WA: A journey of roadhouses, roadtrains and roadkill
Coral Bay, Western Australia
Woke up ridiculously early, which seemed to be becoming the norm, and had another self-righteous shower. Went to the shop to buy yet another healthy breakfast of biscuits, iced coffee and rice pudding. Went back to the car to heat up the rice pudding, which ended up tasting ok but quite artificial. A rare let down from Heinz.
We had decided that we wanted to do a boat tour to explore the Ningaloo Reef as apparently it was a must do in WA. After much debate we settled on a nice and cheap one... $139. Charlotte being Charlotte went and booked hers without me whilst I was having a disaster with the washing machines (put it on cold like it said and it finished with only half my stuff being wet - went to dry it anyway thinking I'll wash it properly at the next place and realised I'd plugged my phone into the socket the dryer had been plugged into and so it just swallowed my money) but I found $3 so all was not lost!
I then had to leg it to reception to make sure there was still space on this boat which thankfully there was. I was told the trip ran from 9-3approx and that I had to be back at reception to get flippers and snorkel at 9am. So we did that and then hopped on the transfer bus who took us to the jetty. Chatted to 3 English sisters on the bus about what we were all doing in WA. Arrived at the jetty and had to wait for the boat, which allowed me time to snap the only pictures of the day of the ridiculous water (in the picture in this entry). Boat arrived, catamaran style thing and quite large so we all clambered on and for about 20 minutes everyone was just breathing in the fresh sea air and enjoying the wind on our faces! We were then told we were going to go for a sort of practice snorkel, instructed about what the emergency signals were etc and told not to touch the coral.
Getting in the water everyone was a little shocked at how cold it was, there was not much coral around mainly sand but so many fish of all different varieties. Within about 5 minutes of being in the water I spotted quite a large fin disappear around the back of a particularly big bit of coral, so curiosity got the better of me and I swam round the other side to catch a glimpse and lo and behold it was a reef shark! Swimming straight towards me I think it finally spotted me and swam away very quickly. One to tick off the bucket list - swimming with a shark! From my limited knowledge of aquatic species I noted a parrot fish and what I thought was a small sturgeon (although now having looked it up I don't think it was), and then swimming back to the boat I realised everybody else was still snorkelling around. So I stopped and just kind of bobbed in one place before noticing a weird shape under the sand. Being particularly cautious as I was keeping my eye out for stone fish, I swam closer and recognised the outline of a ray, and quite a big one at that (one that I am still to find out the name of), with its eyes sticking creepily out from underneath the sand. Feeling elated at spotting this strange fish I wanted to share my findings with somebody but nobody was anywhere near. I watched it for a while and then noticed someone out the corner of my eye. Signalling them I pointed out the ray, and back on the boat the girl was happy I had shown her!
We were then told it was time for what we had all been waiting for, and the captain pointed above us to the small plane that was flying overhead. It was all very well done and Bree one of the instructors got in the water and signalled along with the captain when we should all the get in flippers and snorkels at the ready. So we all got in and there it was, a HUGE manta ray just casually swimming right in front of us. It really was an incredible sight. Another tick off the bucket list. We tried to keep up with it for a few minutes but it glided off in another direction and we lost it. It was a bit crazy, 16 people all vying to get the best view of this manta ray with flippers kicking about in all directions alarmingly close to my face!
We did this 3 times, the second time I didn't see the manta at all, but the third time, oh the third time! I had pole position right at the front behind the ray and we must have been following it for a good 5-6 minutes. It turned sharply at one point and swam directly underneath me and it made me feel incredibly small and insignificant. Made me realise how spectacular and different life under the sea really is. For such a huge creature, it was the msot graceful thing I have ever seen.
Now was time for the most important part of the day - lunch. Just a spread of sandwiches, cheese, meats and a fruit platter. I ate two sandwiches and then really regretted it as we had to get back in the water soon after. During lunch the captain took us to a place where we saw loads of huge turtles, not sure which species, and incredibly difficult to get a picture of!
Anyway, it was time for our second reef snorkel. Two choices, swim around on your own or follow the instructors over the coral to a cleaning station for the reef sharks. Naturally everyone wanted to see the sharks (I was smugly thinking yeah yeah what else is new) but joined them nonetheless. The coral here was abundant and completely different to where we had snorkelled in the morning. We had to follow the instructors over a gap in the reef and be careful not to touch anything as the reef was quite shallow. It was a tough swim as the current and the waves were quite strong. We managed to see at least 3 reef sharks at the cleaning station and bobbed there for a while just watching them. On the way back to the boat someone pointed out an octopus hiding amongst the reef and I could just about make out an eye and a tentacle. I had swam quite far when the instructor came over to tell me there was a turtle nearby next to where the others were but unfortunately it was gone by the time I got there.
Back on the boat we headed for shore chatting to a group of 4 people who were travelling together whose next stop was Karijini. Swapping Facebooks we said maybe see you there! After the transport took us back to the caravan park we decided against a shower as we needed to get on the road, so after an ice cream (NEED TO STOP) we headed up to Exmouth and Cape Range National Park. We managed to get to Turquoise Bay which maybe was the most beautiful place I had seen yet. I did a bit of swimming and realised that I was not alone - these stunning silvery fish with black stripes were swimming all around me clearly unphased by the huge could-be predator! We then headed quickly for the nearest caravan park (Yardie Homestay) after squealing to a stop and reversing a way back as I spotted my first echidna plodding away into the brush. Arriving at the campsite and after paying, I finally managed to do my washing. Horror struck as I realised there was no dryer but a kind man let me borrow his pegs for the night. The parrots were making the most ridiculous noise I have ever heard come from an animal, it sounded like they were dying. But as it got dark they silenced and we managed to get some sleep!