....and Whale Sharks!!!

Published: June 16th 2008
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I love the big trees of frangipani - feels so tropical.
Ningaloo Reef - My vacation from my holiday!

We spent Tuesday night in Balmain with Matt’s Aunt and had a delicious dinner and were a little closer to the airport for the 6am red-eye flight to Perth - that means up at 4:45 am. It was an uneventful day of travelling to get from Sydney to Perth to Exmouth (1270 km North of Perth). We stepped off the plane in Exmouth into the hot, humid sunshine ….ahhhhhh. After a 30 min shuttle into town, we landed at our home for the week - the Ningaloo Holiday Caravan Resort. A two bedroom cabin with a porch, kitchen, living room and spa - perfect! As we only had a few hours before sunset, we explored Town Beach across the road. It was low tide so no snorkelling but we walked out and saw all kinds of things on the exposed reef including an octopus that spit its ink out at me! There were some shells and some interesting rocks but the best was yet to come…

It’s whale shark adventure day!!!! 7:30 start time for our tour with Ningaloo Dreaming - up and filled with anticipation to see these whale sharks

Trying to get to the whale shark to catch a glimpse of the giant (and harmless) fish.
(fish categorized as sharks but not a whale). After a 20 minute bus ride around from Exmouth to our boat launch at the edge of Cape Range National Park we reached the marina and were ferried out to the Darling Isabelle dive boat and started our day at sea in search of whale sharks. We spend the day snorkelling, watching off the bow for sharks, waiting for the plane to radio down that he had spotted one. There was a ‘feeding frenzy’ of fish jumping out of the water, snorkelling with turtles, sting rays and black tip reef sharks, lounging and snacking. And then we heard it - our captain confirms whale shark!!!
The boat sped off to the location and our trip guide jumped in the water to confirm it was a whale shark (I still wonder what happens if it’s something else, or what else it could be...). In record time we don the masks, fins and snorkels and like lemmings, throw ourselves off the back of the boat and swim towards our guide, trying to contain our excitement so we don’t scare the shark off.
The feeling you get at the first site of the whale shark

Matt is practising his freediving skills chasing sharks.
cannot be explained. The pictures don’t do it justice, it’s magical. Our shark was a 7.5 metre mature male and was magnificent. You get to swim with him for 10 or 15 min then you jump back on the boat follow him and do it again. We had about 60 minutes total swim time with him which is very lucky (if they get sick of you, they just dive deep away) and the maximum time allowed - there are strict rules on how many, how long and how close. I was only afraid once when I tried to keep up with Matt and the guide (who didn't know where I was) and the boat went by with the second half of our group on it and didn't see me. I did have the scene from 'Open Water' in my head (there was also a recent news article that 2 divers got left behind in Cairns last week but the consensus is that it was a setup). So thinking that the boat didn't see me and Matt didn't expect me to follow him, I swam very hard - causing huge blisters on my feet. This experience was well worth the cost, time and distance to get here. Wow. We got some great pictures and even some video, which I'll try and get on here.
On www.whaleshark.org you can track ‘your shark’ around the world, identified by the pattern by his gills. I’ll update you on 'our' whale shark next time.

Exmouth is a quiet little place (http://www.exmouthwa.com.au/) of 2000 people so there’s not much to do in the evening, not that you have any energy after being out all day anyway. Pizza - beer - bed.

5:30 am alarm. Today is Navy Pier dive day. It is rated among the top 10 dive sites in the world and here we are. We get on the bus at 6 am, fill in paperwork, get equipment fitted by 7, through the Australian Navy gate officer and on the beach by 8am… The dive site is on government property but with proper ID and an organized group they generally let you through….unfortunately today the swell is over a metre at the shore so not only would we have a lot of trouble getting in as a shore dive, the visibility would be very limited. Dive master calls off the dive. Shit.
Whale SharkWhale SharkWhale Shark

It's hard to get perspective of how big this is but, believe me, when you see a 7.5m whale shark it's amazing!

Plan B - Scooters! (and reschedule Navy Pier for Sunday)
I read about the beaches on the west side of the North West Cape and I was eager to try the scooters so we got a map, the Lonely Planet Guide, rented a scooter and were off for a day of adventure on land! We travelled in style from Bundegi Beach (creamy sand and sea shells says Lonely Planet but over rated in my opinion), the lighthouse, dune beach (amazing and a favourite spot), then entered Cape Range National Park and to the visitor centre. At the visitor centre, T-Bone beach was incredible (shells, fishing, view, beautiful blue water) and we saw a turtle right from shore and on the way out, we saw a kangaroo and a joey!. Then to Turquoise Bay. Must be seen to be believed and reminds me of the Whitsundays in Queensland. It is the most amazing shade of blue it certainly lives up to its name. You walk down the beach, put your snorkelling stuff on, go out a little way and drift over the most amazing reef I’ve seen since the Great Barrier Reef - shells, coral, too many fish to mention….I can’t explain this one - just unreal. A very special place. Bliss.
After an amazing afternoon of beachcombing, snorkelling and lounging we headed back to the dunes to study the multitude of starfish on the beach and watch the sun set over the Indian Ocean. The colours stretch for miles and with the dunes as a backdrop …wow. The price of staying for the picture perfect sunset was a chilly ride back and dodging kangaroos in the dark on the moped (sounds funny but is actually quite dangerous and there are no streetlights out here folks!) but we were just in time to get fish and chips, watch the dvd of our whale shark adventure and head to bed. Not a bad day for a plan B!

