen. We also had no internet, so after two afternoons catching up on my writing, I ran out of electronic distractions. We all felt a bit refreshed when we left.

This feeling continued for a few more days. After a quick shop in Exmouth, we headed on to Cape Range National Park.

Lakeside Beach VisitShell NamesThis park runs along the coast on the northern end of Ningaloo Marine Park. There are close to a dozen camp sites, but with only 3 – 15 spots at each. There is a plan to control this number to minimise human impact on the reef, as it is so close to the shore. Also, they are trialling an online booking system for 4 sites, which is fairly unique to WA. It isn’t advertised, and we only heard about it through word-of-mouth. I’m glad we did though, as the place was booked solid. Oldies we spoke too were telling us horror stories of having to get up at 2 am to line up for a spot (the good old days according to some). Apparently, the police had to be called once when there was a dispute between an early queuer, and the mate of a camp host who was given the only vacant spot available. Because of the popularity of the place, the entire park might be bookable in the future. Needless to say, we were happy to have no such fuss.

Kurrajong CampKurrajong SunsetBesides the peace and quiet, beautiful sunsets and pristine beaches, there are several highlights of the park. Oyster Stacks is a great snorkelling spot, only really accessible at high tide. Lakeside is another, but the real reason people go there is to see Turquoise Bay. This spot is famous for its drift snorkel. You walk up the south end of the beach, swim in around 50 – 100 meters, and just let the current drift you across the bay to look at all the coral and fish. Again, the beauty and variety is amazing.

It was here in Turquoise Bay that I had my first swimming encounter with a turtle. I think it was a Loggerhead, but may have been a Green. I managed to swim with it for around 5 minutes before it decided it was bored and took off for lunch. But I was happy that I got close enough to touch it if I wanted to, and I love turtles.

We headed back to Exmouth, via Tantabiddi Boat Ramp to do a coral viewing and snorkel tour with Ningaloo Ecology Cruises. This was such a great idea for the family, because everyone got to see the coral and fishes together. We were welcomed aboard by Alek, and incredibly knowledgeable and passionate skipper with over 11 years experience of the Ningaloo area. He is also an underwater photographer, and had an amazing array of photos on board in his portfolio, to help us identify the fish we saw.

Ningaloo Ecology Cruise Captain AlekFrom the boat, we had great visibility through the glass at the fish and coral below. We started off by looking at some of the pristine reef areas near the surface so we could really get a close look, without damaging any coral. Alek really knew his marine life, and the area. The kids were ecstatic that he knew the exact spot to find some ‘tomato clownfish’. He could identify anything and everything we pointed out, including all the coral.Coby swims in the Deep

After a bit of fun learning about the reef, we ventured onto our snorkelling spot. Everything was provided, including fins, mask, snorkel, lifejackets for the kids, and swimming aids. Although we couldn’t convince Rhys to take the big step, Coby was quite happy to jump straight into the open ocean to have a swim and a look. She just loved it. I got to see my second turtle, and both Mike and I saw some new species that we hadn’t seen close to shore.

Angelfish danceAfter we had had enough time in the water, Alek took us over to some bombies, large slow-growing corals that were over 1000 years old. They grow only a centimetre or so every year, and were now huge and home to fish large and small. Unfortunately, reef sharks were still eluding us, but we had a great trip. Most importantly, we were able to include the kids on our discovery of the reef.

In Exmouth we stayed at Exmouth Cape Holiday Park. To read more about our stay, click here.

Exmouth is the gateway to Ningaloo Reef, but the biggest thing about Exmouth is it is the best place in the world to go Whale Sharking. This is one of the most amazing life experiences you could have, swimming with one of the oceans most majestic and unknown creatures. Both Mike and I did our whale shark trip with Ningaloo Reef Dreaming, who had a superb setup, and the most enthusiastic and dedicated team imaginable. They really go to great lengths to make sure you enjoy your entire day, and the experience of swimming with whale sharks. For a full story about our day, and information about why Ningaloo Reef Dreaming it the best company to do your whale shark trip with, click here.WhaleShark (1)

Alas, our time on the Coral Coast has well and truly come to an end. We are now heading inland for a week or so, before heading further into the tropics. We are trading in swimming for bushwalking, and getting a taste of the iron ore mining towns of the Pilbarra.

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