Friday, May 22, 2009


Exmouth - 19th to 22nd May 2009

Carls 30th Birthday!!

Unfortunately that morning we had to leave Coral Bay for Exmouth. Exmouth isn’t far so we arrived pretty early and got ourselves sorted with a campsite and booked ourselves on to a Whale Shark tour for the next day as our Birthday pressie. We then treated ourselves to lunch at a café, which was very nice. We then relaxed by the pool on the campsite for the afternoon. Whilst Carl was in the shower, I decorated the tent with streamers, balloons, 30th birthday banners, a cake and candles as a surprise. I was running around like a mad thing, blowing up balloons whilst tying up streamers!! It was quite hard trying to do it as a surprise as we spend every minute together - It’s hard to keep anything from him!! It all went well and Carl was actually surprised. We then phoned Mariana to wish hew well on her trip to England and sang happy birthday before going out for a meal. We had a great time and the food was excellent.

Ningaloo Reef
Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

Whale Shark day! WOW, what a day!
We got up early for our pick up at 7.15am and then had a 30 min bus ride to the boat. After a quick dinghy ride we got on to the boat and were kitted out with snorkelling gear and stinger suits. It didn’t seem long before we were in the water for our morning snorkel. This was to make sure we were happy with our equipment and our ability in the water. We saw loads of marine life, a huge puffer fish, catfish, masses of tropical marine fish and a sting ray (but didn’t see Aquamarina (Carl’s pun…..????)). After about 40 mins we were called back to the boat, the crew very happy that the whole group were capable swimmers and snorkellers (little did we know the importance of being able to swim until later!!)
We had some morning tea and then had our Whale Shark briefing. We were told that the boat would position itself in front of the Whale Shark so the back of the boat was facing the on coming shark. We were to jump off of the back and look in the water for the shark and then get out of the way, turn around as it went past and swim, swim, swim with it. This all sounded a little scary as these are the biggest fish in the ocean and can grow up to 18m long. Everybody looked around with nervous smiles.
We were split into 2 groups (there can only be 10 people at any one time swimming with the shark) each with a crew member (a spotter) who would swim with the Whale Shark with their hand in the air at all times - our ‘spotter’ was Todd. The boat headed out into the deeper water ready for information from the spotter planes.

Tiger Shark
Tiger Shark Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

The inner reef is amazing, the water is so clear; you could see the coral and the fish from the boat. As we made our way out to deeper water we were lucky enough to see a Tiger Shark (approx 3m) in the shallows, the boat circled it a couple of times - what an amazing sight!!! We also got to see a ray and a couple of turtles.
It wasn’t long before they got the call from the plane that a Whale Shark had been spotted and off we went. Carl and I were in group one and so even more nervous that we had to go in first. We were told to get ready with our snorkel gear and sit at the back of the boat ready to jump in. Then the call came, “Go Go Go!” So we all jumped in the water all looking around for this shark, you couldn’t actually see that far in the deeper water - it was a bit nerve racking. I kept looking up for Todd who had his hand in the air, but when I looked under I couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden, this huge Whale Shark appeared from no where! I quickly moved to one side and just floated there in awe as it went passed, I then suddenly remembered I had to turn around and swim with it so off I went. What an amazing sight.

Swimming with Whale Sharks
Swimming with Whale Sharks Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

Meanwhile Carl, who had jumped in behind me was also desperately looking around for the giant fish amidst a sea of legs and flippers. All of a sudden looming from the depths it was swimming straight towards him. After a quick think of whether to go left or right he got out of the way. As he turned to see the shark go passed, he was in front of everybody else and started swimming with it. Unfortunately almost straight away the shark started to dive down into the depths and went out of sight, Todd followed it for a minute or so and then came back to say it had gone, we all waited for the boat to come and pick us up. We hauled ourselves back on to the boat desperately hoping we would get another go.
Then the call came almost immediately for group 2 to get ready, so we watched as they all jumped in the water frantically looking for the shark. This time it stayed on the surface and they got to spend much longer with it. It was great to see their faces when they came back in.
All of a sudden Todd shouts “right then lets go, get ready. We’re going with this one too. Go! Go! Go!” Again we all jumped in the water, and again this shark just appeared from nowhere. This time we got to spend much longer with it, about 10mins. It was such a fantastic sight, just watching it gliding through the water. It was surrounded by lots of smaller fish, which we later found out were little sharks and flute fish. Todd then passed the shark on to group 2 and we got back on the boat. It wasn’t long before we were getting ready again, as we had this Whale Shark all to ourselves. (sometimes boats will share, passing it between groups).

Ningaloo Reef, Great conditions for snorkelling
Snorkelling Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

It was just amazing and we didn’t seem to bother it at all. Obviously we had to keep our distance and couldn’t swim in front of its gills in case we spooked it. I guess to the Whale Shark, we were just smaller fish swimming along with it. We spent the next couple of hours hopping in and out of the water and must have had about 7 or 8 swims in total.
We did sit one out each just to catch our breath again as it was quite energetic all the swimming involved, but it was truly fantastic.
After each groups last swim, we headed back into the sheltered reef for lunch. Lunch was a good spread and we all sat around talking about how great the day had been. After lunch we got to have an afternoon snorkel, as we swam over the clearness and brightness of the coral and fish were amazing. It was like being dropped into an aquarium, the water was so clear, we saw so many fish, lots of clown fish in anemones, and so many schools of colourful fish. I was gutted we didn’t take our camera in with us. Never the less it truly topped off the day. Apparently that was one of the crews favourite snorkel spots and we can see why! The whole day was fantastic, we got to see some amazing sights, it was truly a memorable experience, made all the more perfect by great weather, great crew and everything going exactly to plan.

Turquoise Bay
Turquoiose Bay Ningaloo Reef Western Australia
From Exmouth

The next day we headed to Turquoise Bay, another recommended snorkel spot. There is a ‘drift’ snorkel on one side of the bay but you have to be careful to exit the water at the right time or you can get dragged out by the strong current towards the end. As we don’t have flippers we didn’t want to take our chances so settled for snorkelling in the bay. This was good but we were spoilt the day before!! We did find Nemo though!!! After days of searching, although he didn’t seem a friendly Nemo and wasn’t happy at 2 strangers gawking at him! It was with sadness that we were leaving the next day, but lots more to explore, and as ever not enough time, so we said good bye to Exmouth and Ningaloo Reef.

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