From red rock to deep blue

From Karajini, we headed to Tom Price , the closest town to the National Park, to re-fuel and spend the night – the campground was surprisingly nice for such a backwoods town.
The next day we set sail to Exmouth – a six-hour drive towards the coast. Exmouth is not only famous for its proximity to world heritage Ningaloo Marine Park, Australia’s largest fringing reef, but also for the numerous whale sharks who come to feast outside the reef April through July.
On the way, we stopped for lunch at a picnic area that had been washed out, but followed another van around the “road closed” sign to find shade and a picnic table. We shared the site with a nice French couple (Aurelien and Lucie) who were traveling/working for a year in Australia. They told us they had just left Exmouth and had had bad weather and many roads, campgrounds, and touristy things were closed due the recent flooding, which is uncommon for this time of the year. Since they were headed to Karajini, we gave them a park map and some information about hiking there , and they shared what they knew about Exmouth and getting there, so it was a very serendipitous meeting.
We arrived in Exmouth late afternoon after crossing only a few bad sections of road with quite a bit of standing water on both sides. We got ourselves a nice campground, did some laundry that evening and left our garments to dry in the clear starry night. Around 4:00 am the sound of drops on the roof of the campervan bolted us out of sleep and so we made a mad dash to the clotheslines to rescue our laundry. Upon arriving in the drying area next to the laundry facility, we noticed right away two huge gaps in the hanging clothes…where our large beach towels used to be! We cursed as we ripped our remaining laundry off the lines, stuffing them into garment bags, and hurrying back to our home on wheels as the rain picked up intensity. We didn’t fall back asleep as we were greatly irritated that our towels had been stolen. The campground office staff, while sympathetic, didn’t do much to help us. So the next day’s errands included filing a “missing beach towels” police report along with fueling up, grocery shopping (beach towels now on the list), and a stop at the tourist center. As silly as it seemed, we mainly filed the report for insurance purposes since even the cheapo towels we found at the local IGA were still $25 each! We found out the police had been aware of articles walking away from some of the campgrounds (so we weren’t the only ones), and, even had a good guess who the culprits were.
Once done with that, we started reading through the tourist brochures that we collected at the visitor center about swimming with the whale sharks. We were unsure if we wanted to do it. Top concerns were the cost, how good the swimming with the whale sharks would really be, and would that be a detriment for the whale sharks themselves? After doing some more research, we decided to go for it. We narrowed down the tour operator prospects, interviewed them and reserved with our preferred tour operator two days out (the next available slot). With all of our to-do list completed and the weather clearing , we then headed to the beach.imageAbove: Janz beach. Below: Vlamingh head lighthouse with view of the reefimageimageWaking up to clear skies the next morning, we left Exmouth and drove into nearby Cape Range National Park, which forms part of the coastline of the Ningaloo Marine park. Cape Range is home to a large variety of wildlife and it didn’t disappoint. We spotted emus, a beautiful dingo, kangaroos, rock-wallabies, and more.imageAbove and below: the largest bird, the emus, native to Australiaimage imageAbove: beautiful dingo. Below: Kangaroos and wallabiesimage image image imageimage Below: cute echidnaimageAt high tide, we snorkeled a reef called turquoise bay. It was definitely a drift snorkel as the currents were very strong and since we didn’t have fins, it was challenging to stay put and be able to take pictures. Nonetheless beautiful. We ended our day at sandy bay, a nice swimming beach close by.image Above: Turquoise bay, the current was extremely strongimage imageWith all the flooding in the area, many campgrounds in the park were still closed and the few that were open were full. The drive back to Exmouth town would be too long, so we decided to squat- camp in a quiet location (a lookout) for the night. We enjoyed the solitude and had a fabulous sunset to photograph. image imageThe next day was very cloudy and overcast so we took in a short hike and a quick dip at a nice isolated spot called South Mandu. We had over-heard a conversation at the visitor center about this beach and had filed in away in our heads to check out. It was low tide when we got there, but we could see the edge of water was teeming with marine life (reef sharks, sting rays, a couple of octopus, and lots of other sea critters) so we vowed to return in better weather and high tide to snorkel it. imageBelow: South Mandu beach at low tide with overcast skiesimageimageAbove: bailer that washed out on the rocks, we put it back in the water. Below: funky-looking crabs, amazing what you find at low tide!imageimageimageAbove: octopus, below: bluespotted ribbontail rayimageWe were a bit concerned about the weather for the next day (our whale shark swimming day) but tried to ignore it. When we did return to South Mandu to snorkel, it was fantastic and below is a small sample of what we saw…even better nobody was there and didn’t seem to know about this well-kept secret beach.imageAbove and below: South Mandu beach at high tide with clear skiesimage image image image image image image image image imageimageimage

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2 Responses to From red rock to deep blue

  1. Terrea says:

    Wow! stunning everything! You must feel gifted each and every day….despite minor setbacks and unexpected surprises. I’ve probably said this before, but your eyes will never be the same. That’s how I always felt after traveling to new places. Hugs to you two……….

    • speters14 says:

      We’ve seen some incredible sights, met some great people, ate some interesting food, and enjoyed the immersion into different cultures. So yes, we’ve gifted ourselves well and feel fortunate to make a trip like this a reality.

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