Saturday, 25 September 2010

Ningaloo Reef - Cape Range National Park and Coral Bay

As you've probably figured out by our lack of recent blog updates, we were able to get a site at Cape Range National Park!  We arrived at the queue just after 7am to find ourselves seventh in line with only a couple of cars arriving after us.  The people in the first few cars had been there all night and were asleep.

Friends in Port Smith had advised us to camp at the Pilgramunna campsite which is what we were hoping for, but having heard that many people were turned away at the gate, we would have been happy to just get a site anywhere in the park and move when a spot at our chosen campsite opened up. 

As we waited for the ranger to arrive we started counting cars coming out of the park and trying to work out our chances of getting in.  The two cars just ahead of us were traveling together and when we heard the ranger assign them to Pilgramunna we figured we had little chance of getting in.  Luckily for us there were 3 vacancies at Pilgramunna that morning and we were given the last spot.  We had a look at some of the other campsites and we both liked ours best. 

The entry fee for the park was a one-off $11 and camping was only $7 per person per night.  Once you're in you can extend as long as you'd like, up to 28 days.  You have to be self sufficient as there's little shade and no power or water other than bore water available from a tap near one of the camps.  There was a bush toilet which was incredibly clean (and not at all smelly!).  Our camp had only nine sites, and our camp hosts, Jeff and Avril, were lovely.  We initially booked in for 7 nights and couldn't bear to leave so extended for a couple more.

We were meters from the beach where we went boating and fishing and saw magical sunsets.  Paradise.

The view from our camper

Of course you can't go to Cape Range and not visit Turquoise Bay!  Our first excursion was to the Turquoise Bay Drift where we walked a few hundred meters down the beach and entered the clear water.  We swam the few meters to the reef and let the current carry us over the reef and back to the point we started.  It was incredible and teeming with life!

Needless to say, once wasn't enough.  We did the drift several times taking many many photos.  An experience I am so fortunate to have had and will surely never forget.

Our first visit to the drift also happened to be on my birthday.  We had come back from the bay and dried off when Mike asked if I wanted a coffee.  I didn't, but he seemed really desperate for one, so I agreed and off he went into the camper to make them.  Shortly after he called out to me and said he needed help.  When I went to help him he was in the camper doorway and as I walked up the steps he moved aside to reveal a birthday cake, complete with candles.  I still don't know how I missed not only the buying of the cake, but also his bringing it to Jeff and Avril to hide in their freezer overnight, and smuggling it back into the camper!!

Another highlight was a boat cruise up Yardie Creek and into the Yardie Creek Gorge where we spotted wildlife including the elusive Black Footed Rock Wallaby.  This was the first time on our trip that we were really wishing we had our kayaks with us.

Cute little bugger.

Several days of camping saw us running short of water for showers, so off we went to Ned's Camp to fill up some containers with bore water.  Apparently even bore water is hard to come by, and as we drove up to the tap the water security force came into view:

On the way back we ran into this prickly fellow.  I think he's a cutie, but Mike said he looks like a pile of thorns taking a crap.  Actually.. he kind of does!

Mr. Echidna
Once we were able to tear ourselves away from The Drift, we spent some time snorkeling at Turquoise Bay.  It's renowned for it's beautiful beach and superb snorkeling and didn't disappoint.

One morning we took a walk to Pilgramunna Gorge.  It's a dry gorge with huge rock walls. If you go in the morning or evening when they're more active you can get lucky and spot some black footed rock wallabies.  They are incredible creatures - hopping along on the crevices in the rock face high above the ground.  They're amazingly sure-footed, and adorable to boot!  We hit pay dirt. :)

They blend in well with the rock wall so you may have to click on the photo to enlarge it if you have trouble seeing them.

I love this photo!

We also saw more wildflowers

Although there were lots of snorkeling spots in the park, the other really great one is "Oyster Stacks", three large stacks of oysters that protrude out of the water, and which fish congregate around and feed on.  This was a fantastic spot with the only downside being the scramble over some rocks to get into the water.

I am SO glad we bought an underwater camera!

As I write this, we're in Coral Bay, where we've spent the last couple of days (you guessed it) snorkeling!

Finally, a photo of a land animal!
So now that you're up to date, we're off to bed. :)  Thanks if you managed to stay with us through this mammoth post!  Tomorrow we head to Carnarvon.  See you there!


Missymaomao said...

Wishing you a belated happy birthday Sheryl.
I hearyou can get blogs made into a books. With all that fantastic underwater photography your blog would make the best book.
Lot's of love and still wishing we were there.
Marilyn and Allen

Sheryl said...

Funny you should mention blog books. I signed up with one a few weeks ago and had a bit of a play. I'll have to give it another look once we get home. It would be great to have a memento of our travels.

Hope all is well in soggy Vic.

Thanks so much for the birthday wishes, it was a lovely day. :)

Lots of Love,
Sheryl & Mike