We finally reached our Road Trip goal of Ningaloo Reef. We chose the ‘People’s Caravan Park’ because it was cheapest spoke to my inner Socialist. The site was also right in front of Coral Bay which was stunning turquoise in colour with a sheltered area, perfect for children to swim in without fear of anything too spikey getting them, probably.
Our home for the next 3 days was a little slice of heaven- we pitched up and headed straight for the sea as we had been chomping at the bit to get in. Snorkelling, in the greatest site in the world! Finally, we get to see what everyone has been talking about.
Running into the water was … FREEZING!!??? It was 40 degrees here but the water was so cold. We threw ourselves in anyway, as huge Norwest snappers came up to us and all around our ankles- seemingly no fear of humans. This was confirmed when we went to ‘Fish Feeding’ at 3.30- we all threw a handful of pellets in… they were massive, Parrot Fish and Norwest Snappers- right up to us and swimming over our toes. One swam with force into my leg and I screamed! I clearly haven’t found my Zen in this sea yet..!
The smallest team member, on the other hand was right at home.
“Hello, friends!” he kept saying as he chased them around the bay to talk to them. His happy place was good enough for me.
We left the boys happily building sand castles and splashing in the shallows and Mike and I went out for a snorkel further out in the bay.
The visibility wasn’t great, I could only see about 2 metres in front of me... I saw my old friend the Picasso Trigger Fish which was a joy and plenty of our friends the Snappers. We swam right over a sea snake (deadly) who luckily swam away from us to hide under a rock. Fine by me. Then I almost swam into a huge piece of coral, nicknamed ‘Ayers Rock’ by friends we had met there.
It came out of nowhere, looming big and dark red nearly touching the surface - so I did the only sensible thing. I screamed into my snorkel and SWAM FOR MY LIFE further out to sea.
Just to clarify, I know that the sea snake would be more likely to do more harm than the coral- but this old fear that is rearing its ugly head is not logical.
I could have cried with disappointment at the fact that I thought I had overcome my fear of the sea in Indonesia.. but it was back to square one, admitting defeat. The Manta Ray trip would be off the cards now. It’s all we had talked about for weeks, months even- but at $500 I couldn’t risk going out there and not being able to get in the water.
That’s fine, I decided that I didn’t really want to see the best snorkelling in the world- from now on the pressure would be off and I would leave it to Mike to take the boys snorkelling- the last thing I wanted was to pass my fears on to them. I contented myself with Frisbee in the shallows and making friends with the beautiful blue spotty Stingrays that came to say hello. I bloody loved those Stingrays.
In an attempt to find things to do outside the water, we walked around the headland to find a shark nursery. Reef shark pups are left in a shallow lagoon not far from the beach and you can see them swimming around.
The sun was so bright and low, the reflection made it hard to see anything but as soon as we saw 1, we saw lots. A shadow came right up to the shore- you could easily make out the shape of the fins of the Reef Shark- about 2 metres long in the shallows. It was graceful and fleeting but was definitely there and we all saw it hunting a sea snake, which was exciting- or at least a welcome distraction from the youngest who was screaming about the sand blowing at his legs.
The boys made friends with some children who were camped nearby, rolling down the grassy slope and spotting kangaroos at dusk. We ended up spending time with the Murdoch family- and arranged to meet again on our way South, when our paths cross again.
We continued North to Exmouth where the WIND was as intense as the heat. It was like sitting in a red dusty hair dryer- but one with lots of emus walking around the town. Very surreal.
We pitched up for 1 night at the RAC campsite, content that the shops and pool were brief luxuries that would be gone when we do some proper Bush Camping tomorrow. Obviously, we'd love to do Bush camping, if you're going to camp you need to do the most extreme form of camping, right?
There were Cockatoos everywhere- 21 we counted just bathing in the shallows of the pool- making such a noise and so beautiful. They were a welcome splash of colour in the arid campsite, which consisted of solid red earth, parched trees and spectacular sunsets.
We set out to reach our most Northerly point of the trip: The Lighthouse campsite whose local beaches were perfectly situated for watching nesting turtles at night.
We turned up and checked in. Headed to our pitch, and were besieged by flies. Absolutely hundreds of flies- a plague- up our nostrils, in our ears, everywhere- Eldest Son was screaming as he kept swallowing them and the Youngest just stayed in the van. I wound the sarongs around their heads like Bedouin nomads, but in searing 40 degree heat they just ripped them off- too hot. What we needed were bush hats! But we didn’t have any of those- so we ran over and jumped in the pool! Hooray for the pool! Mike quickly found out it was half filled with salt water and dead flies… we retreated to the van.
Our tiny van gave us nowhere to hide or take sanctuary from wind or flies… So do we just drive 2 hours back to lovely Coral Bay? Back to the RAC campsite? Or on to Turquoise Bay and let’s check out the Cape Range National Park sites? We had paid site fees but we’ll let that $40 slide if it means we don’t inhale our body weight in flies.
We got to the National Park Ranger Station, the Ranger laughed at us- ‘I eat them all the time!’ she said. ‘You just get used to it! Get a head net’. We thanked her and moved on, getting the feeling we’re a little bit soft for these parts.
Turquoise Bay was idyllic- as I had heard so much about it and it really was perfectly stunning. Blue skies, pure turquoise water and beautiful, soft sand. We saw a dolphin breaching in the bay- just behind a couple who were snorkelling nearby and totally oblivious. We snorkelled a bit and a lobster in the shallows made me jump a mile. Yep, still looking for my happy place.
We hung out there for the day and then checked out the National Park campsites. A beautiful troop of Kangaroos were all resting under the picnic benches- it was right on the beach with not a soul around for miles. When we stepped out of the van though, the wind was too strong to be able to cook anything- so we drove back to the sanctuary of the RAC campsite with our tails between our legs.
I checked my phone when we returned to civilisation and connected Wifi and had a message from a friend in Bristol a friend about the Arcadia show in Perth. We had guest list tickets if we could make the 1250 km journey by Sunday.
What do we think boys, are we up for a few days of solid driving? We were on- heading back South with a renewed sense of purpose and excited about meeting our old friend the Spider.
Where we stayed:
The People's Park, Coral Bay. 25 GBP per night but just across the road from the most beautiful beach, at the base of Ningaloo reef.
Exmouth Cape Holiday Park, Exmouth, Western Australia. 25 GBP per night with pool.
Lighthouse Caravan Park, Exmouth. 25 GBP per night but we didn't stay as the flies were too intense, the pool was half filled with dead flies and salt water... Great if you had living space in your van. We didn't, so aborted.