The JBK Paddling Crew hit the road again this past week flying to the magical Desert wonderland that is the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park and the Cape Range National Park located near Exmouth. An area of quintessential Australian beauty we scored absolutely brilliant conditions for paddling, snorkeling, walking and all things exploring.
Refreshed after a night at the Ningaloo Reef Novatel, we headed off into the Range with our swags packed and our trailers loaded with kayaks, gear and food goodies for the trip. Our private camp site near Yardie Creek would be our home base for the week as we managed a car shuttle to our start and finish locations each day. Everyone agreed it was a nice way to set up to allow us to have a few little extra luxuries during the trip and a nice protected location to come back to every night.
Day One saw us get a beautiful sunset paddle in and get to know our kayaks and equipment set ups. We paddled to an off shore snorkeling sight just near the waves breaking on the Fringing Reef and got our first taste of things to come spotting a myriad of sea life including turtles and a few friendly Reef Sharks.
That night while some chose to sleep in-doors (in a comfy two man tent), I chose the million star Hotel and slept out in my cosy swag. The brilliance of the stars and the still (almost) full moon was intoxicating. I read the night sky the same way I would read a book engrossed in its story as I slowly drifted off to sleep with the sound of the waves breaking on the reef.
On Day Two we took the morning to let the wind die down and headed up to Mandu Mandu Gorge for a 3klm loop walk through the high red cliffs home to Rock Wallabies and Osprey. Just recently open again after the flooding, this gave us a great perspective on the Range to Reef aspect of where we were with fantastic views through the gorge. Then it was back to the kayaks for another brilliant afternoons paddling and two separate off shore snorkels. This is done by anchoring (or using the Kayak moorings in place) to secure the kayaks whilst we drop in over the side and snorkel with the prevailing currents. There is a bit of a trick to getting back in with fins on, which the group mastered in a very graceful and dignified manner 😉
Day Three gave us some awesome tailwinds and with the current working with us we flew along the reef from Osprey Bay, past Sandy Bay and onto South Mandu getting another great snorkel in after lunch. Sandy Bay came alive as we hugged the shore line to see sleeping turtles and shovel nose rays relaxing in the sunlit waters. The Go Pro’s were firing and some of the team got some great close ups as we drifted over the top of the abundant marine life.
Day Four was another tailwind day with the winds still from the South East. We stopped at Oyster Stacks for a great drift snorkel before morning tea then paddled onto the magnificent Turquoise Bay. The water clarity was amazing here for this shore based snorkel but you had to be very careful of the currents. We used a buddy system at all times and had a very strict entry and exit point so being really aware of how fast you drifted was important and how close you got to the Fringe Reef. There had been several drowning’s in this area so we made sure to play it safe. After finishing the paddle at Tulki Beach it was time to stretch the legs with a sunset walk up Yardie Creek Gorge back near our base camp. We timed our trek perfectly to hit the top of the gorge just as the sun started to set. We caught a few Rock Wallabies having a forage before dark and listened to the Osprey parents chatting to their kids and each other as the light faded. The panoramic views from Yardie Creek were spectacular and it was such a relaxing and peaceful way to end another wonderful day living and breathing the Reef.
Our last day of the trip was the best of all. Without even a breath of wind, nor a cloud in the sky, we started the day with a snorkel from the anchored kayaks just inside the reef at a “secret” spot. We counted through the species; Reef Shark – Tick, Tawny Nurse Shark -Tick, Green Turtle -Tick, Clown Fish – Tick and the list went on and on. Again the clarity close the outer reef was amazing and as it was our last snorkel for the trip we were buzzing at what we had seen. We even got to see a few Dugongs in the Sea Grass as we paddled to our finish point at Mangrove Bay. With the waves breaking on the reef to the west and the sun highlighting the brilliant red colours of the range to the east, it was hard to take it all in and it was a good time to reflect on the week and remind yourself just how lucky we are to have this in our own backyard and the importance for it to be protected.
We kicked on that night with a celebratory dinner back in Exmouth but we were careful to get to bed early as we would be up again at dawn for a day out with the Whale Sharks. The forecast looked like we would be spoilt again with hot sunny weather and very calm seas, just a perfect Ninglaoo Day, and it was spot on. Snorkeling with these placid giants of the ocean is one of THE most amazing experiences you can have and something that should be on everyone’s “bucket list”. Not much is known about the Whale Shark by comparison to other ocean species. Where it breeds, where it travels to, how they give birth, and why they tend to love Ningaloo in particular is still all quite a big mystery. The operators at 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive are top class and run the experience in the most unobtrusive manner possible. So well organized and a really lovely crew these girls and guys get you in the right spot at the right time for the swim of a lifetime!
A huge thank you goes out to all the JBK Paddlers who joined us on this wonderful week. Thank you for the laughs and good times and we hope to see you all back again on another one of our exciting JBK Travel Adventures!!