Ningaloo - Part Two

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
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Trip End Nov 15, 2012


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Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Saturday, August 6, 2011

It was a relatively short drive from Exmouth to Coral Bay and we were there well before lunch time. It is funny how you build a picture of a place from peoples descriptions and when you arrive it can be so different.

It was Saturday morning chaos; there were people everywhere, vans everywhere, just mayhem. We joined the queue to check into our park and were glad when we finally got through and got settled.  We were surrounded by lovely people, most of whom spend time at Coral Bay every year and have done so for decades so they all know each other and yet were friendly and welcoming to us.

Two couples in particular camping just behind us became good friends.  On their last night we all drove out to Mauds Landing for a fishing trip, apparently there are lots of hungry Whiting there. It was a good laugh and when Rob (one of our friends) caught a fish within the first few minutes we thought it would be a ripper… an hour or so later Rod reeled in a catch, not being able to readily identify it we all decided it was a plump Whiting.  We enjoyed the sunset and whilst we had been going to have a picnic dinner decided to eat back at our camp where the fish was identified as a Milk fish and inedible!

Our days were filled with walks, kayaking and snorkeling. It was nice to be able to just stroll down to the water rather than doing the long drives we had been doing from Bullara and Exmouth. The water was stunning, so pristine, crystal clear and was nice to swim in as it didn't feel too salty.  Several rays patrolled the shallows along the edge of the bay and we looked forward to their greeting each morning as we launched our kayaks.  We saw turtles, varying varieties of rays and of course on one of our walks a snake!  The snake just happened to come down out of the spinifex and across the broad expanse of beach to the water’s edge, luckily we could give it a wide berth as it had its head up in the air, not a good sign!

We had loads of fun with the kayaks though the swell and chop was often much larger than it looked from shore. On one occasion we set out and paddled so hard, at times it was like we were in a washing machine we were getting churned around so much, however we would break through and continue on.  Dark clouds built and the swell increased so we went ashore on one of the many stunning beaches and continued walking along the coast by foot.

Rested we got back in the kayaks and started the long paddle home, the wind was so strong at one point we got out and dragged the kayaks across the shallows!  Despite all this we loved the challenge and we were inside the reef and close to shore if it got too much.  We did have a couple of pit stops on the way back and jumped in for a snorkel.

Coral Bay is only small, two caravan parks, a small resort, a back packers and a tiny shopping centre with a few basic shops. It is set on Bills Bay and it was nice to be able to just walk across the road and descend into the water to cool off from the Coral Coast Winter heat.  The tides were big and some days there was just no beach for the most part of the day.

After a very relaxing 10 nights it was time to head back to Cape Range National Park. We just loved it, though Pilgramunna (our camp site) had encountered a very high tide the previous night with the water lapping at the camps it was simply the most stunning location.  We sat beside our van and looked straight out over the water to the outer reef.  We could dip our toes in the water anytime and if we looked in the other direction there was the Pilgramunna Gorge, a stunning rich red limestone gorge, such a contrast just by moving our heads from right to left.  This was sensational!

With only eight camp sites it was an intimate area and we were surrounded once again by lovely people who all bonded quickly and easily.  We all congregated around the central picnic table at 5.30 each evening, drink in hand, to admire the sunset and chat away until the sun had well and truly descended behind the horizon.

We enjoyed a long beach walk where we spotted a turtle and some rays.  It was like we were staying at an exclusive Eco Resort and we had the place to ourselves… Little did we know that there was an Eco Resort just a couple bays further along from our camp, more on that later…

Unfortunately the winds arrived at about the same time we did and put paid to our plans of just walking in to snorkel from our van, the current was just too strong.  Rod joined the boys camping nearby for some fishing, again we were entertained by an occasional ray, turtle and a small shark before dolphins started feeding just metres away.

Rod caught a fish, the only one of the day between them, unable to identify it we photographed it and returned it to the water. Later that night as the group  sat around soaking up the sunset the photo was shown around to no avail and even after going page by page in 'What Fish is That’ it was still an unknown, Rod had done it again!

With strong winds each day our plans of kayaking and snorkeling were temporarily dashed.  Once again the local Tidal Chart became our best friend, there were a number of snorkeling areas along the reef which can only be snorkeled at high tide and so every day’s activities were based on the high tide.

