Spectacular Western Australian Outback – Kennedy Ranges

Whilst working on Dakar-style mototsport event, the Australasian Safari, I had the opportunity to squeeze in a couple of hours sightseeing around Gascoyne Junction.

About 90km from Gascoyne Junction, population 100, is the spectacular Kennedy Ranges.  These colour-filled rock formations are over 450million years old and there is clearly evidence everywhere with fossils every few steps that show that the ocean was once here.  Mind you, Gascoyne Junction is about 170km inland from the coastal town of Carnarvon. Mind boggling.

The Kennedy Range itself is a huge mesa 75 km long and up to 25 km wide, running North to South. The Southern and eastern sides of the range have eroded to form spectacular cliffs that rise up to 100metres above the Lyons River Valley plain. The eastern to the Kennedys is approximate 50 kms from Gascoyne Junction along the Ullawarra Road.

The Kennedy Ranges are situated within the boundaries of the Kennedy Range National Park which is managed by the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The feeling of the place was nothing short of spiritual. It was certainly magical and we found it unbelievable that we could be the only people on the planet at that spectacular spot.  If this place was in America, it would have tour bus after tour bus of tourists coming in to appreciate the natural beauty.

Enjoy the slide show – and be sure to put this place on your road-trip plan when visiting Western Australia. Truly, it’s wonderful.

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Kalbarri

We were very sad to be leaving the super comfortable Novotel in Exmouth.  Alas, it was time to start the journey south, homeward bound, with a two-night stop over at Kalbarri.

I was excited to be heading to Kalbarri as I’ve heard so much about it.  The drive there was long.  Really long. From Exmouth it was over eight hours in the car.   The weather was glorious and the outback Australian scenery was beautiful. I was just wishing we didn’t have to look at for that long!

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On the road to Kalbarri from Exmouth

We stopped several times to stretch the legs, take a break, and eat our sandwiches.

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Stretching the legs

There was no music because cigarette lighter used to plug in the iTrip that connects to our iPhones was being occupied by the TomTom GPS.  Once we were satisfied with our trip stats – how much further to go, estimated time of arrival – which by the way was being brought forward in leaps and bounds thanks to super Autostrada speed Zorba found the car doing – we decided to get some tunes cranking. Only to find that the cigarette lighter plug had no power.  Bugger.  Listening to music through the phone didn’t work because we couldn’t get the volume loud enough to hear it.  And the last solution of listening to music through our portable Bose speaker didn’t work either because the iPhone kept bouncing out of the console due to the bumpy roads. No radio stations in range either.  No music for 8+ hours. Sigh.

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One of the few wildflowers out this time of year

My tolerance for being cooped up in a car is not very high.  I was so bored at one point that I started reading the only book within my reach, my Canon 600D SLR manual.  It was kind of fortunate as I learned how to do a few new things with my fancy camera and practiced them from with in the car.

Turning off the Brand Highway towards Kalbarri was so exciting.  FINALLY we felt like we were getting somewhere! It was very picturesque for the first few minutes. Then the road turned and we were driving straight into the setting sun.  It was bug city too with the windscreen splattered at a rate of 16 bugs per second. As you can imagine, visibility was a problem, so we had to stop a couple of times and attempt to clean the windscreen, a futile mission. It was like driving head on into an attack of miniature missiles that lasted more than 30 kilometres.  Not only did bug guts hinder our vision through the windscreen, we also had the bright setting sun straight in front of us.

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Kalbarri sunset

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Different setting on my camera of the Kalbarri sunset

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Another photo of the sensational Kalbarri sunset

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We drove into Kalbarri just as the red sun was setting behind the river mouth – we stopped and watched the most beautiful sunset in awe.  It was spectacular.  Really beautiful.  My new found Canon 600D SLR camera skills came into play and I took some stunning photos, *clearing throat*, if I don’t say so myself.

The Kalbarri Edge Resort, the swankiest place in town, was adequate albeit a little dated. It would be hard for any hotel after the Novotel in Exmouth to live up to our expectations.  Still, we had a lounge room, a balcony with a full size BBQ that overlooked the shade sails that covered the pool area, a king size bed and a corner spa.

We had a really delicious dinner the Grass Tree Café in town – Zorba said it was his meal of the trip.  Garlic bread ($7), bottle of Barossa Valley Shiraz ($28), pork belly with scallops, garlic mash and red wine jus and creamy garlic prawns with rice and bread came to $92.  Good value, good service, and delicious food.  A winner.

