So – here we are at the Ningaloo Lighthouse Caravan Park. We have decided to stay here in relative comfort rather than queue up at 7am each morning for a rationed camp site in the National Park.
We took a trip out on a commercial glass bottomed boat to view the reef and have a snorkel. Conditions were excellent. A slight breeze, high tide, good visibility, warm water and not to many people on the boat. This was a basic trip lasting from 10am to 1pm, including pick up and drop off from our camp site for $60. Good enough, we had about 30/40 minutes of time in the water. Lots of fish and lots of interesting coral. The boat skipper took us over some coral heads that have been core sampled and are up to 1000 years old.
Into town (Exmouth) for lunch and then a lazy afternoon. A walk up to the old lighthouse in the late afternoon. Excellent views out over the bay and down the ranges. Lots of humpback whales frolicking just offshore. In the far distance out to sea a couple of gas drilling rigs are visible.
The Exmouth peninsula is covered with defence installations. Tall antennae litter the landscape. These installations date back to the Harold Holt era when it was “All the way with LBJ”. The town of Exmouth didn't exist until the yanks built these bases.
Three course dinner and then some time on the computer uploading photos before bed.
Today we hired some snorkels and fins from the caravan park. A ride down the Cape Range NP coast road, stopping at various places that had been recommended as good beaches to access the reef from.
High tide was midday, so we went all the way down to Yardie Creek for coffee and a (very) early lunch.
Of all the spots we'd reconnoitred on the way down, South Mandu Beach looked the best. Easy access from the car park to the beach, easy access from the beach to the coral and not another person in view. Also as we'd 'checked' the location out earlier in the morning, we sighted a couple of small reef sharks chasing bait fish down the channel between the beach and the coral. They dashed about at a great rate, scattering bait fish in all directions. Sharks mmmm
There is an 'Eco' camp site (http://www.salsalis.com.au/ )just behind the dunes, with swank looking safari tents etc., but it appeared deserted.
The person who had advised us to try South Mandu, had indicated that at high tide, the current runs parallel to the beach, from south to north and that the best way to snorkel, was to walk south along the beach and then drift back with the current.
This worked like a charm. We managed two 'trips' of about 20 minutes each, before having a rest. Then a final trip as the tide was turning and we'd had enough of being out in the sun.
Floating along in the current about a metre above the coral was like being in a low flying aircraft zooming over some alien landscape. Magic! Lots of fish of all shapes, sizes and colours. Ditto the coral. This was a fitting compliment to the boat trip of the previous day.
Tired but content we headed back to camp to shower and prepare for dinner tonight. To late Marco & Ursala remember that they'd left their swimming togs back at the beach. It was a long ride back for Marco. I promised not to start the beers until his return.
Tomorrow its south to Coral Bay.