We were still flying high, pardon the pun, from our great day at the space museum in Canarvon the day before. But we knew we had to push on as it was going to be a long drive up to Cape Range National Park which was our destination for that day.
As you probably can suspect we had a fairly flat drive with more roadkill along the way, but it gave us a really good chance to catch up on some homework along the way. Wilson is studying cell biology right now, which is a fun topic for both Deb and I as it is one of the central processes that keep us growing and alive.
Lulu is still reading her book called Hatchet and doing comprehension with Deb along the way. She has a couple of books behind her class but we will get her caught up. Math is math and is going as well as can be expected.
The roads here aren’t terribly smooth either so writing while you drive is rather challenging so we make the best of the homework time that we can.
We came to Exmouth and stopped in to pick up a few groceries as well as one of the local beers. Well, actually I picked up two. I think each beer had four beers in it it was such a big can, so it was going to last me the four days we were in Cape Range. They must be big drinkers up here in the northern part of Western Australia.
We also stopped at the Exmouth Adventure Company to pick up some flippers for the next couple of days. We had planned ahead for this part of the trip and we had already sent over our snorkels and masks for this particular part of the trip, but no flippers.
However the rental included the snorkel mask so we weren’t going to say no and we took all of the gear. We had bought some awesome full face mask snorkels for the kids which made it easy for them to see everything around them as well as easy to breathe as it had a valve at the top that wouldn’t let water in. We pulled in just as the store was closing and she was headed out on an excursion which was a stroke of luck! She was super nice and fitted us up, while the bus load of people waited for their pickup for their afternoon adventure at one of the local hotels. Super nice…
We grabbed a bite to eat at the local bakery and pushed on further up the peninsula towards the national park. HereWeGo said that it was going to be a 3 hour drive from Exmouth to our campsite, but in reality it was only going to be a 45 minute drive! Bonus!!
We were totally expecting crazy heat up here, like 45C heat. But it never materialized. The hottest that it got was about 37C…which is still hot, but not “I can’t move it is so hot” kind of hot
Similar to other locations in Western Australia, well, most if not all of Western Australia, the coast can be breezy and cool but warm up over the course of the day. However when you had in land it can get quite hot quite quickly as you don’t have the nice ocean breeze. The next morning we are planning on doing the Mandu Mandu Gorge Hike the next day.
There was still some time left in the day by the time we got to the park office and checked in, and got all of our stuff organized since the next three days that we were going to be camping out here were “off grid”. No power, so we had to make sure that we conserved our propane and batteries to last us that amount of time.
This area is well known for snorkelling, so we went out to the beach that was right behind the visitors centre called Lakeside (not sure why sine this was the Indian Ocean), grabbed our gear, and jumped in. Well, I jumped in. The kids were pretty timid and needed to get used to the water and looking down at wild creatures.
Understandably, they are afraid of sharks. Mainly great white sharks. And there are lots of them in WA, but most of them are down where the human buffet is greater….in the southwest corner of Australia. But, they share the same ocean that we are currently in, so I get it. But there are lots of “if you don’t touch me, I won’t touch you” sharks, like reef sharks, nurse sharks, and those kinds of sharks. But not where we are snorkelling.
I have seen lots of sharks when scuba diving, and they look mean and ugly, with teeth hanging out of their closed mouths, but they are also very graceful, peaceful, and powerful as they move through the water. It is neat being in the same environment as them, and you have to respect that you, as a diver or a snorkeler, are visiting their home.
We doodled around in the water for a while, and then headed back to the campground that we were allotted to stay at (Mesa Campground). The campground that we pulled into was nestled into some dunes, and the wind was still fairly brisk in the area. It wasn’t as hot in the evenings as we thought it would be, but I guess this is still spring time for them. But we couldn’t skip a day without a cool treat so we grabbed a snack of ice cream at the visitor centre and headed back to our campground to set up shop.
The next morning we headed off bright and early to Mandu Mandu Gorge before it got too hot, and we had to be at Oyster Stacks snorkelling area at 930am when the tide was at the right level to snorkel around the coral.