Our exploration of the Kalbarri National Park didn’t even get off the ground.  The weather turned during the night, bucketing with rain.  As a result, the roads to The Loop and the Z Bend was closed.  We rang the Tourist Information Centre and they told us that the roads would not be opening today and they would have to wait and see what the conditions of them were like tomorrow before making a decision to open them.  With a forecast of 60% chance of rain, a front moving in, and 65km winds, we decided to cut our losses.

Sadly, we couldn’t visit the stunning gorges of the Kalbarri National Park due to the roads being closed due to bad weather

Disappointingly, we went back to the hotel, promptly checked out, packed up the car and started the long journey back home to Perth.  With six hours of driving ahead, all we wanted to do was get home.  Thankfully, two hours out of Perth the radio came into range and we were able to have some music!

We plan to return to Kalbarri one day soon and spend a few days exploring the area.

Di and Zorba signing off. Over and out!

The long road home!

Next trip:  Italia, Barcelona, London departing 30 June.

A happy Zorba!

Swimming with the world’s biggest fish

Very excited to be swimming with the whale sharks today!  Ocean Eco Adventures collected us from the Novotel and drove us to the boat ramp.  Along with about 14 other passengers and four Japanese film crew, we boarded the boat and headed out to the reef. 

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Donning full length 2/3mm wet suits, we all had a snorkel to ensure that everyone was capable of snorkelling and that everyone’s equipment worked well for them. 

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Zorba (husband Andrew) and I excited before our swim with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth, Western Australia

Once again, snorkelling on the Ningaloo Reef didn’t disappoint.  We saw loads of different coloured little fish, coral, and a couple of huge angel fish.

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Yellow tails, Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

The boat, an ex-cray fishing boat with a nice wide wet deck, cruised outside the reef to begin our search for the world’s largest fish, the whale shark.  Ocean Eco’s spotter plane saw a whale shark and radioed the boat. Those in group one quickly got ready and lined up along the marlin board at the back of the boat, ready to slide into the ocean and swim alongside the gentle giant.  Due to the overcast weather, it was difficult for the boat crew to spot the whale shark, and we lost him. Everyone back on board.  This happened again, 10 minutes later.   Third time lucky and we had found a 4 metre whale shark. 

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What an incredible experience to swim along the most placid shark.  This whale shark, being fairly young at just 4 metres in length (still HUGE!), was very inquisitive.  He was quite close to the surface, swimming in one direction, before turning around to come back to check us out, or the boat.  We were told to stay 3 metres away from the shark at all times.  It was a little hard to do with the beast was swimming straight for you!! What a sight and what an amazing experience.

There were about four or five little feeder fish hitching a ride underneath the whale shark, darting in and out eating the poo of the whale shark.  Thankfully, I didn’t notice that the whale shark had pooed – pretty gross!  At least the feeder fish ate his poo rather than let us swim in it!

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Whale shark

We were so fortunate, the sun came out and the dark clouds disappeared and we had four incredible swims with the whale shark.  It was a lot of fun.  The shark would dive down and we would lose sight of him in the depths of the ocean, then he would ascend from the loom and come into view.  The whale shark’s massive back getting bigger and bigger. 

Along side the hugest of fish, never once did I feel threatened or frightened.  It was a serene and almost spiritual experience – and definitely one I could recommend to everyone.

Ocean Eco put on a spectacular lunch for us – Exmouth prawns, ham, salami, proscuito and melon, frittata, salad, fresh bread, and smoked salmon.  A seriously good feast! 

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Delicious lunch on board Ocean Eco Adventures boat – living it up

After lunch we went for another snorkel at Ningaloo Reef, seeing so many fish, a massive sting ray half buried in the sand, another smaller reef ray, angel fish, parrot fish, clown fish, wrasse – the list of fish we saw was huge.  Zorba and both had a magical day.

Big shout out to Marnie at Ocean Eco Adventures and the friendly crew – Marcus, Ant, Dave, Rachel and skipper Andy for and incredible day. 

We had a quick but beautiful dinner at Manta Rays restaurant at the Novotel. Exhausted from a big day, we fell into bed at 9.15pm and had a big sleep in anticipation of a huge day driving to Kalbarri. 

Exmouth, unlucky with weather

Exmouth is a lovely surprise. The loveliest surprise of all is the Novotel Ningaloo in Exmouth. An absolute delight of a hotel – I am in heaven. Beautifully appointed, gorgeous view and location just outside of town. After the basic but adequate accommodation in Coral Bay, it feels wonderful to be in luxury digs.