Plan A: Dive the Murion Islands but mother nature, again, has other plans for us. The sea swell is still to high for the boat to go out to the islands but we spend the day diving in Ningaloo Marine Park seeing all kinds of tropical fish, sharks, a moray eel, turtles. At one point we were 30 ft down, drifting in and out like plankton, with all the other fish in
Moped Adventure Day!Moped Adventure Day!Moped Adventure Day!

The two of us took this little moped over 150 km exploring the beaches. That's our holiday cottage in the background and the frangipani tree.
the surge - very relaxing. The only thing is that the tops of my feet have big blisters from my fins from the whale shark adventure. The dive guides were helpful with bandaids and electrical tape (you don't want them infected with tropical water) and I’m told to wear socks in my fins for awhile….hmmm - should have brought 3M Tegaderm! We finished the day off right with a BBQ dinner and ice cream.

Hopes for diving our rescheduled Navy Pier were dashed when it was cancelled due to high seas and poor visibility. I guess we will have to come back to this beautiful place.
Plan B - again…..Turquoise Bay!
Coffee, map, rental car and a beautiful day. Since we had a car instead of a moped, we got further down the coast and were able to stay longer at our favourite places. We also had a chance of going over 60km/h!! (There is a section of the road that has no speed limit - FUN!!). And I finally saw an emu!! And a goanna. We drove straight to Osprey Beach which was beautiful. Some big rock/coral parts with little private beaches in between and gorgeous tropical
In Style!In Style!In Style!

We looked very cool in our helmets on our little moped. I'm sure the people going by were laughing with us....
water. Then to Sandy Beach which was somewhat unprotected so probably a little nicer in the calm weather. Then Oyster Shack which turned out to have absolutely incredible snorkelling - octopus, coral, tons of fish that are not shy at all - and it is all protected by the reef. Then back to our favourite beach - Turquoise Bay - to drift snorkel and relax in the sun - perfect place to spend our last day. We had some more lunch, applied sunscreen (there is no pollution out here and the sun is very strong, even in winter), put on our socks (me), masks, fins, snorkel and out to drift on the far reef. What an experience. We saw a stingray, all kinds of fish, turtles (at least 6 including a really old one), blacktip reef shark, forests of staghorn coral and pristine coral carpets filled with vibrantly coloured fish. There were lots of schools of fish pretending not to see you and at one point I joined a school of the fish and swam with them. One fish kept looking at me and seemed like it wanted me to follow him - he showed me all around his tropical
Ready to snorkel the reefReady to snorkel the reefReady to snorkel the reef

This is at Turquoise Bay - you just walk out to a couple metres of water, flop down and drift over pristine reef life.
reef home. In the late afternoon we checked out Lakeside Beach, then a quick dip at T-Bone beach. There are some camp sites at some of these beaches but usually only a few sites which keeps it quiet and natural looking. It would be fun to camp here for a week. We wanted to catch sunset at the Turtle Sanctuary (no baby turtles at this time of the year though) but the clouds came in so it was a quick one.

A fabulous vacation with plans in the works to return to Western Australia. Monday was our travel day back and that is probably the last vacation from my holiday that I'll be having for awhile since I'll be right into my new job now.....

Yep - it's official - I've accepted a new (and permanent!!) position here at 3M Australia starting June 1, 2008. It wasn't really a decision at all. As I looked at the calendar, saw that I've been here for over 6 months and knew I wanted to stay longer, I decided that I should probably get some plans in order for the end of the year. As I started putting out feelers for opportunities and, luckily, there was a position open which sounded perfect - Lean Manufacturing Engineer. It all happened very quickly and since the position starts immediately (like yesterday!) this also means that the party is over! I'm afraid my 'working holiday' is going to be more about work from now on but that's ok. Living in Manly, Sydney I'll still be able to make the most out of my weekends and vacation time. And I did negotiate to keep my trip home for the month of September.

Additional photos below
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We found this little octopus who did not want us to bother him. He kept spitting ink at me until he found some coral to hide under.

We had a beautiful view of the coast line on the west side of the cape from this lighthouse. We weren't quite sure if the little moped was going to get us up the hill but it did!
Dune BeachDune Beach
Dune Beach

Not sure what the real name of this beach is but we called it Dune Beach - beautiful. Reminds me of Fraser Island.
Dusk at Dune BeachDusk at Dune Beach
Dusk at Dune Beach

I thought I could get a better sunset picture from the end of the dunes so that little speck is me!
After sunset coloursAfter sunset colours
After sunset colours

This was the skyline as we made our way home on the moped. The colours were awesome.
Matt and Trish DivingMatt and Trish Diving
Matt and Trish Diving

Our dive guide Ricky took this picture for us.

17th June 2008

Seriously, can you take it down a notch? I am getting diabetes from all your sugary fun times.

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