The gorge was a dry river bed hike that promised beautiful red vertical walls with white boulders along the base. Almost Christmas like as there were green trees that dotted the riverbed as well. There were supposedly black tipped wallabies that lived here, so we had to keep our eyes open. Oh ya, and snakes too. The deadly kind.
Interesting fact that we found out about venomous snakes was that younger snakes are more deadly than older snakes. The older snakes have the ability to control how much venom the release, whereas the young snakes follow an all or none principle. Nice to know that an older snake uses some judgement into their bite…”Do I want to just mame this dude, or kill him outright?” kind of mentality.
The hike was very nice, and there were lots and lots of heart shaped stones for us to collect. However, most of them were over 15kg, so Deb kiboshed the idea of me bringing any home.
The cliff walls gave the kids (and me) the chance to do a bit of free climbing along the wall which was a lot of fun.
On the return trip, we climbed up….like straight up…the cliff wall and then hiked back along the top of the gorge. It was equally beautiful, and way more challenging than the way out!
The bugs were out in full force, and bug jackets were put on despite the heat of the day beating down on us. I didn’t bother….I just found that the flies just stuck to the back of you, and they didn’t bite.
Occasionally one found its way to your face, and most of the time in your nostril or on your lip, which was annoying, but for the most part if you left them alone, they left you alone as they just wanted to tag along for the ride.
Don’t get me wrong, there are times that they drove me absolutely bonkers when they didn’t follow the symbiotic rules of engagement that we had, but for the most part I ignored them, or tried my best mindfulness tricks to keep them at bay.
We wanted to get out of the hike around 930 so that we could go and snorkel in the Oyster Stacks, which was a calm reef protected area of the beach where there was lots of coral to explore while snorkelling.
The kids were a bit timid to get in, and in fact Lulu just stayed out. The wind had picked up and it was, despite being protected, still pretty choppy.
There were lots of little fish mingling about the coral, which was pretty beautiful to see, and I got to try my new GoPro out in full force while snorkelling.
After lunch, we headed over to another beach that is famous for drift snorkell
After lunch, we headed over to another beach that is famous for drift snorkelling.
Turquoise beach is, as the name would imply, a sheltered beach with stunning turquoise water. Here, you drift snorkel which basically means that you walk up the beach, jump in and then let the current take you down over the coral. If you want to stop and look anywhere, you have to swim upstream. Thank goodness for flippers!
When we arrived for our first visit here (we came a second time the next day), we were the only people on the beach. I walked up the beach about 200m as Deb told me to go ahead since I probably would stay in longer than the kids and her, and jumped in.
First thing I saw was an adult turtle floating lazily around some pillars of coral! Amazing!!
I was able to keep up to it for a while, but then it realized that I was following it, and I wasn’t there to mate with it, so it turned the jets on and swam away faster than I could. I didn’t think that they could move so fast while looking so slow!
On my second time in, I saw a flurry of fish activity over by a mound of coral, and there was an octopus hiding in a small cave and it was being attacked by the fish. Cool! Never saw an octopus before in the wild!
We cleaned up and headed north to see the turtle reserve, where the turtles would be soon arriving to lay their eggs. Like the week after we were there kind of timing. Jeepers. Oh well, just means we will have to come back! There were lots of other fish to be seen along the way, and of course more photos to be had. So, I will put more photos at the end of this post.
We got home just around the time that the sun was setting over the western horizon, and so Wilson, Deb, and I scrambled up and over the dune that was behind our camper and onto the beach behind our campsite.
Again, we had the place to ourselves, and the place was beautiful.
Western Australia is very big, but very beautiful. Yes, there are long stretches of road where there isn’t much of a change in scenery with the scrub bushes and red dirt, but then you hit these pockets of incredible geological formations, white sandy beaches, and crystal clear water that stretched all the way from the top to the bottom of where we visited in WA.
The sun dropped below the horizon, and we went back to camp for dinner. Each night there was a full moon blocking the stars out, so we didn’t get a good look at the stars. Natural light pollution…haha. Can’t complain as the moonrise on the second night was spectacular.
We headed off the next day to begin our trip south towards Denmark (Australia) and Margaret River.