Catching The Drift

Thur. 30th May 2019

Spotted at the info centreWe so enjoyed Coral Bay but will the northern part of Ningaloo reef be as good? There are many places to visit and so the plan is to go to the far end of the sealed road around the reef (western) side of the cape and work our way back to the Park entrance back towards Exmouth. We get as far as the information centre and Dave says we should stop and see whether there is any new info there. What he really meant was “they have a café and I can get my coffee fix”. It did helpfully provide times when the tide was high enough to snorkel at the Oyster Stacks, one of three recommended snorkelling locations on this stretch of coast. We were too late to do that today, but perhaps we could early tomorrow or Saturday morning is we get our act together.

_DSF0212The far end of the road is Yardie Creek Gorge. The sealed road ends but a tricky 4×4 track continues over the sand, across the mouth of the creek, and on to Coral Bay. Some years in wet season it can be impassable due to high water. There are two walks at the creek, the first is grade 1 which is the easiest and wheelchair accessible, this then turns into a grade 4 walk which is over rough terrain. The first walk is said to take 1 hour for the return journey. We had just warmed up and 10 minutes from the car park the walk was over! The second walk then began and did involve a bit of scrambling to follow the ridge above the gorge.

Canoers in the creekAs we walked along we could see that there were options to see the creek from the water as the tourist boat motored by. The canoes looked more our style and would have been fun as they could get further into the gorge than we could see from the top. The rock wallabies were nesting at the end of our walk stopping us from going any further. The rocks under foot do not make easy walking as they are full of holes from erosion of the softer rock, leaving just the harder, pitted boulders behind.

Entrance to the creekOver lunch in the picnic area we chatted to a Belgian chap travelling with his wife and three kids under ten in a similar Land Cruiser to ours. How they fitted along with their luggage I do not know and they were camping every night. We have spread camera bags, drone bag, picnic bag, fleeces, hats and other paraphernalia all over the back seat of ours and have no idea how we will get on camping!!

Looking out to the Oyster StacksNext stop Sandy Bay. Yep it is. We did call in at the Oyster Stacks to see whether we would come back early tomorrow when the tide was high. There is a clamber down over rocks to get into the water and then not far to the stacks for snorkelling. The jury is still out on whether we will come back or not. There are still two other snorkel sites on this coastline to investigate first, the next being Turquoise Bay. Yep it is turquoise. These Aussies know how to name places.

One of the "Oyster Stacks"There are two options for snorkelling at Turquoise Bay. Most famously you get in, let the current drift you over the coral but you must remember to get out before being carried out to sea. I am not a strong swimmer so I wanted to see it before committing. The last drift snorkel we did was in 2012 in Rangiroa and we all held hands with the guide to avoid being swept away with the current. The second option is to pootle around in the bay area which is quite sheltered but I was not sure where the coral was.

Turquoise Bay Drift BeachThere were a few others out on the drift snorkel and the wind was blowing against the current so we just had to catch that drift. Having left our shoes and bag by the white marker showing where to get out at the end of the snorkel, we walked along the beach armed with our masks and snorkels ready to give it a go. It was not that far from the shore that we reached the coral reef surrounded by fish of all shapes and sizes. Heads down and we were off, just the occasional kick of the feet to change direction and we slowly drifted around the coral formations. It was absolutely fantastic. As we reached the white marker we could feel the current getting a bit stronger so time to get out. We looked at each other and said can we do that again. So we did! We could have repeated a few more times but we had already been over an hour so felt we should move on. Sorry no photos of the fish as we did not have the camera with us. Where did the day go, as it was time for the 64km drive back to our apartment. Good job the Beast has plastic seats so can cope with wet swimmers!

_DSC5369Our apartment in Exmouth is a little way from the centre of town (and hence most restaurants) but only a ten minutes walk from our place was a craft brewery with a menu that consists of just pizzas. A good place for supper then! They had nine different beers on tap so we selected ginger beer and stout as the two we would not try in our paddle of seven. Amazingly the pizzas were the most tasty we have had in a long time. What a great venue with live music too. It was the same duo as we had seen/heard in Coral Bay but as they were good, that did not matter.

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