The Amazing Ningaloo Reef

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
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Trip End Aug 15, 2013


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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, April 8, 2013

So Jim had read an article about this little known reef that rivals the Great Barrier Reef.  It has amazing, untouched coral with sea life abound and is so close to the shore one could walk out to snorkel.  During some pre-trip research we had also found out that whale sharks migrate through the area during coral spawning season and tour operators there will take you to snorkel with them! Looking at the map of Australia, Ningaloo doesn't seem that far away from Kirk and Barb's place....but looks are deceiving on maps!  Its actually over a twelve hour drive, which doesn't sound that far - it's like Calgary to Vancouver!  BUT this is the Australian bushland / near outback and we drove in forty degree weather (thank goodness for air-conditioning!) on roads that offered desert and bush as far as you could see! It was quite the road trip!

Hey Michelle actually let me get on the computer and do some blogging too.  I am going to add some of my insights to this entry.  

One of the truly great things about this trip was the fact that I got to spend a lot of quality time with my big bro!!!  

 It is weird, to say the least, having a brother that is 23 years older than you.  Growing up though I always looked up to and admired Kirk, all be it usually from a far.  Even when he still lived in Calgary the only time we got together was at family dinners and birthdays and there was never any just brother - brother time.  What better way to have some quality time with the big bro than locking ourselves into a "ute" (utility truck) for a 12 hour drive through some Aussie outback and hunker down in a camper van on a beautiful beach for a week. The drive was like nothing else I've experienced before, through some very unique landscape on some very straight flat roads.  It makes the Calgary to Regina trip seem exciting.  Actually I found myself counting the number of Roos splattered on the side of the road.  One stretch I got up to 18 Roos in 10 minutes.  

On the way up North we stopped at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park - the pinnacles are land formations that scientists believe are remains of ancient trees that were scorched by forest fire and then covered with ocean millions of years ago.  They are quite beautiful and unique looking for sure.  If you use your imagination, you can see them as sculptures of real life objects! 

We stopped about half way up the Coral Coast - at a park called Kalbarri where we stayed at a campground with a swimming pool - to the boy's delight.  Kirk had booked a tent trailer for the five of us to stay in for our Ningaloo adventure.  Barb had been booked to work while we were gone, so she stayed home and looked after her "boys" (dogs).  The following day we drove and drove and drove until we came to a tiny little hamlet of a few hundred - including tourists! Welcome to Coral Bay on the Ningaloo Reef!  The first day we were so eager to snorkel, we jumped right in after finding out that there's a little current offshore that you can float down as you snorkel.  We saw the most beautiful coral and sea life right there! We spent the day snorkelling and laying on the beach because the following day was the whale shark excursion. 

So, Whale Shark day was finally here.  I had been thinking about this one and looking forward to it for a LONG time.  The outfit that was taking us out had a shop just up the road where we met up in the morning and got all fitted up in our Snorkeling gear for the day and met our guides as well as the other folks we were going to spend the day with.  Our ship would consist of 20 passengers, 5 crew and a videographer. Off we went for our day long cruise.

We stopped off at a spot on the inner reef first to check out our gear and make sure everything worked ok.  I thought it was going to be a quick little swim so I didn't even take the camera along.  Oops.  It was beautiful!!  Lots of fish.  Amazing coral and even a big Moray Eel.  Very cool start to the trip.  Following this little introduction we cruised out to outside the reef where a plane was circling on the lookout for Whale Sharks.  We had about 30 minutes here for our deck hand Macca to go over some of the do's and don'ts of snorkeling with the Whale Sharks.  i.e.. Don't get too close, don't get in-front of them, and no diving under.  Then we got the call...a whale shark had been spotted... and the adrenaline got going.

We were divided into two groups.  We were in the second group with our new best friend in Aus, our cute blonde guide Jessica.  Captain Steve brought the boat around in front of the Shark and we basically slipped into the water and waited for it to swim by.  The water was amazing!  Crystal clear blue, we could see over 40 meters, and Caleb said it was like swimming in Windex.  That's how blue it was.  Once in the water you just look around and wait for it to come out of the big deep blue.  Sure enough, heart-a- pounding there it came!!!   It was the most beautiful majestic thing I have ever experienced.  We got to swim along beside it for a few minutes until it got too far away.  No worries though because Captain Steve would come pick us up and drive us back in front of it for another pass.  Our Shark, approximately 6 metres long, stayed with us the whole day.  We were lucky enough to "drop in" with the Shark 7 different times and spent over an hour swimming with it. Jess our guide said it was one of her best days ever.  It was definitely one of my best days ever.

Following our swims with the Whale Shark we went back to the inner reef and had one more snorkel where we checked out a Shark cleaning Station.  The reef sharks, we saw Grey Reef Sharks and a White Tip, come and get their mouth and gills cleaned by some small cleaning fish.  It was kind of cool seeing them swim back and forth with their mouths wide open and little fish going in and out of their mouths and gills.

The day finished off with supper and a sunset back at the trailer and then of course a walk up to the local pub where all the locals and us tourists went for live entertainment, a few beers, and lots of chat about how amazing the sharks were.  Yup definitely one of the best days ever!!!!

We were so impressed by our snorkel off the boat that we booked another excursion to swim with the manta rays.  Another full day adventure with a couple of snorkels on the reef and then out to find rays.  We spent one day in between laying on the beach, snorkelling from shore and fishing - well, the boys fished and their Uncle Kirk taught them everything he knew, yet nothing was caught.

The manta ray day was scheduled similar to the whale shark day.  We snorkelled first at the shark cleaning station, but we were the only five people on the tour.  There were another six people on the boat, but they were diving, so we had crystal clear water and plenty of space to see more sharks, turtles, coral and beautiful fish.   We saw one manta ray that day.  It was plenty cooperative as it was line feeding, swimming back and forth across the floor of the ocean.  It was hard to tell how big it was, but we were told it had at least a few metres wing span.  There were some Canadians on board and we actually outnumbered the Aussies!  We had another sunny bright day out on the water!

That night we caught up with Jess and had a pizza dinner outside our trailer.  She helped us earlier to set up a visit with an echidna that one of the staff at the dive shop had rescued.  After pizza she walked with us over to the house where the boys got to see a baby echidna (a puggle apparently) eat and even got to hold him!  Aiden has now expressed interest in working at an animal rehabilitation centre after all these wild adventures we're having!

Our last day at Coral Bay had Michelle trying out paddle board yoga (it was an easy introduction class, so there were no stand up poses other than the paddling itself).   The rest of the day was spent fishing, swimming and playing on the beach.

We took the long drive back in two days again, this time stopping at a non-descript campground beside the highway for the night.



 
 

 
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Comments

Kelly on

Ningaloo, the Pinacles and Coral Bay were some of my all time favourite places in Oz. I'm so glad you all got to experience those spots. Unfortunately I did not get to see the whale sharks. Great to see your pics. Did you go sandboarding (like snowboarding) at the Pinacles?

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