Just down the peninsula from Exmouth is the tiny town of Coral Bay which also lies alongside Ningaloo reef. We had been told it was also worth a visit so we included it in our stopover plans. We arrived there late afternoon, checked into a campground and then walked the beach the campground was bordering, Paradise beach and Bill’s bay . It was low tide so we decided to wait until the next day to give swimming and snorkeling a try. The next morning we went to the information booth to get the scoop on where to snorkel and other activities available. We started with a recommended snorkel off the beach quite a ways to a place they named Ayers Rock, which is a gigantic yellow brain coral. The other coral we saw on our way to Ayers Rock was incredibly thick and healthy, although not that many fish were visible (maybe they were hiding in all that coral). Ayers Rock itself was definitely an impressive hunk of coral, although we didn’t think it was labeled correctly as a brain coral (but what do we know about corals?). The waters in Coral Bay were much colder than in the Exmouth area, and so we were freezing by the time we finally found the rock. We snapped a few photos and quickly swam back to shore to warm up in the sun. After a quick lunch, we decided to void our rental warranty again and took the unsealed dirt road out to Point Maud and Bateman Bay. When we arrived, we were the only people there and we wondered why no one would come visit such a beautiful and isolated place. We walked the beach for quite a distance and back, taking refreshing dips all along the way and watched dolphins playing offshore. By the time we reached the parking area, there were people arriving to fish off the shore. So much for the isolated beach, so we put our bathing suit and clothes back on :).Above and below: Point MaudWe decided to visit Point Maud again the next day to try the snorkeling and hopefully run into our dolphin friends. The snorkeling was disappointing. We only saw one stingray and the visibility was poor. Our dolphins friends didn’t show up either. Since the phone reception was quite good there, we finalized a manta ray tour for the next day. The tour would give us the opportunity to snorkel further out near the reef’s edge and swim with manta rays.
We then went on a little adventure that afternoon. We had heard of a 4WD track that was further out that wound its way further north in Bateman Bay, so we packed up and headed out the bumpy dirt road.
Our poor Britz campervan really got tested. But it’s a Toyota and we know Toyotas never die! After a long washboard dirt road that included negotiating some dicey looking ruts and rocks (the campervan has a whopping 6 inches of clearance), we pulled over when the road had finally turned to sand. We then hiked up and over some dunes, checking for whip snakes with a stick as we went through brush till we finally made it to a rocky lagoon. The seas were pretty rough and the protected lagoon kind of murky, so we just hiked around picking up shells. The lagoon did have a few baby black tip reef sharks, but James gave up trying to get a picture of them with the visibility being very poor. The day was getting late and we hadn’t made any accommodation plans, so we were happy to spend the night “squatting”at the Point Maud parking area. It was a beautiful night and we gazed at the stars sitting on the beach for a while before going to bed.
For our tour the next day we had great weather although the winds were a bit strong which made the seas a bit choppy and the chill factor high.Above and below: Our chill-factor-sun-protection suitsThe first snorkeling stop called the Maze was fantastic: great visibility and heaps of fish (like our mates would say)! The second snorkeling stop was deeper and not as interesting. The crew then stopped at a site where a humpback whale carcass was and lots of tiger sharks were hanging around. There must have been at least 10 tiger sharks, some of them of healthy size coming to take a bite. We were all wondering if we were going to snorkel? But no, the crew just wanted to show us and allow us to take a few pictures if we were daring enough to stick our hands in the water.Above: tiger sharks next to whale carcassWe finally headed for the manta rays area and got the opportunity to swim with those graceful creatures. The first ray was just doing barrel rolling (it’s how they feed) and the visibility wasn’t great but on our second drop, we swam along an all black manta ray (a fairly rare type) close to the surface which was very neat.