Loading Map...

Exmouth, Cape Range National Park and the Ningaloo Reef

Written on: Tuesday September 23rd, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

We arrived in Exmouth, the gateway in to Cape Range National Park mid-afternoon, anxious to get out of the car after being cooped up for the past day and a half. Cape Range turned out to be the perfect place for out first stop-off.The skies were clear blue, the sun beating down and at the lighthouse at Vlamingh Head, where we first glimpsed out over the Ningaloo Reef presented us with at least three Humpback Whales ducking and diving out in the ocean, splashing huge volumes of spray up in to the air with their tailfins and shooting water sky-bound with their blowholes.We drove deeper in to the park to find ourselves a spot to base ourselves for the night. The National Park has a number of camp grounds dotted along the coast, but with limited space and as it was the holiday period when we arrived all were full. Never one to be deterred or thrown from a plan though we made our way south and tried to find a remote, isolated spot where upon we could pitch up the tent.It was here I finally felt alive again and the travelling experience was afresh once more. It's hard to explain and I'm sure even harder to understand unless having experienced it yourself, but I'd been on the road almost an entire year now. I'd come through one tough period when I was travelling on my own through the eastern part of Indonesia, but since then and since arriving in Australia I hadn't really been enjoying it as much as I had previously. It was a mixture of missing home, friends and family, not having as much of a challenge as what Asia was and also not really knowing what or where I wanted to be. Cape Range National Park was a place I wanted to be, and Matt, Amanda and Sophie were three people I felt comfortable in travelling with. The four of us had bonded extremely quickly and the environment we were in was like our own little paradise.We first stopped off at Ned's Camp, walked over the expanse of sand dune that leads right down on to the ocean's edge and the four of us made straight for the refreshment of the water in what really did seem like our very own little part of  planet Earth. The only thing we saw in our vicinity as far as the eye could see was a lone kangaroo hopping across along the water's lip himself, probably come to have a good look at the Dutchies in their bikini's. And who could blame him!We eventually decided upon a flat area on the sand dunes at Varanus Beach, a little further south where we camped for the next two nights under the stars in our own secluded utopia, playing cards and drinking goon to our heart's content.The reef itself stretches out over 280km over this part of Western Australia and possesses a wealth of aquatic life including over 500 different species of fish, 300 different species of coral and 600 different species of molluscs. Add to this the frequent routine sightings of the world's biggest fish, the whale shark between March and June, dolphins, manta-rays (of which I still haven't bloody seen), dugongs and the migration of the humpback whales every year. The best thing about this reef though is it's proximity to the shore. Unlike most over reefs you don't need to pay to take a boat three hours out to see it. Here at Cape Range you can snorkel right out to it. In places you don't even have to get in to the water. After breakfast I strolled along the shoreline where we had camped, taking good care not to step on any of the numerous jelly-fish that had been washed up on to the sand. Within 200 metres I had seen two sting-rays leap from the sand where they lay camouflaged and a small reef shark leisurely dart by.The jewel down this stretch of coast though is Turquoise Bay, a dramatically perfect stretch of fine white sand curled around like a wineglass bowl. Although slightly more crowded, its beauty is undisputable. Matt and I grabbed our snorkels and explored the reef which lies just a short swim from the shoreline. Within a few minutes we were swimming alongside a turtle who'd mossied over to see what was going on. Not only was there a multitude of marine life, but the coral reef itself was stunning and seemingly never ending. The only downside was that because of the relatively warm waters there were jelly fish everywhere. At one point I happened to look up through my mask and stop just in time to avoid myself splatting my forehead right in to the middle of one of the transparent stingers. Being out in the sea, too far out to stand on the seabed and surrounded by these horrible little creatures is really scary. You're in their realm and at one stage they'd had a word with each other and ganged together to form an intimidatory ring around us both. It did the trick and content with our scenic paddle we quickly decided to hit the beach again. Not a bad alternative.In the Olympic medal table of snorkelling though it's  the small bay named Oyster Stacks that finishes with the gold medal. As soon as you set foot in to the water you run the risk of treading on coral. The reef is so close that at low tide it actually pokes out the top of the water and when snorkelling over the top you have to keep your body tensed and use just a breast stroke motion with your arms to propel yourself through the water as the reef is literally centimetres beneath you. Once again the aquatic life here was unbelievable with sharks flitting around brightly coloured table coral and families of Nemo-like clown fish dancing in between the tentacles of sea anemones. I could of stayed here for days, there was just so much to see. However I'm just starting to appreciate just how big Australia really is and there's still a whole lot more to get round yet. Onwards and in this particular case, downwards.