We drove up to South Mandu, I had learnt that Oyster Stacks and South Mandu were the closest snorkeling areas within the park to the outer reef, so therefore offered a more intense range of coral and fish.  We had already put Oyster Stacks at the top our favourites list and now it was time to try South Mandu.  We walked along the gravel track and arrived at the stunning beach. Pristine white sand with an occasional  scattering of colourful pebbles, the water so exquisite, so clear over the pristine sand stretching out to a band of turquoise and then into a deeper shade of blue.  The sky was such a stunning clear blue we wouldn’t have been able to see where the ocean finished and sky began if it wasn’t for the waves breaking over the outer reef sending white wash crashing down.

Whilst the water was not the nice warm temperature I love, it was not ‘take your breath away’ cold and once in it was beautiful.  Whilst Rod did his usual jump straight in and deal with it, I did my usual torturous step by step, deeper and deeper slow entrance which is by far worse and yet I just can’t plunge straight in… anyway, now wet up to my waist I was just taking the plunge when Rod said ’ there is a turtle right here…’  and so there was, a decent size turtle just gracefully gliding away, we were able to swim along with it for a short distance before he just faded into the background. What a thrill!

The coral was the most colourful we had seen along Ningaloo and the variety and size of the fish were staggering.  It wasn’t long before another turtle decided to lift off the bottom and move along much to our delight, this was magic… snorkeling nirvana!

Again the contrast in this amazing area is unbelievable… you can be snorkeling one minute and hiking a rugged red limestone gorge the next… oh what a life and to top it off we had the best little camp ground imaginable!

On our last day at Pilgramunna we kayaked for a couple of hours disturbing lots of turtles as we paddled up the coast.  Then this school of fish rose out of the water in front of us, dove back in and did it again, it was an amazing sight and no doubt they were escaping from a big mouth not far below us!

We decided to have our last snorkel at Ningaloo Reef at South Mandu.  The beach ran in front of an Eco Resort (for which the guests got the pleasure of paying around $1500 per night, minimum 2 night stay…  Here we were just a couple of kilometers along the beach paying $14 per night, no minimum!), sorry, I digress, anyway… we were at South Mandu and had not long immersed ourselves in the crystal clear waters when we had company… Rod pointed ahead and there was a shark across our path but lower checking us out!  We kept calm and continued on being slowly swept north by the current and the shark just continued on its way.  And so it was, on my first and last snorkeling experience at Ningaloo we were joined by a shark… we are so grateful that they are well fed in this area and unless provoked really have no interest in humans.

We walked back to our car along the wide gravel track and a long, slim young snake slithered out of the bushes and quickly slithered back where he had come from as the shrill rang out… Thank god we are leaving tomorrow!!!!

Seriously it was sad to be leaving, we had absolutely loved every moment of our time in this amazing part of our stunning country, however there is so much to see and so little time we need to move on to the next stage of our journey… inland!

As we drove out of Cape Range National Park and headed around the cape, there on the side of the road waiting were the two abandoned horses.  It just so happened we had two carrots left in the fridge and it seemed only fitting that we should pull over and share them with these intelligent creatures.

Highlights of Ningaloo Two:

-          Cape Range National Park

o   Camping at Pilgramunna only metres from the water

o   Snorkeling just off the shore – like jumping into an aquarium especially at Oyster Stacks and South Mandu – snorkeling with turtles

o   The stunning rugged gorges adjacent to the pristine waters of Ningaloo Marine Park

-          Coral Bay

o   Kayaking along the coast to Five Fingers – turtle and ray encounters

o   Paradise Beach and snorkeling just off the shore – stunning water and coral

o   Meeting fantastic characters; friendly, warm and welcoming
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Comments

Val S. on

Love the commentary... and the photos... how absolutely stunning!

Donna Rowe on

Hi Guys....yes I'm still jelous!! You both look so healthy and happy. All those pic's are so beautiful. Miss you guys, hope to talk soon.

Love Donna

Jimmy D on

It all Looks good. I must get out of the work rut and get there some day.

Bianco Rossa on

Where are my carrots ??

Browns on

Sorry Leo, didn't mean to forget you, hopefully Charlie, Gary or Louise will give you a carrot on their next visit. Enjoy your holiday and see you at the track soon!

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