Exmouth, Ningaloo reef- July 11-22nd


Moving on from Warroora was sad but we were moving on to a place we had only ever dreamed to one day visit and explore. We were excited!

The two and a half hours drive north was an interesting sight! The land was littered with gigantic termite mounds, as far as the eye could see! No trees, just the desert scrubs and red dirt with hundreds of these interesting habitats built by insects! The kids thought they looked like dinosaurs poos, which I have to admit, kind of did once they mentioned it!

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Upon reaching exmouth we did a quick pit stop at the caravan repair shop to replace the door handle that hung on by a sheer thread for the full two weeks we spent in Warrorra. The day we were leaving, it snapped right off! Perfectly timed!

We had booked ahead to get into the lighthouse caravan park, it was nearing the end of the school holidays. We had been trying to get into the Cape Range National Park for weeks. Our chances were little to none, as we learned that it’s booked out at least a good week either side of the holidays.

We arrived at the lighthouse caravan park. It’s situated at the top of the cape, just underneath the old historic lighthouse and quite close to the national park. It’s also only a couple of kilometers from the popular surf spot Dunes and the Tantabiddi boat ramp. It was packed!
We were put on a site up in the overflow area, that backed onto the amenities and a drinking water tank. At first I thought it would be great! This was possibly emphasized, as we hadn’t had a shower for a good two weeks! The excitement quickly turned into nothing but a punish! We now realized, this could quite possibly be the worst site in the entire park! We had a water pump two meters from our bedroom window that kicked in anytime the showers were in use. It hummed and droned anytime from 5am till midnight! We had people queuing right past us for their shower from 5pm in the afternoon till late. They squeezed past our site to access the toilets and water tank creating a highway-style thoroughfare, often carrying their water containers in between our parked land cruiser and the shade cloth of our awning. It was a complete punish after our serine stay in the wilderness camp of Warroora.
There was nothing we could do. We were lucky to get in. We just had to grin and bare the interrupted sleep and focus on our time out and away from this site, in the pristine land of Exmouth.

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The old light house

We started out exploring the sites from the lighthouse down to the Mildura wreck that’s visible from the beach.
We had sunshine most days, but nearly every morning the wind seemed to be up, only to die down like clockwork by approximately lunch time each day.
It didn’t help our laziness in the mornings! It proved to be pointless rushing out first thing, as the afternoons were always the better time of the day for our adventures.

We had days hanging at the beach, collecting shells, fishing and snorkeling. One of our standout moments was encountering a huge, ancient looking turtle from the waters edge at Dunes beach!
The surf was small and over crowded, so we wondered down the beach to find a little peak to push the kids on to.

From the shore we noticed many turtles popping their heads out of the water but their was something extraordinary large floating about in close, amongst the breakers! Nix and I quickly discovered it was a huge turtle! We raced back for the snorkeling gear and dove in to take a closer look! And there it was!! Right before our eyes, this docile, cool, calm and collected reptile! Un-phased about all the commotion we made around him!
Casually grazing on the seabed and riding the motion of the waves that were rolling in over the top of him. Nix and I were screaming and laughing out of sheer joy, nearly choking on the water in our snorkels as we floated beside him. We followed him around, for what seemed like forever, every so often, reaching out and touching his mossy shell and staring into his wise old eyes. It was something I feel blessed to have experienced in such an unexpected, non touristy sort of way, with my thrill seeking little boy beside me, it made the whole experience that extra bit special. I’ll never forget it! Over the next couple of hours we all took turns jumping in and out of the water with old mr turtle and exploring his world. It was magic!

We booked our whale shark tour with Ningaloo Blue. Nix has had some pretty good practice and some great encounters snorkeling up until now and was 100% sure he wanted to jump in to view the Sharks with us. Raff on the other hand, was slightly traumatized, once again, from our gigantic turtle sighting and was 100% positive he was staying on the boat! As long as he had an iPad and some snacks of course! (His only request).

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Raff getting his fair share of iPad on the whale shark boat

This experience to dive with the whale sharks has been a dream of mine for the past few years, I felt a mixed bag of emotions…excited, nervous and slightly worried!!

The day arrived, we met the crew and stepped on board a nice big boat. We were all super excited for our day out! The sun was shining but it was a tad windy ( of course).
The spotter plane was sent out to look for the whale sharks. On our way out past the reef, we saw countless humpback whales, some with the cutest new born calves swimming beside them.

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We got the run down from the instructors and the 20 people on board.  We were split into two groups. We all jumped into the 25 degree water for a drift snorkel to warm up for the day. The Ningaloo reef is absolutely teeming with marine life! There are over 500 species of fish and turtles galore! Occasionally manta rays are spotted, but we were only fortunate enough to see a little reef shark.

