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Cape Range National Park in Exmouth

Cape Range National Park is a wondrous place, with a rugged hilly terrain of limestone ranges situated on the west side of the North West Cape. These deep canyons form culverts in satellite maps and with 50km of pristine beaches, taking a roadtrip down would make you want to stop & dip at every bay.

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Exmouth Escape Resort.

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Thomas Carter Lookout

The 50,581 hectares park is just 40km from Exmouth. We drove here upon spending 3 days at Coral Bay & another 4 days at Exmouth Escape Resort. I saw some big red kangaroos here & stalked an emu for a picture!

According to what’s on record, ’in ancient times the range was isolated as an island as rising sea levels inundated lower lying areas. As a result of this geographic isolation there are some species of plants and animals that are endemic to the area, including the red centred variety of the Sturt Desert Pea. Surveys have recorded over 630 species of flowering plants on the peninsula of Cape Range National Park. This is a surprisingly high number for an arid limestone area. Over 700 caves are catalogued in the area and it is likely that many remain undiscovered. There are numerous gorges and sanctuary areas that provide a haven for wildlife and contain often rare and unusual flora. A beautiful array of wildflowers can be seen in late winter including Sturt Desert Peas and the beautiful Bird Flower.’

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I went on the Top of The Range tour of the Cape Range National Park to see the beautiful natural surroundings. Dave of Ningaloo Safari Tours, gave a brilliant commentary on the history & origins of this place, as he drove the 4WD over the ridges that overlooks the canyon below. The rock formations & caves in the area were a sight to behold. If I wasn’t taking photos of the rocks or the scene, I was looking out for unusual plants & fossils on the ground. Our first meander was through Charles Knife Gorge. We stopped for morning tea & fresh fruit cake on top of the ridge before continuing the journey to Milyering Visitor’s Centre. You can find interpretive displays, audio-visual facilities and a library containing a wealth of information on the National and Marine Parks to help visitors appreciate the natural environment.

Here, I bought some souvenirs & Torri Bottroff, the lady at the souvenir shop counter, suggested that I go for the patches & some stickers to commemorate my trip upon telling her where I was from. And I did just that! Thank you, Torri! It was a delight to have met you!

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We headed to Osprey Bay for a swim in the crystal clear warm sea & it was simply refreshing after the ride. Dave & his family who joined us in a separate car, prepared a delicious lunch of fresh prawns & sandwich for us after the swim & we continued to Yardie Creek to see the Black Footed Rock Wallabies! The walk to the creek before boarding the boat yielded some great fossil finds! According to Exmouth Visitor’s Centre, ”˜Centuries of erosion have formed a spectacular multi-coloured gorge. Hidden within the safety of the gorge walls is a colony of black-footed rock wallabies. Yardie is the only gorge in the area with permanent water however this is salt water fed from the ocean. This interesting ecosystem has mangrove areas that provide roosting sites for many bird species while the sheltered waters are a sanctuary for many marine animals. The beginnings of the gorge are deep in the limestone range. These timid creatures seek shelter on ledges along the gorge walls resting during daylight hours, coming out to feed in the cool of the night. There is a relatively easy walking trail along the top of the northern wall of the gorge or you can join a boat cruise through its cool depths.’ Definitely not to be missed.

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Yardie Creek.

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By evening, we headed towards Turquoise Bay & Ningaloo Marine Park, our last stop was Vlamingh Head Lighthouse. The moon had risen in the horizon & after the long ride, it was good to unwind with a glass of wine over dinner at Novotel Ningaloo Resort Exmouth to end our evening. To get to Exmouth, get your flights to Australia & land in Perth. Then fly to Exmouth in the North West.
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A Secret Wonder – Coral Bay, Western Australia

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Coral Bay is 155km south of Exmouth & one glance at the azure sea would tell you that this pristine marine park has more to offer than what meets the eye. Famed for its caravan parks & a handful of resorts in this little suburb by the sea, Coral Bay holds the world’s best kept secret in hosting the most diverse structures of coral colonies in the region! Who would have known that this sleepy suburb is the base to reach pristine dive sites? Colonies of corals that built mazes & fish condominiums, tiered mounts that mould into exotic framework piling into the foundations of the sea, this must be one of the best dives I’ve done (and I have done in excess of 2,500 dives in my life all over South East Asia) & truly, I am torn as to whether I should disclose the location or let it remain a secret & maintaining its pristine conditions by reducing human impact on the area.

Every diver in our presence was floored by the awesome structures that formed the maze leading out to a gigantic creek with sandy bottom. The only thing that possibly frustrated me was that the light wasn’t where it was supposed to shine & casted shadows in places where I needed corals to be lit. It was a challenging time for photography (though nothing could beat my Rottnest experience!) & to find the right angle just so that I can show you the majestic formation but alas, these pictures were all I managed as the sun was setting.

Presenting you a dot in the ocean, a speckle in the map but a world of beauty beyond what you & I can ever envision!

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Bearing in mind that corals are actually animals with male & female reproductive organs, the reef is made up of millions of colonies that build structures as they grow. To have a magnificent ecosystem that looks equally astounding is something that only God can create.

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We were taken to a sparsely populated reef before getting into the thick of things. It’s an absolute wonder that the marine life thrives in every reef due to the protected status! There are absolute fearless fish to contend with!

Harlequin Sweetlips at the cleaning station!

