On arrival in Exmouth after a day of driving, we saw sunset at the Lighthouse before moving on the next day to the Cape Range NP campgrounds on the beach at Ningaloo Reef. Caught up with Geoff again, met a couple with the same Explorer Motorhome as us (good to compare notes with) and that night managed to get 5 people around our table playing ‘Up and Down the River’ (card game). The campground does a 5 pm byo drinks session every night so that makes it a sociable place and a good source for travel tips.
The Ningaloo Coast was World Heritage listed in 2011 due to its land and sea contrast and diversity of habitats. Ningaloo Reef is the largest fringing coral reef in Australia, and one of the longest and most pristine in the world. It hosts more than 200 kinds of coral and more than 500 fish species, one of the world’s largest whale shark aggregations plus whales, dolphins, manta rays, dugongs, sharks, and turtles, as well as one of the most important turtle rookeries in the Indian Ocean.
We had 6 nights in Cape Range NP at two different camps. Dick had a 2 hour sail in a small trimaran one day and we had a couple of snorkelling sessions other days, as the snorkelling is supposed to be world class. Saw lots of coral and fish and some places we could walk in from the beach while others involved climbing over rocks. Often getting out was the hardest part and at one place Dick had to help me walk against the current for ages to find a place we could exit the water easily. I even broke down and bought my own noodle as I had borrowed a couple and found it made things easier and I could stay in the water longer. For our first three night camp we managed to be ‘card central’ and had people (up to 6 at a time) in to play cards each night. Even learned a couple of new card games! Speaking of being social, we made the 5 o’clock drinks six nights in a row.
Although there were a few walks in the park we only managed one, the Yardie Gorge walk which was about 1.5 hours in the hot sun. The park is really full of animals and during our drives around there we saw an echidna, a bustard family, emus, kangaroos and wallabies. Fortunately no snakes were sighted by us, but they were by others. In fact on one late afternoon drive we had to be really careful as kangaroos jumped out or almost jumped out in front of us every 50 meters along the road. Its not surprising that the road is littered with dead kangaroos.
We then moved on to Coral Bay (great snorkelling right off the beach) which is further down Ningaloo Reef and a noted spot for seeing manta rays as its a manta ray hot spot year round. Its also the time of year to see humpback whales so we booked a boat trip to swim with manta rays and see whales. We had a great day, good weather, only 10 on our boat and we saw dolphins and a tiger shark, had a snorkel session in the bay where we saw lots of fish and coral. Dick also swam with the manta rays and we saw lots of humpback whales quite close to the boat. Then we drove further down the coast, crossed the Tropic of Capricorn and ended up in a free camp at Quobba Point, where we finished off a busy day with a roast dinner.