Thursday, December 6, 2012

Ningaloo, Shark Bay and New Friends

A huge tick off our travel list on this crazy journey/honeymoon adventure has been achieved. I can definitively confirm that the stunning Coral Coast of Western Australia, the World Heritage listed Ningaloo Reef and Shark Bay is indeed just that. Stunning. And untouched and pristine and beauty-full.

We made our way to Exmouth from the dry and hot Pilbara. My lovely-jubbly sisters had gotten me the best birthday present - a glass bottom boat and snorkeling tour on the famed Ningaloo reef. Blissful. Especially considering I had been dreaming of it all the way through that heat of the Kimberley's. Neither of us had been on a glass bottom boat and I didn't really see what the fuss was about, but cruising over the ancient coral of Ningaloo and spotting huge turtles as they swim about minding their own business was truly amazing. We loved it! A short distance offshore in a reef sanctuary zone we jumped off for a snorkel, and what lay beneath was just as amazing. So many colourful fish, very 'Finding Nemo'! I explored and swam and explored some more despite a quite strong current, but poor Matt couldn't find a mask that fit very well and spent a lot of time not being able to breathe! He did get it together in the end and we swam around the brilliant coral and darting tropical fish. Loved it.

Back onshore we again ran into Joe, Kate and their boys who we met at Karijini and camped with them in the Cape Range National Park. Beautiful place with a raw beauty to it, sand dunes and plains. We decided that we both wanted to do the road south to Coral Bay through the national park and Ningaloo Station but would feel much better going with somebody else. So off we trundled in convoy after handing Joe a UHF to communicate and crossed Yardie Creek. We drove through Cape Range, then a defence area for weapon strikes (?!) before coming to Ningaloo Station - lots of goats! Driving along we came across some stunning scenes, like a mob of sheep by a windmill powered trough being slowly devoured by a monstrous sand dune. Western Australia epitomised.

We came to more huge sand dunes which were this time encroaching on the track. Some soft sand driving, with Joe getting the mighty Jackaroo and camper trailer a bit stuck. The boys loving all.that.sand!

We finally made it to Coral Bay and ended up staying two nights with Joe, Kate and the boys. I know it's our honeymoon and everything...but it was so nice to have other people to talk to other than Matt! We ended up borrowing their snorkeling gear and heading down the road to the beach, amazing the coral and fish that live just offshore, so accessible for snorkeling and so pristine.

Next stop was the Shark Bay area, we again convoyed with the mighty Jackaroo and stayed the night again with our traveling companions at Hamelin Station - with the country's most fancy ablutions block made from drystone walls. It is a working station and they were preparing for shearing in a few days, of course Matt wanted to stay and do some rousing, I quickly shooed him along to Denham though before we got stuck shearing thousands of merinos! We stopped at the shell beach on our way, amazing amount of pure white shells, quite beautiful.

We camped in Francois Peron National Park two nights, again with the Millem family who had unwittingly adopted us! The tracks were sandy and the scenery beautiful. We stayed at Big Lagoon campsite, very pretty but also very windy - on the second night the camper semi-collapsed on us in bed as a peg was pulled out in the wind! Picture Matt running around in the dark and rain in his jocks. Ok, don't picture that.

The dolphins of Monkey Mia were unfortunately not wanting to be friendly the morning we visited, we did see them and they did come quite close to shore but were not fed, the rangers are a bit wary at the moment anyway as they have baby calves on some of the mums. Matt and I headed north to the very tip of the peninsula at Point Peron. Again a very sandy track with beautiful raw scenery, very windswept at the tip and a lookout over the water. We spotted huge mantarays, some sharks and a turtle. Joe, Kate and the kids went the next day and spotted dugongs which I was bummed about - I really wanted to see one!

Joe and Kate had decided not to head out to Steep Point (the westernmost point of Australia) as a lot of people had warned us the road was 'atrocious' and not to take a trailer in there. We however didn't have that problem obviously so we set off and waved good-bye to our friends, promising to bring back tales of adventure! The road into Steep Point was not however 'atrocious', well we have traveled on some pretty horrid tracks so by our standards it was mild! Soft and sandy in places yes, corrugated, bumpy and slow going yes. But the scenery was absolutely stunning, one of the best tracks we have done we reckon, although that's a hard call to make, everything is so different in it's own way.

Once into the proposed national park area we camped at Shelter Bay, not quite out on open ocean yet so very calm and peaceful still, overlooking Dirk Hartog Island. And not a puff wind! Brilliant after the night we'd had before. We had a very lazy day of reading, crocheting, coffee drinking and fishing. Yes more fishing. But this time...great success! Matt caught three gropers (all undersize so released), a weird looking thing we think was some sort of flathead (also released) and four whiting which we filleted and had for dinner. Brilliant! This one day fishing alone had almost tripled Matt's catch for the entire trip around Australia - hahahaha! Needless to say he was pretty chuffed.

The next morning we headed out to really reach Steep Point, and the seas, oh my! It was beyond scary. The power and ferociousness of that water was something else. We found the precious sign, took the obligatory photos, cursed ourselves for not dropping into Byron Bay to get the easternmost point as well as west and north! We checked out the fishing camp where some pretty hardcore fisherman had lines off the cliffs attached to helium balloons. They were hauling in big mackerels (we didn't see any though) which were half chomped off by sharks circling below!

Driving back to civilisation we stopped in at Thunder Bay and False Entrance, both with some pretty cool blowholes shooting water about 10-15 metres into the air. Also very scary seas off the 30 metre cliffs, the swell was probably not even that big that day and it was still frightening! Amazingly atop the cliffs is a sort of dry creekbed for all the seawater that is washed up over the cliffs to drain away.

We headed back inland to Hamelin Station again for the night, they were now shearing and we fell asleep to the familiar bleating of the sheep in the yards. We miss farming! We again met up with Joe, Kate and the boys randomly in a gorge walk at Kalbarri the next day and again continued our adventures together. We are very much hoping to catch up with the Millem's when we get home, weekend in Barwon Heads here we come!


  1. Oh wow Em, reading this and looking at all these pictures was like my entire childhood worth of family holidays rolled into one. All of those places are so familiar to me! So glad you did the glass bottom boat trip - so awesome...

    I had to laugh when you said 'I know we're on our honeymoon but..." because hold cow you are on the world's longest honeymoon - damn straight you'd occasionally like someone else to talk to! Sorry Matty ;)

    Can't wait for the next installment as you venture closer to my hometown!

    Lou xx

  2. That sand looks perfect! :)