22nd June to 26th June 2011
MANTA RAY, WHALES, SHARKS and DUGONGS! OH MY!
Today there was a chance I might be able to get out on a full day Nature Tour which included manta snorkeling. Dragging myself out of bed at 8am I checked in at reception and found out that yes the tour was going and yes they could squeeze me on free of charge. Absolutely brilliant! If I got to see a manta ray, besides being downright cool, it also meant I could rationalize spending $18 on a pair of silver earrings shaped like mantas. Woohoo
The timing was also perfect, allowing me to return just in time to do my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom clean and 4pm vacuum. the boat I was going on was called the “Ningaloo”, very appropriate as Coral Bay is surrounded by the Ningaloo Coral Reef. The Bayview caravan park (who also own the hostel) run it and it usually costs around $150 and includes some snacks. At the front desk I discovered a fairly hungover Sandra, French girl from the bakery, was also hoping to get on the tour.
At the dock as we loaded the boat someone yelled out that they could see “Merv”. Merv is a 400kg grouper that lives under the jetty. In truth he is now a she and is called Mervette (groupers are prone to hermaphrodism). When I first looked over the jetty I saw a huge fish, then I realised that was just her fin, she is bloody blooming massive. I am sure if whale shark groups don’t see any she could quite easily double as one. She must have been over 2m long.
Heading out into the bay we turned left and went quite close to the outer reef. Here we had our first of three snorkel spots. The coral and fish were incredible, truly spectacular. We were warned not to swim towards the white wall that were the waves crashing on the outer reef, as, if we made it through, it was a one way ticket to the African coast.
To ensure that we don’t spend hours boating around the area looking for the manta rays that live there year round, the company sends up a spotter plane. They tell the tourists it is strictly to find the mantas and save time, what they fail to mention is that they also spot tiger sharks and ensure that none come closer than 200m to us snorkeling.
Separating us into 2 groups we prepared to enter the water as soon as we found the manta. Since I was in group 2 I went to the front of the boat to help spot. Suddenly I say this dark shape turn white and knew I had seen the manta doing a feeding roll. It was enormous! Group 1 jumped in and my group prepared. When it was our turn we quickly slipped into the water and swam towards the deck hand who was following the manta while the others were picked up by the boat. Swimming over we realised the manta was almost 3m long from wing tip to wing tip and was right below us. It was so majestic as it literally “flew” through the water. Without warning it suddenly flipped over backwards and appeared to be coming straight at me. But was simply starting a feeding roll. Truly spectacular!
Once I got back on the boat I just sat and thought about the magnificent creature I had the honor of swimming with.
Then it was off to do look for whales. We were lucky enough to come across a humpback with a newborn. They were beautiful. We followed them for about half an hour and then headed off for our 3rd and last snorkel spot, the shark cleaning station. Due to the location of the station the boat had to anchor a bit of a swim away, guess that just made us easier to catch if we came across a hungry shark.
At the cleaning station we saw a number of grey reef sharks and apparently a bronze whaler (bronzy). Bronzies are also known to be a little on the meaner side and that might have been why we suddenly turned around and headed back, but not before we saw “Tripod”. A turtle with only three flippers who likes to hang out at the feeding station – possible explanation to the missing flipper.
After a truly spectacular day with yummy snacks and great company we headed back to shore just in time for me to start my chores of 3pm kitchen and bathroom cleaning. That evening was burger night and I excitedly got my burger, with an egg, and settled down to enjoy. Unfortunately, due to the long day in the sun and forgetting to drink water, I was completely exhausted and headed to bed at 8pm.
Didn’t do much today, just relaxed, still felt a bit rough from the full on day before. JP and Carole, my fellow Oompah Loompahs, were leaving today but had commissioned a total of 10 bracelets from me, so I spent most of the morning doing those. Then did my chores and read my book.
Today is the day! Everyone keeps asking me if I am nervous, or if I want to back out or if I am going to run off to Denham with the money… I wasn’t feeling nervous, till people asked me. I had no choice now after over $1000 raised so no backing out. And running off with the money…I wouldn’t be allowed home if I did that.
A photo blog will be up next so stay tuned to this page.
Waking up with a lot less hair than I started with is an interesting experience. It also turned out to be the crappiest day since I had arrived, grey and rainy. In fact it was more like rain with the occasional downpour. This meant bed sounded good and I didn’t move until later in the morning. Did my chores, had my hair trimmed up and so it looks more like a number 2 and then hung out with Carolin. We had a bingo night at the hostel and I won a free bag of chips, just what I wanted for the bus trip tomorrow. So much for taking photos and doing a final lap of Coral Bay.
Red Earth Tours
Got up at 8am to a beautiful clear day with not a cloud in the sky. Go figure. Went over to say goodbye to Carolin and Sandra at the bakery and pick up a pastry and cup of coffee for breakfast. After many farewells and hugs I boarded the bus to Perth with Red Earth Tours. Today would be 7hrs of driving but first we stopped at the sign announcing you have crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn.
On to the city of Northhampton where we stayed at the Old Convent (a 100yr old convent now turned hostel). As a beautiful sunset started there were tons of birds heading into the trees to roost.
Dinner was fish and chips, after which we all sat and watched Master Chef Australia and the Mentalist. Then time for bed as there was a 6am start the next day.
I shall miss Coral Bay, it is definately a place where time seems to stop and life involves beach and beer, or cider in my case. It is filled with great people and stunning scenery. But, as much as I hate to admit it, it is time to move on and discover more adventures.