REMOTE, WILD NINGALOO MARINE PARK
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: Coral Bay, Exmouth, Cape Range National Park- 230 kms
MILEAGE: 26674 kms
WEATHER: Sunny, 27 degrees at 8am.
ACCOMMODATION: Cape Range NP- Kurrajong campground.
It was 155kms to Exmouth and it was hot and dry when we arrived. First stop was the Visitors Centre for some local information and then the supermarket; there are 2 IGA supermarkets close to each other, which one to chose? Same owner apparently so we stepped in to one and did the shopping, stocking up for a week, not yet sure what the situation at our campground would be.
Exmouth is 1270 kms from Perth; population 2,400 is situated high on the North West Cape and houses the Australian Naval Communications Station.
We noticed some recently built holiday houses and some pretty high real estate prices in town; they even have an upmarket Novotel resort at the new marina. Apparently the area is dry and warm year long with no wet season but temperatures in the summer reach mid 40's so it is a winter holiday destination, we imagine!
Now to the purpose of our presence here: to host the camp ground at Kurrajong in the Cape Range National Park for the school holidays. We are taking over from Marie and Tony who have been hosting the site since July 1 and we are keen to check out our temporary home.
It is another 70+ kms to the camp ground and we arrive mid afternoon, listening to the AFL grand final scores on the radio as we travel. Tony and Marie are watching the match on their satellite TV and we are all amazed when we learn it is a draw and another match will be scheduled next week!
The camp ground has 10 sites, a lot less than the 140 at Karijini and is situated on the gorgeous Ningaloo Reef, just behind some sand dunes.
Our job is to allocate sites to lucky campers who manage to get in to the NP after queuing since early morning at the park gate; the officer at the gate checks in by radio daily at 8am with all the camp hosts at each of the 8 camp grounds to get the vacancies and then sends the successful campers to the camp grounds. Some days there are only 10 vacancies and 20 cars in the queue so disappointment is frequent; a lot of campers stay at the nearby caravan park and join the queue as early as 4am. Once the campers arrive at our camp, fees are paid and sites allocated and by 10am the days work is over, apart from a quick clean of the bush toilets.
Marie and Tony left on Monday morning and we settled into the new routine; the head ranger held a bbq at his house to welcome all the October hosts and it was interesting to catch up with everyone and Steve told us that this national park, spread over such a large area, could not operate without the assistance of the hosts.
There are around 80 sites in the park, stretched over 40 kms of arid rugged plains and ranges, drifting sand dunes and of course the beautiful shallow waters of the Ningaloo Marine Park. The low rainfall, less than 250mm per year supports very few trees and there is almost no shade for campers, but kangaroos, lizards, rock wallabies, emus and other wildlife have adapted to the harsh conditions and seem to flourish here. We have seen the Australian bustard for the first time and admire the tiny white wing wren with its stunning royal blue body.
Ningaloo is an aboriginal word meaning promontory and the marine environment is a mix of temperate and tropical conditions and supports a huge variety of fish which you see when snorkelling and swimming. Just gorgeous!!
There is no water in the national park and campers must provide for themselves; fires are not allowed and the only facilities are the deep drop toilets in each camp ground. Despite this, the park is incredibly popular with Aussies and overseas visitors and water activities such as beach fishing, boating, snorkelling, ski surfing, canoeing rate as favourites with walking the gorges and car touring a pretty close second.
The temperatures are reaching the high 30’s during the day and the relentless southerly winds rip through the camps, bringing coolness with their destructive force; we are reluctant to put up the awning in case it gets ripped off by the huge gusts but happy to enjoy their cool temperature. So we follow the shade around the van and sit under the shade cloth protecting the other side of the van.
Our friends Trevor and Pauline pay us a visit on Thursday and we have a lovely day together; Trevor demonstrates a safer way of holding the awning in place and we set it up and enjoy the resulting shade for the morning. Later in the day the winds become gusty and with a lot of manipulating Trevor's car and setting up wind breaks we manage to barbeque a great dinner. We waved goodbye to our visitors around 8pm and they headed back to their Lighthouse CP with an early morning start back to Perth the following day. We just love these two people and have so much fun with them.
Swimming and snorkelling in the calm and beautiful sea and walks along the beach in the cool of the morning are our daily pleasures. At sunset our campers to join us on the dunes for "sundowners" and everyone enjoys the personal histories and accounts of the day’s activities! The mix of nationalities, ages and situation means there is always animated conversations amongst the group with a few fishy stories of the one that got away.
The night skies were spectacular just like a big black velvet dome pierced with thousands of tiny sparkling holes. It was a treat to sit and stare with a glass of fine red wine and contemplate that life is great!! Sometimes the sound of the ocean reached us - other times the gusty southerly winds whistled so loudly you could not hear the waves. Nights were cool and great for sleeping and early mornings cool enough to walk briskly with long sleeves but by 9am the days were sunny and hot! We have intense suntans despite taking care in the sun!
As camp hosts we have free camping, water supplied as well as a radio for park communication. We also receive a fuel allowance that covers trips to Exmouth.
We have met another lot of people here and made new friends to catch up with later. Sometimes the wind has made camping tough but generally this is a great spot and perfect conditions create calm turquoise blue lagoons to snorkel and marvel at the colours and the marine life; the different tides change the coast and beach and nothing stays the same. Sheila got to swim with a turle, a long term wish accomplished.
One morning we walked alongside a reef shark 2 metres from shore, scavenging for food, another time we followed a dolphin skimming through the clear water and often we watched whales doing their thing out past the breakers. Kangaroos on the beach early morning and an osprey holding down his fresh fish with his claw as he enjoyed his catch were special occurrences; we loved watching the kangaroos scratching far down into the sand by Bloodwood Creek to reach fresh water but made efforts to keep them away from campers’ water because the ranger told us that a group of them died last year hanging around camp mid summer when all the campers had left. They hop through our site at night knocking over empty buckets in their search for water.
A walk to the nearby gorge revealed a big family of rock wallabies scrambling over the high rocky walls.
And of course the sunsets are pretty spectacular as the sun drops down behind the ocean.
We handed over to the ranger on Sunday, and started packing up the van but early afternoon we joined the Thompson family for a hilarious game of Monopoly, made more amusing when Sheila discovered that John had been breaking the rules and had to be disqualified and Sarah who "always" won was the first one out, and just reckless Kath and young Joe were left in the game- disbanded when it was time for our last sunset party on the dunes. We had a great crowd in camp at the time so it was fun!
John and Sarah prepared a delicious farewell dinner for us in their big 5th wheeler and it was a late night under the stars.
We leave with wonderful memories of a remote and gorgeous place and some really lovely new friends.
We were on the road again early morning, stopped at Exmouth to hand over camping fees etc to DEC and did grocery shopping and then an early lunch of fresh prawns- so delicious and onto the long straight road south!!