Day 2 in Exmouth didn’t start so well. Firstly, our swim with whale sharks was cancelled due to bad weather.  For about an hour we weren’t sure if we could get onto a whale shark tour before we have to leave. Thankfully someone cancelled on the Ocean Eco tour for tomorrow and we got a spot. Hurrah!  We were up early to prepare for the whale shark tour that didn’t eventuate, and decided to use this day instead to sight see and take a drive through the Cape Range National Park.  Sadly, the Subaru suffered a flat tyre – correction, a wrecked stuffed tyre, so we weren’t going anywhere.  The handy Greek put the spare tyre on and we went to Exmouth’s two tyre shops to get a new tyre.  Sadly, we have to pay an extra $130 to get a tyre couriered overnight from Perth.  Thankfully though, the tyre didn’t explode when Zorba was gunning it on the highway.  That could have been really dangerous and ended up with a different set of problems altogether.  So really, we were very lucky.

The drive we took today whilst the weather was moody and not WA picture perfect was lovely. Cape Range National Park is simply stunningly gorgeous. The coast line with the aqua crystal clear water lapped by white sand and fringed with yellow and green shrubs was beautiful. Even with a moody grey sky as a backdrop. And we saw a cute little echidna on our way back.

Cute little echidna

Turquoise Bay was a real highlight – just gorgeous.  The light house was also a lovely drive that offered stunning views. The rest of our afternoon was spent lapping up the luxury in our wonderful apartment at the Novotel Ningaloo, drinking cocktails at the bar, and eating freshly caught Kailis prawns in our room for dinner.

Turquoise Bay Exmouth

Big shout out to the Tyre Wizard for sorting out our tyre problem and also to Steve Riley at the Exmouth Game Fishing Club for shouting us a beer!

Coral Bay – Ningaloo Reef snorkelling

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Hello!

Here we are, Zorba and I, on the beautiful Coral Coast in Western Australia. It was a big effort to get here. We left Perth on Friday at 4pm, drove to Geraldton in good time, arriving just after 8pm. We checked into the All Seasons hotel and pretty much ate and crashed out.  Up early on Saturday to make the most of the day and our long trip ahead, driving to Coral Bay.  It took us about 7.5 hours, which included a 40min detour to Carnarvon – a non descript town really.

At the Coral Bay turn off – it’s a looong drive from Perth

Coral Bay has not disappointed. We chose the best accommodation in this little town, the Ningaloo Reef Resort. Bad news for us is that targeted to families.  Our one bedroom apartment includes a double bed in the master bedroom, as well as a double bed in the “lounge” with a single bunk above, and an additional single bed. No sofa or couch, but more beds than bodies to sleep in them.  At $300 per night, it was fairly basic accommodation.  Two electric burners in the kitchenette, average bathroom, and a full size fridge.  Although, if you split the cost between 6 people, $50 per person is pretty reasonable.  The views from our balcony are magic.

The magical view from our balcony at the Ningaloo Reef Resort, Coral Bay, WA

The tour company recommended to us was Coral Bay Eco Tours and they took us on a boat trip to snorkel and swim with manta rays.  The boat capacity was 37. As it turned out, luck was on our side with only 10 passengers on board, which made it a lovely small group.  We snorkelled at two different spots from the Kurni-Ku boat, both were beautiful. We saw clams, huge amounts of gorgeous little coloured fish, parrot fish, and green sea turtle – so cool.  When we went to the manta ray spot, luck again was on our side as two manta rays were swimming in a 360 degree formation to create a vortex which enabled them to trap the plankton and feed. It was pretty cool to see.  Manta rays are usually solitary creatures, so to see two together was hugely special.  And to top off our day, we saw a hump back whale in the distance.  Very cool.

Manta ray swimming in a 360 degree formation to form a vortex to stir up plankton to feed

Green sea turtle, Coral Bay

Coral Bay has spectacular sunsets. We were in for a double treat with a rising full moon on one side and the spectacular sunset on the other.

Sunset at Coral Bay

Gorgeous full moon at Coral Bay

Quad biking is a popular tourist activity in Coral Bay and the thought of hooning up and down sand dunes and snorkelling in places you can not reach by car was just too appealing.  Zorba and I donned helmets and followed our instructor, Tice from Holland.  Well, I tried to follow him. I have to be honest, I struggled to control the quad.  It was heavy to steer, well, at first, impossible for me to steer. I ran it into several embankments, much to my embarrassment.  I persevered and finally got the hang of the quad.  It gave me a whole new respect for the quad riders in the Australasian Safari that’s for sure!  Snorkelling was gorgeous.  We had a great morning out.

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