Ah, this traveling business is tough. I mean, look what we had to deal with – 4 days of this….
Beautiful beaches, clear water, swimming and snorkelling over coral reefs teeming with colourful fish, sun baking, fishing and camping!!!
Yep we are back at the coast, the Cape Range National Park to be precise. Here the world heritage listed Ningaloo Reef almost meets land, and it is just a brief swim through a few metres of crystal clear blue water to immerse yourself in a completely different underwater world.
We started in the area by spending one night, Sunday 21st, just north of Exmouth at the Lighthouse Caravan Park. This is at the tip of the cape, and though the reef extends round the cape we didn’t swim here as it is somewhat exposed (to both wind and waves). Below is the view from the lighthouse, looking north east. Fortunately you can’t see in this pic (it is further to the right) the huge antennae system that forms part of the Defense forces establishment on this cape (the cape has a bit of military history).
The next two nights (and 3 full days) were spent in the national park itself. We camped at two different sites/areas, snorkelled a number of beaches, and visited a few more.
This reef (or this area of it) doesn’t have all the brilliantly bright coloured coral that some reefs may have, but there are certainly colours in there and the fish, of all sizes, certainly aren’t lacking in colour!! Beautiful shades of every colour imaginable! Different areas of the reef do have different forms of coral, so it was worthwhile snorkelling the different beaches. The dark blue you see in the water are the areas of coral.
There is a reasonably stiff current at most of the beaches, with plenty of warning signs, but this can be used to your advantage – walk down the beach and then float down over the reef with the current! It did have Nicole somewhat unnecessarily worried at times…
There is fairly big surf, but it is several hundred metres out from shore, on the edge of the shallow reef. This kind of creates a nice bay/lagoon effect, so the only surface chop is that created by local wind. Unfortunately there was a bit of a stiff breeze during our stay, but it was largely offshore orientated so we were able to find beaches/bays that were quite sheltered.
The boys really liked sandy bay:
Favourite snorkeling spot in the Cape Range NP would have been either South Mandu or the drift loop of Turquoise bay. Oyster Stacks was the roughest, with surface chop and some swell getting through, which affected water clarity.
Turquoise bay itself was also great, and sheltered.
The weather was a theoretically lovely 18 – 30C range (roughly), but with the breeze it seemed pretty cool to us – the cold weather jumpers/gear are out again! The other downside is we found the water itself quite cold, even though it is located above the Tropic of Capricorn! I could only last for about 20 minutes in the water, before having get out and warm up in the sun! Then I’d head in again for some more shivering. Wish we had wetsuits, but they’d be pretty bulky to transport around Aus…
Yardie Creek is the furtherest south that can be accessed in a 2wd, and is also the only creek in the NP. We did an afternoon trip there one day, and did the walk up the gorge. Not as stunning as many of the other gorges we’ve seen these holidays, but worth the walk nonetheless.
Around midday Wednesday, we headed off further south to Coral Bay, a 155km drive from Exmouth (still further from the campsites). This is a popular well known location, with a couple of caravan parks and other accomdation, but is still located on the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park (but not part of the Cape Range NP).
The bay is well protected (and winds reduced anyway), so the surface was relatively smooth and there were minimal currents. There is a bit of a different style coral here – lots of big cabbage like stuff! Plenty of the same beautiful fish though! We stayed another night (caravan park) and full day here. Seems I didn’t take any nice daytime photos of coral bay itself – the above are mostly from surrounding areas.
The boys were keen on a fishing charter, but after inquiring about costs we resisted. When we were around the jetty late Thursday arvo, the sight of these crates of fish being unloaded from the charter boat had Daniel sobbing (that he couldn’t do it…)! Being a bit tired and perhaps not 100% (he had a headache the night before) wouldn’t have helped.
To help placate the boys, we went round to Maud Point/Jetty and fished there till after sunset.
On dusk we packed up the rods, headed back out to the main road, and found a spot on the roadside to camp the night. And so a lovely trip to Ningaloo Marine park finished. The snorkeling gear certainly received a good workout, and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay.