We left Cape Range National Park, where we were staying at the Mesa campground (number 9 to be exact to remind us for next time!), and headed off to snorkel at Turquoise Bay for one final look around at the coral and the marine wildlife as we drifted down the coast. I was bound and determined to see the large turtle that I had been so lucky to have seen on my first drift snorkel down the coast the day before.
Lulu was not having any part of snorkelling today as she was already cold and didn’t want to get in the water. That just left Wilson, Deb and I to snorkel. The cold doesn’t bother me as much as it does everyone else, so I jumped in to do an extra pass before Deb and Wil got into the water. I decided to go way out, hoping to see the turtle, but didn’t see anything that I hadn’t seen the day before.
I got out at the safe exit point and hooked up with Wilson and Deb, and we walked up the shoreline again to get in for another pass over the coral. While we were walking, we saw a big black shadow moving in the water that was round (not oblong like a shark would be!). That must have been the turtle! In shallow water! Fumbling around and stumbling around (it isn’t very easy to get into flippers quickly when you need to), I got ready, and was waiting for Wilson to get ready but Deb just told me to go, but I couldn’t catch up to it as it headed into deeper water. Damn. Oh well, the three of us swam around for a bit and enjoyed the fish.
I went in for my last pass over the coral and headed out a bit deeper before Deb and Wilson did, and it was on this final pass I found a smaller turtle floating along the bottom.
It was funny in that I was almost on top of it before I saw it. They don’t move fast, so they just look like big rocks on the bottom floating around. When there is so much to see underwater, it is easy to glance over something.
It was just the flick of the fin that caught my eye, and I was hooked onto it and determined to stay with it and not let this one swim away from me. I was super excited and wanted to make sure that Deb and Wilson saw the turtle as well before we left!
I came up to the surface and waved like mad, hoping to get Deb and Wilson’s attention, but I got no return response from them, or at least who I thought was them. Truth be told, I couldn’t make out anything other than some people in the distance, so wasn’t sure if they actually saw me. So, I went back down and watched it feeding on the bottom.
So, it was nice to have some one on one turtle time since no one was around, and no one seemed to be paying attention to my calls. Oh well. I got out and told Deb about it with an excited tone in my voice, and she was like “Ya, we saw it. And Wilson and Lulu have headed back to the campervan”. Ok. So, it wasn’t special I guess. Haha. Oh well…we washed off, packed up, and headed off to Coral Bay.
We stopped in Exmouth to grab a few groceries, and the kids played in the splashpad across the road from the “shopping centre”. We grabbed some stuff from the bakery as well and headed on out.
We got to Coral Bay in late afternoon, where we checked into the campground and to the kids delight there was a bouncy pillow (kind of like a trampoline thing that is like the top of a hot air balloon) AND a pool. Bonus. However, we pulled in and they told us we were at site 115, which was in the middle of “skid row”. We can qualify that by the fact that there were several very obese family groups sitting in their lawn chairs, drinking their beers while their kids ran amok, and one of the babies who was obviously covered in chocolate from a half-eaten Joe Louis chocolate sandwich was being attacked by a flock of seagulls. And nobody seemed to care. Other than the brother (who was three or so) who ran out to protect the baby, who was now standing as we drove by, from waddling onto the road in the way of our moving vehicle. Nothing other than a couple of glances from the family circle. Parenting at its absolute best.
So, we circled back to the reception area to see if there were other sites available due to the fact we were anticipating a drunkfest that night, plus a vehicle was parked half way across our reserved campsite. We found a new site which was right beside the playground and pool, which the kids were very happy about.
I walked around town, which is truly about a 1km stretch of road, and booked a diving trip the next day to see some manta rays. The rest of the Travelling Trenholms were happy to see me go swim with manta rays and sharks for the day.
Off to bed and the next day came quickly.
Everyone was just rousing by the time that I left in the morning, and I set off to get on the boat which was right across the road.
It was going to be a two tank dive, with a manta ray snorkel in between the two dives.
The first dive was not super plentiful with respect to wildlife, however, the coral structures were quite amazing. They towered up over the ocean floor and there were awesome narrow crevices to swim through.
We were down for 50min, and had the chance to test out the new GoPro for taking some pictures and video which was super awesome.
Up we went, had a quick snack and we were back in the water to snorkel around to look for manta rays.
Now, I thought we were going to be seeing manta rays on our dives, but I guess not. They were hanging out in a sandy spot, where boats normally go to see them. A plane flies over top and finds where the moving black blobs are, and then they radio down to the boats as to where they are so that we could just jump in and find them.
The manta rays are filter feeders which means they glide through the water with their mouths open, and try to filter the water going through their mouths catching plankton along the way. Kind of like if you stuck your head out of the car window with your mouth open hoping to catch flies. But I don’t know anyone who actually likes flies. It is just an analogy…
The first ray we saw was just cruising back and forth on the bottom, but then the second one that we saw started doing loop-d-loops which was pretty cool to see. They are so huge, like 4m wing span huge, and they are so graceful. But powerful when needed. Our guide was telling me that they can swim up to 60kph if need be, and that they are one of the more intelligent mammals in the ocean. I think that whales might have a leg up on them though. Maybe dolphins.
We came back on board after seeing this and had a cup to warm us up. The wind was blowing pretty good by this time in the afternoon, so having a wet body was not conducive to keeping warm, even with a wet suit on. A quick drive over to the next dive site and we were off.
We jumped in, found our diving buddies, and we set off through “The Maze”. This place was fantastic! It had lots of fish…not like big massive fish, but lots of small home fishbowl sized fish. But the amazing part was the coral and the coral formations. Sometimes that is just as beautiful and awesome to see as finding lots of fish.
We were going down a crevice and I was taking a video so that I could show the kids when I got back how beautiful it is under the water and that there is nothing to be afraid of down here.
It is hard to describe unless you dive the feeling of swim around big towering masses of coral, through crevices and caves and seeing what is hiding in there, and just taking in the diversity and grandiosity of these living rocky creatures that have evolved over time.
We came up to a spot on the reef that is called a “cleaning station”. Basically, it is like a car wash for big fish and sharks. They have a symbiotic (more about this later) relationship with little fish in that the little fish come up and eat all kinds of dead stuff off of them, go inside their mouth and clean their teeth, and generally give them a tune up. In return for doing this, they don’t get eaten. Pretty fair deal I think.
We saw about 8 reef sharks getting cleaned and swimming around us. They were easily 6 to 8 feet long, and are graceful, beautiful, and menacing all at the same time. All I had to do was to just keep my distance…that was it.
So, I pointed my GoPro up at them, and I couldn’t get the darn tootin record button to click! Aaarrrggg… So, I figured that I wouldn’t get too mad, but I would just stay calm, use my mindfulness tools, and adopted a “it is what it is, and just take photos with your mind” attitude. Then my camera decided to work again! Click and video was rolling. Yay! The feeding station was awesome. The sharks just lazily floated around while they were cleaned by the little fish. It was like watching a marine pit stop.
We circled through the rest of the maze of corals and then surfaced back up to the boat where the wind had really picked up. You can’t tell how bad the weather is on top when you are under water. Deb was telling me about the tsunami in Thailand way back and that people that were out diving didn’t even know what had happened and that there was a huge wave that rolled past them.
I got back to shore and headed back to the campground to meet up with Deb and the kids who were tidying up from a day hanging out in Coral Bay.
Lulu, being the amazing daughter and sister that she is, decided that today was going to be Wilson’s non-birthday birthday. She had cleaned the trailer from the usual explosion of four stuff whenever we land in a campground, set the table, and decorated with some left-over streamers from her birthday party in South Africa. It looked great. However, she took the mess and piled it behind a curtain on our bed in the back, including all of the nicely folded laundry…which then had to be refolded. Oh well…everything needed to be folded again anyways.
Off to bed after we had a curry dinner and we are ready to roll further south tomorrow.