NOW: EXMOUTH AND NINGALOO
Now that we we’re on the highway we expected to travel a long way quickly but the sign said 200, yes two hundred, kilometres of road works which we found fairly soon after the sign. More red dirt! But not 200 kilometres of it thank goodness. As we approached Exmouth the RAAF Roulettes gave us a flyover welcome. They had taken off from Learmonth Air Force Base.
We hadn’t realised there were gorges here too. From Exmouth we drove up to the top of Charles Knife Canyon and along the creek bed into Shothole Gorge on the eastern side of Cape Range National Park. WAPET, Western Australian Petroleum set shot holes in this gorge and found oil here which led to the establishment of Exmouth.
The turquoise water and Ningaloo Reef had attracted us to Exmouth so we had to try the local seafood. The prawns and gold band snapper were great on the barbeque.
We headed north to the top of North West Cape past very the tall Harold E Holt Communications towers and then across to the western side of the peninsula. Vlaming Head Lighthouse, built in 1912 after frequent ship wrecks, guards this part of the Ningaloo Reef while Cape Range National Park welcomes campers to the reef. We’d booked a site online at Neds Camp, one of many in Cape Range National Park and located just behind the frontal dune.
After a cooked breakfast we unearthed the wet suits and snorkel gear that had been buried in the car for about 20 000 kilometres. Ningaloo is fringing reef with lots of tropical fish and coral close to the shore. We drifted south to north in ‘The Drift’ at Turquoise Bay several times, walking back into the beach when we felt the current turning to go out to sea. David spied 2 big Emperor fish he wanted to catch but Turquoise Bay is a sanctuary zone – look but don’t touch or take.
We’d planned to snorkel at Oyster Stacks the next day when there was a big high tide. Oysters grow around the limestone pillars and attrack fish and coral. Depending on the moon the water can be too shallow for snorkelling here, but the wind came up and we had to give up and missed our chance.
The weather was fairly ordinary so we drove down to Yardie Creek. You can cross Yardie Creek by driving on the beach and down the coastal track. Definitely at low tide and only if you’re very brave – the creek was deep and the sand soft and changing with every tide. Whales were breaching just beyond the edge of the reef. We could see them from lookouts and from the beach.
The wind got the better of us and we headed south through Coral Bay and on to Dongara. It was school holidays and there was a constant parade of families heading north to the very popular caravan parks and camps of Ningaloo and Cape Range National Park! There was more traffic than we’d seen in ages.
NEXT: CARNARVON TO KALBARRI
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David