Before we knew it we had a whale shark sighted and were gearing up for the big moment! You feel the boat charge full speed towards the location.The skipper lines the back of the boat up about 100 meters from the shark that is heading straight for you. We all jumped in and waited for it to approach. When the shark came into view It was like a big smiling bus was coming straight towards us! Part of me wanted to scurry out of the path of it, another part wanted to latch straight on! The adrenalin was pumping and the excitement was all time! Once it passed us we could all form a u-shape around the back of it and follow it on for the next 100 meters or so. The feeling of swimming beside something so incredibly large is breath taking! Nixon did so well to keep up, often breaking free and enjoying the freedom to cruise along and admire ilthe largest fish In the sea from all different angles!

Over the course of the day we had five dives with five different whale sharks, all ranging from 5-10 meters long. Nixon loved to watch the sucker fish hitching their free ride and feeding off the underneath of the whale sharks belly.
Even though we often saw schools of bait fish in the path of the whale sharks big open mouth, we learned that they are filter feeders, that don’t swallow anything much bigger than a prawn!
We were happy to learn that we weren’t going to be sucked into its great, big, metre-wide open mouth!

Raff was more than happy watching from the boat, he had the iPad all to himself and got to hang out with the skipper and the pretty instructors when we were in the water. We were lucky that the crew on board allowed him to stay on the boat with them so Pon, Nix and I could enjoy the dives together. I hope one day Raff looks back at the pictures and has the courage to do it.. As I’d love nothing more then to come back again and give him the opportunity when his a bit older.

 

This experiance was truly unforgettable and so mind- blowing. Underwater, this amazing animal swims with such grace it’s truly the most majestic creature I’ve had the privilege to lay eyes on.

In the meantime, we visited the national park quite frequently to snorkel the oyster stacks and turquoise bay, we even walked the Mandu Mandu gorge! Both snorkels were spectacular! You jump in the water at one end, and the current allows you to drift down the reef, and over so many different species of marine life. Nix was extra excited to see a blue spotted sting ray!

We caught up with some friends from Perth that we met at Karrinyup waters. Mel and Joel are currently traveling too with their little Boys Kai and Nash. They were kind enough to invite us over for a BBQ one night.

Pon and Joel were keen to book a fishing charter to experience a bit of game fishing for Marlin and Sail fish. The weather proved a goer for the boat that had filled it’s four spots available and they left for a day out on the ocean, trawling for the big sea monsters. But it wasn’t meant to be! Pon was the only person to catch a fish. It was a Wahoo, measuring over a meter long. It swam directly to the boat which was disappointing to say the least! There was barely a fight for it. Never mind, the day was still enjoyable, Pon got to spot hammerhead sharks, bright Yellow Sea snakes, turtles and loads more whales! The One Strike team did all they could to provide a good day out, but I guess it’s the game of fishing! It’s never guaranteed!

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Pons Wahoo! Dinner for weeks!

Whilst the big boys were out fishing I caught up on some schooling, then met up with Joel’s wife, Mel and her boys at the Exmouth local skate park. The kids enjoyed another play, constructing their own footy game on the sports field and hanging out in the bowl, before smashing a couple of quality milkshakes from the bakery in town.

The one thing I loved most about Exmouth was the underdeveloped feeling it still had. Even though there was a newish estate in the town it still seemed in the early stages of development and I’m so glad we got to see it now and not in 20 years time. I love that the town is situated much further back from the tip of the cape. You have such pristine beaches and a stunning national park out of harms way from the business of the town. Even at the lighthouse caravan park, Water wasn’t free flowing to your caravans and cabins. They have to desalinate their own water from the artisan salt water bore and store it in tanks around the parks for you to fill containers. It had a sense of rawness about it and we loved that! It seemed fitting to the environment all around it.
The Ningaloo Reef is something so special to Australia. The fact that it’s so accessible off the beaches is just the coolest thing! To anyone that walks away disappointed with Exmouth, I guarantee you they haven’t put their heads under the ocean and explored the reef. Be it by boat or with a snorkeling set, I could not understand how you could walk away disappointed from the experience. We certainly loved this place and found it extremely hard to leave!

To top it off our traveling family returned from there Europe/ Uk trip and surprised us in Exmouth. We spent the last couple of days in their company. Typically, they brought the swell and the windless fine weather with them! We manger to score some awesome waves at Dunes beach finally! The crowds had dissipated and it was so enjoyable to hang out, tag teaming the surf whilst the kids enjoyed hours of fun playing on the beach together. The Degnans, recovered from their jet lag with the help of the ocean. It was such a nice reminder of how amazing and special our friendship has become. We value and treasure the extra joy they bring to our travel experience, that’s for sure.

 

For now it’s a heart wrenching farewell to our favorite place in WA.  We very much feel like we have unfinished business in Exmouth, and are sure to plan our return in the not to distant future – we hope!

 

 

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