Two waters

Initially I didn’t think much of Shark Bay but after a couple of nights there, the place really grew on me. Shark Bay is called Gutharragudain in the local Aboriginal language, which means two waters, refering to the two bays that form Shark Bay. 

Aboriginal people have lived in this area for thousands of years. They believe that the most important things in life are Culture and Country. Learning to live in this world come from their philosophy of life Education, Understanding and finally Respect to the Culture and Country. By teaching the future generations on the harmonious way of living with nature (or Country), Aboriginal people have been able to survive harsh environments in Australia. Shark Bay has the best of two worlds, the red sands of the desert of the Outback and the sea. It also has what comes with that which is the constant need to find fresh water; especially as around the Shark Bay area the salt concentration in the water is 1.5 times that of which any other ocean. It is Kangaroos who find the source of water; they dig half a meter in where they smell the fresh water and let the hole they dug fill up with drinkable water that is filtered through the sand. Other animals then follow and drink from the waterholes these marsupials created. This is one of the many things Aboriginal people have learnt from living and respecting Country. 

Like this, there is much wisdom that our Aboriginal tour guide, Capes, shares with us as he tries to help us understand how to interact with country. The Aboriginal ingredients are now becoming a culinary delicacy in many fine dining restaurants. Chefs come to seek for plants and animals to cook for their clients. Our guide tells us how wrong that is. Each dish tells a story, has a song, a significance and obviously a season. The season for when the plant or animal is available – which are closely related. Not on demand. 

Our tour guide takes us to the big lagoon in the Francois Peron National Park which once upon a time used to be a station to farm goats and sheep. Since 1993 it has been a National Park, world heritage area. Conservation efforts have been put into place, including project Eden to reintroduce endemic species and the extermination of pest animals like feral cats, foxes and goats. To achieve these killings, throughout the park there are sausages put in with 1080 poison that is made from an endemic plant to which endemic animals have tolerance but invasive species will die from. Capes tells us about the program they are trying to put in place in which Aboriginal people can catch the goats and sell them for their meat and thus make a living, intead of killing and wasting the animal. 

The hard work of kayaking 5kms almost all day really was worth it. 

Just off the beach

There isn’t much around Cape Range National Park. It is the perfect location to enjoy walks, nature, sun and the lack of technology. Winter hitting Australia means shorter days and slightly cooler mornings on the West coast; and with the wind blowing, there is always hesitation about snorkelling. The love for spotting fish and marine life wins (almost) everytime in this corner of the world and the cold water is well rewarded with masses of coral, big bull rays, lots of schools of fish and turtles just 20mts off the beach. Worth the cold every dip in this part of the ocean. 

Where the range meets the reef

The only water available all year around in the Cape Range National Park is Yardie Creek. It is a layer of fresh water over salt water. 
The National Park is a world heritage place because of its diversity and it is where the Range meets the (Ningaloo) Reef. In this National Park the main attraction is the second biggest reef in Australia, Ningaloo. However, there are other things to do and enjoy like walks across gorges and creeks. In these walks, you can observe the rocks which are 11 million years old. 

You can also enjoy the wildlife, which include the endangered black-footed rock wallaby. This marsupial is on the brink of extinction due to introduced pests like the feral goats and foxes. But slowly scientists and the Aussie government are re-introducing these wallabies into the wild while eradicating the pests. 

There is hope for this little hopper.

A lifetime encounter

Swimming with the biggest fish in the ocean is really an experience of a lifetime. Whale sharks grow up to 12 meters, though we swam with an adolescense male of half that size. Whale sharks live up to 100 years.  

Its blue spots are truly amazing and the pattern of the spots below its fin are its fingerprint, unique to each shark. It is this spot that tour photographers have to capture to keep their license and to help with scientific research. It is incredible how the colours of these giants blend in the blue of the ocean so much you only really realise they are there a few meters from you. 

Whale sharks are only called whales because of their size and being filter feeders of plankton. They are still sharks with a tail that moves side to side as it swims. In theory slow movers but as you snorkel trying to keep up next to the whale sharks you realise how powerful their tails actually are. Scuba diving with the largest fish is actually not permitted as it disorientates them. 

Whale sharks visit Ningaloo reef around the same time every year as part of their yearly migration around the Pacific in search of food. A journey of around 12,000km, one of the greatest migrations on the planet.

A full on, exciting experience that makes you forget everything else as you swim with the whale sharks. Truly an experience worth having. 

Decadent diving

Even though there is great spots and masses of coral, diving is not the most popular activity in Exmouth. It is, however, a self-indulgent experience starting at a very civilised time of 8:00am. After a dive with many coral fish and many colours you climb back on the boat to feast on freshly barbecued sausages. On for a second dive with just as many fish and coral. The boat ride back is full of sightings of sea snakes, tuna chasing food, dolphins and humpback whales (humpies) breaching whilst enjoying fresh fruit. Plus random stories from the skipper about swimming with blue whales, how being a deckhand is better than being a skipper and his innability to leave Exmouth as a home. The obligated dive whilst on holiday in a luxurious manner.