Friday, 12 September 2008

Cape Range NP/Ningaloo Reef and onto Shark Bay

Cape Range National Park is the home of Ningaloo Reef.  The largest fringing reef (dont ask me what this means) in the world and I believe the only coral reef to form on a Western coast.  And pretty amazing it was too.  The National Park is a small one, and quite bare (no trees), but it is beautiful in other ways and the reef is definitely the highlight.

We spent four nights at Kurrajong camp area - after queuing from 7:30am behind 5 other keen campers , we had heard the ranger is a bit of a Nazi so you have to get there early to get a spot or he just laughs at you and turns you away - to get a nice spot on a beach camp area.  We managed to get a decent spot on a quiet (no generators) campspot on the beach, however the weather didn't hold up and was windy for 3 days out of the four.  Not just a bit of a draught but a proper coastal gale.  The tent came apart from the frame a couple of times, but we strapped it back down and had two pegs in on each rope plus large rocks holding them down!  Anyway we really enjoyed our stay, especially the snorkelling, the fishing (I caught a small Chinaman cod, twice!  I used one as some bait and put the other back) and just chilling out in the tent with the wind blowing around us.  We took a trip into Exmouth one day as we were a bit bored and fed up with the wind, bought some bread and checked emails, etc.  There is a large naval comms base here which isn't very exciting, but it has the second highest structure in the Southern Hemisphere - a Very Low Frequency radio tower to communicate with the Navy submarines.  Fascinating hey?

Here is me snorkelling:


We had a look at a bird hide on one of the beaches, there were no birds, but we did spot a Port Jackson Shark (or that's what we reckon it was).  In the ocean at our campsite I also saw my first sea snake and we think we saw a stonefish which is the most venomous fish known to man.  And it's ugly too.

When we left we decided not to wait around for the tide to go out so we could cross the Yardie Creek crossing at the Southern end of the park, so instead drove back through Exmouth and back down the sealed road, then turned West again and headed for the 4wd track which follows the coast down to Coral Bay.  One of our more pleasant lunch stops on the way:


Unfortunately the departure journey out of Cape Range NP did't start well as when we were driving to Yardie Creek we found a medium sized wallaby (or roo not sure) in the middle of the road.  It was 8am so still quite early, and a Britz Toyota was stopped a few km's before we saw the roo checking something, so I think he may have hit it and kept going.  Anyway it was trying to stand up and was kind of leaning on one of it's front legs so I stopped and tried to help it.  It was in shock I guess as it's eyes were rolling around, it was also bleeding from its ears and nose so I put a blanket over it and dragged it to the side of the road after a bit of fussing and trying to radio the rangers (apparently they dont care it happens so much).  In the meantime a car pulled up and an old surfer and young girl got out to say you can either hit it with a stone/hammer to kill it or if they had a gun they would have shot it!  They left it up to us, but I was glad they stopped anyway as we were a bit unsure what to do.  When they left I checked him again and he was still looking dodgy, so we decided to leave him, I pulled the blanket off and as we drove away he stood up and hopped across the road!  Seriously.  Well Em told me he did, I didnt actually see him. A happy ending to a sad start to the day.

We eventually arrived without more incident (and after seeing lots of emus) at Coral Bay which is a tourist trap, but a pretty one and it has more coral right at the beach.  We jumped in for a quick swim and then kept motoring down the yet more boring sealed roads to the Shark Bay World Heritage Area which includes Denham, Monkey Mia and Steep Point - a personal highlight for me as this is the most Westerly point in mainland Australia...

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