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Mantle of a Giant Clam

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Looks can be deceiving. This reef even has a Picasso Triggerfish!

Completing two dives on a day out was exhilarating to say the least. The awesome wonder took my breath away, both underwater & above. Visit Australia if you are planning your journey!

P.S. This blogpost will appear on Amazing Journey with a flash gallery of more photos than what’s posted here. Pummkin’s Pitch has a mixture of my personal journey & adventures but Amazing Journey categorises my travels by destination & product reviews with an occasional sponsored post or two.

Riding Into The Sunset with a Quad Bike

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Arriving at Learmonth Airport in Exmouth, Western Australia, I drove a hired car to approximately 155km South to a tiny town called Coral Bay. As part of the Ningaloo Marine Park, the first thing I got to do was to experience riding an All Terrain Vehicle (ATV) fondly known as Quad-Bike here, through the hilly & rugged terrain along the coastal line. Aptly called the Sunset Quad-Bike Tour by the Coastal Adventure Tour company, our guide called Sam & his successor, Brett, took us on a two-hour ride into the countryside weaving along zig-zagged routes & climbing hills & sand dunes for the thrill of skidding down. I hadn’t ridden a bike before except as a pillion & taking on a four-wheeled monster was a bit daunting at first but somehow with the donning on of a safety helmet, I didn’t feel so vulnerable wrapping my legs on this oversized bumper vehicle.

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The handles operated like a bike with the brakes on the left & the acceleration button on the right thumb. Setting out at 5pm, we were given a full brief on how to operate the ATVs & before long, the group of us including three other customers took to the bushtracks along the wonderful clifflines of Coral Bay to watch the spectacular view of the isolated coastline. The tracks allowed us to weave left & right after a practice round of flat & straight road getting to the dunes.

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As we passed the shoreline, the many wildlife that we expected to see hadn’t come out of hiding yet but there were two spots where Sam & Brett brought us to see turtles feeding on seaweed in the water & to watch insects that loved nectar!

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There were animal tracks on the sand & as we made our way further inroad to the rugged terrain, the dunes got higher & bigger! The absolute thrill was to be able to ride down the highest sand dune which was rather safe despite the height of the drop. As the sun began to set, kangaroos came out to play! They were too quick for me to whip out the camera & take a shot but it was great seeing them hop about in the wild.

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The ride took about 2 hours & we got back just before it got dark. The Sunset Quad Bike Trek is one thing that you must not miss when you are in Coral Bay.

This tour was made possible courtesy of Tourism Western Australia & Tourism Australia in Malaysia.

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That’s me feeling exhilarated! 🙂

Next blogpost:- the Coral Bay adventure dive tour!

Roughing It At Rottnest

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I am here in Perth, Western Australia, courtesy of Tourism Australia & Tourism Western Australia & the main event I was covering was called PUPS – Perth Underwater Photo Shootout, which was held at Rottnest Island on the 12 March 2011. This is the biggest underwater photo shootout in Western Australia with 35 divers contesting to get top spots for the prizes of a dive trip in exotic locations in Indonesia & Malaysia amongst the other sponsored goodies that attracted this large number of participants. Leaving in the morning on a fully equipped dive boat with Perth Diving Academy, everyone had assembled their photographic setup to be ready for the first dive the moment the boat stops.

Despite the perfect weather, the sea condition wasn’t particularly good with 2 – 3m swells & 3 – 5m visibility but what we faced underwater on the first dive was even more daunting. Being thrown forward & backwards, wedged into crevices almost mounted on the ceiling before being thrusted by the next surge of motion only to crash into a mini mount. The sea was throwing a tantrum that day & as Humpty Dumpty was clad & layered in a 5mm Farmer Jane suit, having to offset my buoyancy with a 12kilo weight belt didn’t help. I can’t even begin to tell you how many mounts I have come to ”˜know’ & little caves that I find myself in. You get the drift???

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The varied types of seagrass & seaweeds in Rottnest Island.

Dave Baxter, the extraordinary underwater photographer who had put together this feat of an event, was my buddy for the day. I can imagine how much laugh he would have had watching Humpty Dumpty sauntering & gasping, having to turn back & see if I’m stuck somewhere beneath the mounts. I couldn’t take a single decent shot on the first dive let alone nice pictures but after reviewing them on my Mac, I was able to show you what a wild time I had by these ”˜super artistic’ (fluke) shots generated by the motion of the ocean!

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Put in a collage for fun…..

As one of the appointed judges, I was not running in the competition but I got one of my prized ”˜catch’ on the second dive. A friendly & curious wrasse followed me around, watching me up close & wondering why I was turned turtle (ahem…it was a balancing issue with the ultra-buoyant wetsuit & 12kg weights on my belt). The wrasse often came right up to my mask (Dave took pictures) & would even allow me to stroke its tail! It had no problems whatsoever with trusting (clumsy) giants in neoprene & has the curiosity of a cat! Here’s one shot of it while it was staring at my mask:-

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Presenting – Le Amigo D’ Wrasse! Unedited, uncropped, unadulterated. Even speckles are left for posterity!

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When it stared at my camera…..

Perth Diving Academy provided the diving services on their big boat & the day ended with a barbecue at the yacht club. Judging has been postponed to 29 March. Next on the itinerary would be my journey to Exmouth & Coral Bay!