Coral Bay - Work and Play

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Dec 31, 2020

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

We settled in as Managers in September 2006.
Being a totally new field for us it has been a steep learning curve, but we have pretty much now got a handle on how things should work.  Each day brings new challenges. Coral Bay is quite small but Bayview ( is substantial, we represent the Brogan family who are responsible for well over half the community, either directly in land mass or even in providing local accommodation, combined with having in excess of 40 staff.

So what can you do in Coral Bay, why has so much publicity been given to it? Well its the simplicity of the structure, it is still very much the little idyllic beach town, yet right on its beach lies the majestic Ningaloo Reef.

Ningaloo Reef is home to an amazing array of unique sea experiences from being able to swim with the enormous Manta Rays all year round to the elusive swim with the Whale Sharks in season (March to July). Other marine activities include a Hump Back whale watch adventure (again seasonal) to all year round activities of the turtle sanctuary and Reef Shark nursery.

Our first activity was a trip out on the Miss Coral Bay a glass bottom vessel which caters for 1 hour coral viewing or 2 hour viewing and snorkel trips. We took the 2 hour trip and had a fantastic time. The skipper explains the various types of coral as the boat glides over, and points out that the coral is the hard limestone type rather than the more colourful soft corals seen on the more tropical reefs. At the first snorkel spot, guests get to swim among the coral and if lucky spot a turtle or reef shark. Then its off to the second snorkel spot where you get to swim with spangled emperor (or northwest snapper) which are extremely placid and friendly.

On a later trip we took a whale watch tour on the MV Ningaloo. The whales were a little elusive, however once the spotter plane was put up we soon had success. We had the great pleasure to observe a female hump back and calf on the annual migration south. Quite an experience. We were also presented with a private moment between two turtles who were taking the opportunity to get to know each other a little more.

The wild life phenomenon does not just happen at sea, back on land (in fact right in our back yard) a very large bungarra (giant monitor lizard) comes and watches the clothes being hung out. A smaller version has made his home in our ceiling, gains access by climbing the bougainvillea in our patio and generally gives us a "look" half way up.

 As Managers of Bayview we are busy all the time and never quite sure what each day will bring.  We have survived "schoolies" week, had a restraining order issued, a booked out Christmas and New Year period and 3 cyclone alerts all while working around 80 hours a week. But we have also had the immense pleasure of swimming with huge manta rays, snorkeling on some amazing coral reef and among gorgeous colourful fish and meeting some wonderful travellers. The sunsets have been divine and sometimes we just grab a glass of wine and walk the few steps to the beach and enjoy the splendor.

Our swim with the Manta rays was unforgettable and exhilarating. We went on one of the boats under our management, the MV Ningaloo. A good level of swimming/ snorkeling ability is required. A spotter plane finds the rays and the boat heads to the spot. A staff swimmer leaves the boat and swims until a manta is located close enough and willing enough to stay around. Manta rays can be quite flighty and move off fast if the mood takes them. The skipper then moves the boat  closer and the deckhand gives the command to get quickly and quietly into the water and swim to the guide. The mantas are huge and so graceful and even seem a little bit interested in the snorkelers. Coral Bay is one of the few places in the world where the mantas can be constantly found close enough to shore all year round. On the way back the boat stopped at a beautiful snorkel spot full of colourful fish and wonderful shaped coral where we had a half hour or so enjoying the underwater beauty.

Christmas in Coral Bay
 And so to our Christmas in Coral Bay - the only day of the year our Bayview reception is not open. We still had to deal with guests locked out of rooms and air-cons not working but mostly had the day off. The day dawned extremely hot and windy. At 9.00 am we headed down to the beach for the Coral Bay tradition of Father Christmas arriving on the beach by motor boat. Children received lollies and hugs from Santa and his helpers then left the beach by way of the fire truck which travelled around the caravan park throwing lollies to children who weren't down on the beach.

We had some rather special company to share our Christmas lunch with. During the previous week we had got talking to Roberto from Italy and Jenny from Germany who were travelling around Australia together. We invited them around one evening to swap travel stories and have a meal. They left to go further up North but didn't enjoy the heat, flies and unhelpful visitor centres so they came back to Coral Bay again just before Christmas. They were thrilled to be invited to share Christmas day with us and to be experiencing a hot, outback style Christmas.

Swimming With the Whale Sharks

The tension among the wetsuit-clad tourists was palpable. The boat was quiet, with the engine cut and the chatter petered out as we waited, waited, waited...... Then suddenly a large dark shape appeared and someone shouted is THAT a whale shark? We were about to experience a once in a life time adventure - swimming with the whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef. 

The adventure started when we were at work and a call came over the UHF radio that is an integral part of communications in Bayview were we work. The call was from Coral Bay Adventures who said they had two places available on the boat if we could be ready in five minutes. Yes of course!

Being able to swim with the Whale Sharks, dubbed the gentle giants of the sea, is pretty much a unique experience to Coral Bay and Exmouth. While Whale Sharks can be found in other places of the world,occurrences are patchy and unpredictable and generally not in near shore waters, where they are easily accessible by observers. The Whale sharks come to Coral Bay each year between March and early June, and being able to swim with them is a carefully controlled privilege where rules of interaction are closely observed by the three tour operators in Coral Bay, who run whale shark tours.

We were quickly fitted out with wetsuits, which must be worn by all, and grabbed our own snorkels and fins and then we were on to the bus with the other tourists, for the short few kilometres to where we would be taken out to the tour boat.

The guests are first taken to a snorkel spot to judge their swimming ability and to also check that everyone is comfortable with their gear. While this is happening a spotter plane is up in the air looking for whale sharks and as the boat gets underway again, after the snorkel, the anticipation and tension builds. We are divided into two groups of ten and told to be ready at a moments notice.

Is that a Whale Shark? Yes! One of the crew slips into the water and quickly swims towards the whale shark and signals to another crew member to get the first group into the water. Sometimes, as soon as the Whale Shark is spotted, it dives deep but luckily for us this whale shark stayed around.  Whale sharks can grow as big as 18 metres long (they have never been seen less than four metres) which is a pretty daunting size to be in the water with!  It is deep water too and as you launch yourself off the back of the boat and swim as hard as you can to where the crew member is, you are acutely aware that it is VERY deep water.

We are all astounded and overwhelmed by the experience! On the boat we had been coached on how to form a group around the whale shark and not to get closer than 3 metres but the whale shark didn't know that and at times we found ourselves closer as he moved towards us! All too soon we were being signaled to group together ready to be picked up by the boat as the other group swam off after the moving whale shark. A alternating pattern then started so that we each had three chances to swim as did the two groups from the other boat that had arrived. The whale shark then decided he'd had enough interaction and dived down deep

We were utterly exhausted as the swimming was fast and furious, but also elated and euphoric. What an experience!!

Not everyone who goes out on a tour gets to swim with the Whale sharks. They can't be guaranteed. Some companies like the one we went with do offer a second trip to try again but many people coming to Coral Bay haven't allowed enough time. Coral Bay Adventures, who we went out with, offer a two year repeat time frame so you could comeback the following year and try again.

A fabulous lunch followed and then another snorkel topped off a very special day.
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