Coral Bay Get Away

Trip Start Jan 07, 2012
Trip End Jun 04, 2012

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Where I stayed

Flag of Australia  , Western Australia,
Monday, March 5, 2012

Since arriving in Australia for the first time three years ago, I have heard rave reviews of the Coral Bay/Exmouth area.  I checked out Exmouth during my first stint in Australia and had a fantastic time snorkeling with the whale sharks (still on my life’s highlight reel) and doing few dives on the Ningaloo reef.  When I realized that Coral Bay was only a few hours from Carnarvon, I booked a room there for the March long weekend.  I was THRILLED when I learned that several of my friends from Tom Price had coincindently decided to make the five hour drive to paradise that same weekend: I knew I was in for a great weekend.

I started work very early on Friday and was thus able to get an early start on the drive from Carnarvon to Coral Bay.  I was a little nervous for my first solo drive of any real distance in Australia; first, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of long drives (I’d rather be the passenger and sleep), second, there are lots of animals on this stretch of road, third, I had to remember to
stay on the correct side of the road, and fourth, there is only one building between Carnarvon and CB!  Google maps told me the drive would take 3 hours and 15 min so I was surprised when the employee at the road house (isolated gas station that sells food and provides lodging) told me that I was only an hour away after only 80min on the road.  SCORE!   During the drive, I encountered one large suicidal cow and crossed the Tropic of Capricorn.
I arrived at the Ningaloo Reef Backpackers around 4:30pm andwas relieved to find a nice room with an ensuite bathroom (after the hellish experience at a hostel in Whitehorse, I’ve decided that I’m too old for hostel dorms and, given the heat, I knew I needed some air con).  The staff at the Backpackers laughed at me when I asked for a map – Coral Bay is really one road with a number of enterprises owned by the same company.  I was extremely pleased to find myself staying across the street from the caravan park (where my friends were staying) and across the laneway from a bakery…all of this was mere meters from the beach.

I quickly located Mons, Bec and family, Lou and family, and about half the population of Tom Price in the caravan park and then headed to the pub for dinner and happy hour drinks. 
It was lovely to see my peeps from TP – oh how I’ve missed them!  I felt a bit sad as they headed to their boiling tents and I returned to my luxurious air con but Princess Sarah
of Canada knows her limits (while my Aussie friends seemed to think camping was a good idea upon booking, I believe they won’t be making the same choice if they head down next year…)  Poor Mons had her first (and likely last) camping experience this weekend andquickly declared, “I was not made for this!”

On Saturday I hitched a ride with Lou and family to get to a beach only accessible by 4-wheel drive vehicles.  I do believe that the men thoroughly enjoyed the 30min drive through deep sand (I mostly enjoyed listening to Harry Potter on CD as it was much more entertaining that Classic 666, “the voice of the oldies”, the only station my car would pick-up…yes, I broke my rule about not listening to the radio in Australia and still managed to stay on the correct side of the
road!)  To say that the Lagoon is ideallyic would be a massive under statement.  This beach is gorgeous, has a shallow rock pool for toddlers, and gentle beach for the family, and a bunch of coral and fish for the brave to snorkel out to.  I snorkeled in the deep water with Ade, had lunch in the shade, and then was joined by Esther, 6 year-old snorkeler extraordinaire, for the afternoon.  I capped off the afternoon with a shower, a nap, and reading. Ahhh.  Those who had to return to tents didn’t look quite so invigorated at dinner as heat prevented
naps and poor Jacinta (who arrived late the night before) was burnt to a crisp!  Esther literally fell asleep at the dinner table (though did manage to wake right up when her ice cream was
Sunday featured a day trip out to the Ningaloo Reef for a couple of dives and snorkeling with the manta rays.  The boat was nice and the people aboard were pleasant.  The first dive was fairly average but as it was my first dive in about 10 months, I didn’t mind (and I firmly stand
by the belief that any dive is a good dive!).  We then waited for the spotter plane to find the manta rays from the air and jetted over to their location.
Manta rays are fascinating creatures.  These large filter feeders span 4.5m from wing tip to wing tip and can swim up to 50km/h!  The under belly of every manta ray is unique and can be used
to identify the creatures.  They gilde along effortlessly and make us landlubbers look slow and sad in the water.  My recent swim training was put to good use in attempts to keep up with these guys!  None of the rays came up to the surface or breeched but watching them feed along the bottom in giant swoops was beautiful.
After snorkeling, we ate lunch and motored out to the second dive site.  On the way there, we
saw a well known dolphin and her month old baby play at the bow of the boat, an eagle ray, turtles, and a dugone (a cousin of the manatee).  The second dive site was fairly spectacular – it was a break in the coral wall that led to a shark cleaning station!  The currents and undulations made for a technically challenging dive (a great chance to work on my neutral buoyancy techniques) and the fish and coral were great.  We saw several grey reef sharks (about 2.5m in length) getting cleaned by the fish living in cabbage coral; it honestly looked like a day spa for sharks – they were having a great time! 
The boat ride back to Coral Bay was beautiful.  At the jetty, we were met by Merv, the
300kg Queensland Grouper, who eats the scraps from the fishing charters.  Merv tends to hide under the boats, so I didn’t get much of a look at him but the fin that I did see was
ENORMOUS!  After a shower and some reading, I joined the TP crew for one last meal together.  The next morning, Mons and I went for a quick dip and then had breakfast at the bakery (so ridiculously good).  I finally faced the music and said goodbye to the TP group.  I am not sure when I will see them again, but I feel certain that I will see these friends at some point in the future.  I hope all TP nurses know they are expected to visit me in Canada some
day! (one day I might even have a house!) 

The drive back to Carnarvon, with the exception of some emus crossing the road, was completely uneventful.  I returned to the locum house ready for a nap and sure that the memories of the weekend will stay with me for years to come.
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Audrey on

Team Tom Price is always welcome to stay at my place!

Amy on

Sarah, that sounds absolutely awesome! The pictures are fantastic! What a great coincidence that your friends were there too - it must have made the weekend!

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