Coral Bay …sigh!
What a lovely place to spend a couple of weeks, even with the wind.
Driving in from Exmouth to the Coral Bay turn off, we watched the temperature quickly drop from 38 degrees, down to a very civilized 28. The rolling road topped the last rise before we got our first glimpse of the crystal clear aqua bay bordered by a gleaming crescent of golden white sand that we’d only ever seen before this moment in National Geographic.
It looked almost too perfect to be real.
When we reached the caravan park where we booked a Bills Bay site, the manicured green lawns surrounding it were the icing on the cake, and that view.
We jumped straight out from our dusty D4 sinking our toes into that lovely and lush green carpet, breathing that wholesome sea air and feeling something relaxed inside. After months of dusty, sandy or rocky camping sites, this breed of couch grass (almost as good as the back lawn of Raymond Ave, almost …i.e. there were no MCG stripes :)) was like a long, cold glass of pale ale to a thirsty man (or woman). It was like a chocolate mud cake to a hungry teenager. It was like an unlimited movies voucher to 9 and 11yr old boys. You get the idea.
There was plenty to do for two weeks. Most days were spent doing schoolwork in the morning followed by swimming and snorkelling literally taking place less than 100M from our van and lots of play-time on the beach as well.
So much coral, so close to shore – it’s the southern section of the world heritage listed Ningaloo Reef Marine Park after all. We introduced the boys for the first time to snorkelling and in no time at all were diving down a couple of meters to get a closer look at giant clams, stingrays, trigger fish, spangled emperors …and anything else that couldn’t swim away fast enough. There were so many fish, it was like swimming in a giant aquarium. At the end of each day the boys looked up the names of each new species spotted, adding to their repository of fish knowledge, and, in Lochie’s case, which species made the better eating. Goes without saying lots of robust debating was occurring in this last point.
Suffice to say, Aidan & Lochie took to snorkelling like seagulls to chips, and just like seagulls, the boys were hard to fill up on fish and chips at the local tavern. We did attempt to catch our dinner one night off the local boat ramp, but the fish were uncooperative, but did get to witness a wonderful eagle ray swim through our lure-casting waters. Still, a bad day’s fishing beats a good day’s working any time, right! Yes, of course it does!
As with most places on our trip, we did some local 4WD-ing on the many beach tracks that dotted the coast, in particular, to the north of Coral Bay. (You can see our spaghetti-loops on the GPS SPOT tracker when you zoom the map if interested).
Following the soft-sand dune tracks that would eventually take you to Yardie Creek, then to Exmouth via the Cape Range Nat. Park, we explored a few of the northern beaches and found more of the same gorgeous sand, azure water and interesting reefs.
Even one outing getting bogged up to the D4’s axles at Batemen Bay. Thankfully it turned out no great hardship with a straightforward self recovery with the shovel off the roof, 20 minutes of digging, maxtrax’s positioned correctly and we were soon off back down the beach again.
Further along, we rounded a headland and came across a large flock (200+) Crested Terns having some time out whilst migrating south for the winter all rising upwards like a billowing white cloud when the Disco’s diesel engine gently growled past them.
The following day we took a morning off from schoolwork and all did a long walk north along the inlets and beaches to Maud’s Point from our van site. It took a couple of hours return as we had to stop often to look at crabs (big, small, even some hairy), schools of fish feeding, and the many blue-spotted rays in the shallows.
One of the smaller bays is a well known black tipped reef shark nursery and they were patrolling the shallows in large numbers. (cute when they’re that small, when they’re bigger – not so much). They seemed leery of humans, but Geoff managed to plant himself thigh-deep directly in their path and get a shot before they scattered in every which direction. Fifty metres further on we spotted a turtle, then a dolphin came by chasing some fish …it was a quiet morning.
Staying put in once place for two weeks allowed me to do a bit of slow-cooking which was a nice change from bought meals with ‘chips & salad’, or ‘quick’ meals on the bbq. Incidentally, the top peak camp oven works well on the gas burner. I managed to make a few stews, split pea and ham soup, and even some damper. I was quite proud of that, and Aidan and I were both disappointed when we couldn’t eat it the next day, as our new stowaway had helped himself to it in the night, after eating his way into the rice, bikkies and bread rolls.
Suddenly we were hearing about a ‘mouse plague’ that had enveloped Coral Bay. It seemed there was a mouse or two in this Eden. Some lucky campers near us were up to 30 little bodies in their traps (2 for $6 at the ‘van park shop). We had found just the one, but he was disruptive enough. He/she had a couple of nights of free cheese and crackers before we worked out how to set the traps sensitively enough to capture his little carcass. Sadly though, it was a cute little faun looking mouse, and a very lucky seagull thought so too. It was gone in a nano-second. They’ll eat anything, those birds.
Did we mention the wind in Western Australia. Boy does it blow here, and Coral Bay was no exception – blew like a B&%$#Rd most days and weird patterns of increasing wind during the night had Geoff up at 2-3am dealing with our van awnings. The wind gets all very wearing after a while as it is a constant every-day occurrence this time of year.
Nevertheless, the wind brought in some clouds on the odd occasion and on one evening we saw a brilliant sunset which Geoff happened to miss (photographing) due to his entertaining duties with some of our new neighbours. The boys however got in an iPad shot or two. Geoff is still kicking himself over missing it and I can’t blame him as most days in the last three months you can count the number of days on one hand when we saw clouds in the sky and this sunset was the first real one we’ve seen since departing Sydney back in August.
Coral Bay was also full of all types of Flora and Fauna. The boys went Gecko hunting with numerous examples caught each night. Every night came with a plethora of insects – some quite weird as in this example, but we still loved the wild diversity this beautiful part of the world has to offer.
Each day we were visited by seagulls, willy wagtails, pee wees, but it was the bush pigeons we enjoyed the most. They were lovely little characters, that would eat out of the palm of your hand while standing on your foot!
Coral Bay was one of the most picturesque, relaxing, regenerative places we have been so far on this trip and we very much hope to come back here some day, perhaps at a less windy time.