N is for Ningaloo Reef and bucket lists

a-to-z-letters-nToday we’re heading off to the coast of Western Australia, almost to the south-western boundaries of the map I posted here, and about 1500kms from Darwin (at a guess). We first visited the area over 10 years ago and were stunned by just how beautiful the coastline is, and believe me, coming from a Queenslander that’s a big compliment.

You get your first taste-tempter of the magnificence of red cliffs, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters when you visit Broome and it is just stunning visually. However it’s subject to the usual tropical stinger risks during the months ending in “r” just as Darwin is. How do they know stingers can read…that’s what I want to know. Okay, yes they’re the months when it’s hot, hot, hot! (Did you know that stingers can kill, and even if they don’t they really, really hurt? We’re not talking jelly fish here…so don’t be a “ning-nong” and take chances).

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

Further south from Broome at Ningaloo Reef, this ceases to be an issue. Sharks (of the man-eating variety) remain a consideration almost everywhere on the coast so there’s no point worrying about them too much.  I suspect Ningaloo Reef is one of those places which may be better known overseas than it used to be in Australia. When we visited in 2001, international tourists were much more in evidence than Aussies, except the ubiquitous grey nomads (retirees touring the country in vans/tents etc).

Ningaloo coast

The crystal waters and white sand of the Ningaloo coast.

Just imagine camping on the beachfront and looking out at this magnificent scene. A cold beer or wine, a book, your loved one, and “Bob’s your uncle”, you’ve got the perfect spot for a chill-out. The reef is relatively close to the beach so you can snorkel out to admire the coral and fish and generally have a wonderful time. At night the skies are smothered in stars, the Southern Cross, the Pointers and the broad dense sweep of the Milky Way, all glittering away from urban lights.

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night :-)

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night…

And that’s not all….there’s natural adventures in store as well, though this one does require you to splash the cash, and more importantly to be at Ningaloo in the critical migration months from April to July. Do you fancy swimming with the whale sharks? Huge creatures but not really dangerous because they’re plankton vacuum-ers not man-eaters, but boy are they big! Again we’d known nothing about them until we arrived and since it was the season it seemed important to “give it a go”.

I didn't get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale.

I didn’t get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale, and its beautiful patterning. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

As with the migration of the whales at Hervey Bay in Queensland, the boats work together to let each other know when a whale shark is spotted. There’s obviously a limit to how close the boat can go, so all fippered and masked up, off into the briny deep you leap swimming towards one of these creatures. Best to contain your imagination rather than think just how much ocean is under you, and what else might be swimming in it. Neither of those things bothered me personally but I rediscovered that snorkel masks make me claustrophobic so head down, boring through the water I very nearly ran into the whale shark! Did I mention how big his mouth is? They are amazing creatures, so huge, and they look like they’re barely moving, but try to swim to keep up and you soon find out differently. You can see a YouTube clip here to get a sense of scale (we also have our video of our swim).

Here comes lunch -fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

Here comes lunch: fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

This really is a great adventure for anyone who loves nature and I can highly recommend it. I’m unlikely to do it again unless I get past my mask-claustrophobia (I think due to chloroform when I was very young). But even if only one of you wants to do the swim, it’s still worth it. After the whale-shark-swim the team caught a large Spanish Mackeral which was on our plates within half an hour of being caught…the only time I’ve seen prawns ignored at a buffet.

Why visit: for the colourful magnificence of the scenery, for the perfect swimming and snorkelling and if you can, for the whale sharks. This is a bucket-list adventure, as is seeing the whales at Hervey Bay. Do it! You surely won’t regret it.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

No worries/no problems: the ubiquitous Aussie response to being asked to do something or being thanked for doing something. “Think nothing of it” on the other hand is invariably sarcastic ie it really was a lot of trouble.

Nick: steal (kind of appropriate since Australia was founded on convicts who were banished for seven years or life, often for nicking something, not infrequently quite small).

 Narky: cranky, aggravated and somewhat bad tempered.

 Nana: No, not your grandmother, but “doing your nana” means “doing your block”, having a “hissy fit” or losing your temper. It’s pronounced like na-na.

 Ning nong: an idiotic or stupid person.

 I wonder where O will take us tomorrow.

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9 thoughts on “N is for Ningaloo Reef and bucket lists

  1. Great shot of the beach. Love the colours on the sand and the water. No worries is a great Aussie’ism. One I’ve used many times. That’ll be years of watching Neighbours during for formative years. 🙂

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