Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cocktails in Exmouth - 29th July 2009

The most sophisticated place in Exmouth, and the only place which has a cocktail menu, is the Novotel Ningaloo Resort. (My mother who visited the town 30 years ago couldn't believe there could be a Novotel here now.) Principally constructed from corrugated iron in sympathy with the local environment, there is a superb bar and restaurant area overlooking a lily pond and the Exmouth Gulf. Perfect for a visit on a sunny afternoon, with a cocktail or two!

Joeys in Exmouth - 25th July 2009

Whilst staying in Exmouth, I've had the time to help volunteer with the local C.A.R.E. group, who look after injured native wildlife, mainly orphaned joeys, whose mothers have been killed on the roads. Some of the work isn't that interesting (joeys go through a lot of bottles that all need to be thoroughly cleaned...), but then there's the fun stuff like feeding them and nursing them in pouches. These two little bubs are some of the younger joeys currently being cared for: Leela and Sampson.

Turquoise Bay - 19th July 2009

Turquoise Bay is the place to snorkel off the shore in Exmouth. The crazy thing is that it's a 45 minute drive away, on the other side of the cape in the Cape Range National Park! Due to this (and the weather on our days off), we only get to the location to snorkel after a couple of weeks in town. The location is unusual for snorkelling in that it's a drift snorkel, with you entering the water at one end of the beach and then emerging at the other end after letting the current drift you along. I see a lot of fish life - particularly wrasse, parrot fish and some other fish I've identified before but forgotten their names. However, it's a bit breezy and the water rather cold, so we don't stay long today.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Exmouth - 7th July 2009

I wasn't original planning on doing a whale shark trip. Sure, they are big, magnificent looking creatures, but the trips are quite expensive. However, after having gotten jealous of David's reports from the whale shark trip he'd done two days before (as part of his Divemasters course), and with him going on another such trip, I decided that I had to go along, too.

First up on the trip, though, was a dive (or snorkel). We went diving at a spot called Central Station - a bommy that is a cleaning station for manta rays. We were rewarded with a close up visit from two manta rays, who seemed to completely ignore the presence of us divers, whilst getting cleaned by the resident fish. If anything, manta rays are even more impressive when you are diving, than when seen from the surface (or at least some of my photos were). We also saw a turtle, probably a loggerhead, of which I also got some good photos of it swimming above us.

The next part of the trip was the whale shark snorkelling. After chilling out on the boat for awhile waiting for the first sighting, we ended up going snorkelling about six times with four different whale sharks. It's quite unreal, being in the water close to these giants of the fish kingdom; they're just so laidback, cruising along just under the surface of the water. Definitely a very different experience and well worth the trip. Not that these are the largest creatures of the sea - the large numbers of humpback whales we saw from the boat throughout the day reminded us of that!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Coral Bay - 28th June 2009

Coral Bay isn't the nicest place. Arid and lacking much vegetation, the caravan parks and resorts are squished in together, being particularly crowded during the peak season. However, that is forgetting the one reason for Coral Bay's existence - the proximity of the Ningaloo Reef, which is close enough to snorkel to off the shore (we skipped this due to the unbeach-like weather) or easily accessed in minutes by dive boat.

We went on a double boat dive at Lottie's Lagoon and the Canyon, with a snorkel with manta rays in between. Whilst the coral wasn't as spectacular as I had been expecting, after comparisons saying Ningaloo was just as good as or better than the Great Barrier Reef (although the cloudy weather wouldn't have helped), Ningaloo definitely stands out for the array of large marine animals you can interact with. The most famous are the whale sharks, that visit between April and June each year. (We had just missed them at Coral Bay, although the season was still running further north at Exmouth.) However, the manta rays, are just as impressive. Literally "barrelling" a few metres below the surface of the water (a typical feeding pattern), these gentle giants put on a majestic display, whilst us snorkellers bobbed on the surface up above.

But that wasn't all we had to be satisfied with, as we spotted a dugong wallowing along the surface of the water during our boat trip. The cows of the sea (unusually, the only marine mammal that is vegetarian), they had already departed from the waters around Monkey Mia for the winter when we visited there, so it was incredible to get to see these unique creatures for the first time, too.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Monkey Mia - 25th June 2009

One of the most well known wildlife experiences on this part of the coast is the feeding of wild dolphins that regularly visit the shore of Monkey Mia. Starting in the 1960s, this activity is now fully controlled by the state Department of Conservation, meaning that hopefully this can continue for generations of dolphins to come, with no harm done to them. The dolphins turn up like clockwork (or even early on the morning we were at Monkey Mia), with up to three talks by a ranger each morning that each culminate in the feeding of the non-infant dolphins some fish by eager tourists. Thanks to David, I got choosen - although I was so engrossed in feeding my fish to the dolphin properly that I forgot to turn around for a photo!

Rainbow Jungle, Kalbarri - 23rd June 2009

Next door to the Seahorse Sanctuary was the Rainbow Jungle parrot park. Most of the parrots in the park are Australian parrots - it's incredible the number of different parrots this country is home to, in all shades of the rainbow. There were also some parrots from overseas, including these red and blue macaws from South America. They are cheeky, lively birds, and this one took a liking to David's hat (no harm done to the hat!)

Seahorse Sanctuary, Kalbarri - 23rd June 2009

The section of the Western Australia coastline running from Pinnacles north to Exmouth is called the "Coral Coast" in the tourist brouchures; but I feel it would have been better named the wildlife coast! There are so many amazing opportunities to view sea creatures in the wild, plus some great parks with more animals to see. Arriving in Kalbarri in the pouring rain, it was a very easy decision to visit the Seahorse Sanctuary (which was completely indoors). Set up to breed seahorses for the pet trade (meaning that hopefully less seahorses are taken from the wild, plus these seahorses will actually survive in home aquariums), it was amazing to view tanks full of the extremely cute juvenile seahorses, hanging onto the ropes and each other, and just generally bobbing around.