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Travel Australia with Kids

Saturday 22nd October 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Monday, October 24, 2011

Our drive from Dampier to Exmouth was VERY long - we hadn't intended to do it all in one day, but as we head inland along the highway, the temperature soared to 37degrees and wouldn't budge even at 4pm. So we reasoned it was at least cool in the car, and kept driving.  We reached Exmouth around 6pm and not wanting to fork out the ridiculous caravan park charges just for an overnight sleep, we continued toward Cape Range National Park.  They have recently changed their "booking" system (whereby you queue up at the gate house from 6am and wait until someone vacates their campspot so you can get in) so that 4 of their camp areas can now be booked on-line (which we had done a few days before).  We "camped" at the front of the gate house that night - a big no-no, but we were too exhausted after our 500km driving session to care at that point.

We spent 5 glorious days at Tulki Campgrounds - it was everything we had been told, researched, hoped for and more!  If you see no other part of Australia, PLEASE visit this area and snorkel Ningaloo Reef - it's exactly like they show in all those underwater documentaries, except that you are there doing it yourself. Our only regret was that Tiran just wouldn't come snorkelling - we begged, pleaded, attempted bribery, promised him that Dad would be holding him the whole time, but not even the prospect of seeing the amazing fish we kept describing to him would nudge him over his fear of deep water.  Since it's a given we'll be returning here in the future we feel certain he will get to experience it for himself soon enough.

Our stay started off on a bad note with Mike nearly blowing up the entire solar panel system when he tried to attach an extra panel given to us by another camper - this of course led to not only a bad mood, but a good couple of hours of work trying to fix the problem (which thankfully seems to have been resolved).  But we made up for it over the next few days.  Each of the campgrounds in the National Park have their own Camp Hosts (ours were just lovely) - we had happy hour every day around 5:30pm and generally a very social bunch of campers.  Kia adopted a couple of the older ladies as Mamani-substitutes - he's missing her terribly!

The zodiac was taken out at Tulki beach; we went out about 1.5km from the shore - the water was like glass. You could see EVERYTHING, even the tiny blue tropical coral fish.  We saw a huge sea turtle (it's their mating and nesting season) and a shark as large as the boat that we chased a bit in an attempt to video it.  Still some debate about the species - reef shark vs tiger shark - it was thrilling either way.  We anchored on a bit of sand amongst the coral and I had my first go at fishing and hooked a couple of beautiful coral snapper within a few minutes (threw the first one back, but the second was big enough to eat). Mike went out 2 more times that day and added to our fish haul so it was fish fingers for dinner.

We had a look around a few of the other campsites (for future reference and choices) and made the mistake of driving onto the sand at Mesa without deflating our tyres - yup got stuck good and proper (see the pictures for just HOW good and proper). Kia was an absolute champion, using our MaxTrax recovery gear to help Daddy dig us out! And we visited a turtle beach - during mating season they can be found along quite a few of the more remote beaches.  We spotted around 30 or so at this beach, with the exhausted females escaping from the very persistent males and coming ashore to rest before the next onslaught!  We didn't approach them as the Visitor Centre had advised that if startled they would return to the sea and in their exhausted state are in danger of drowning.  We were only about 10 metres away from them anyway which was close enough for a good view.  We went back to the beach on a couple of occasions at night time and witnessed the females digging a nest - it takes a good 30-40 minutes and even then it's not a guarantee of success. All the ones we saw weren't happy with the "vibe" of their nest and moved along to try again - we were too tired to hang around though!

The drift snorkel at Turquoise Bay is fantastic!  We were a little worried about the strength of the current carrying us down (and being able to kick across it to get back to shore), but it was unfounded; no problems at all!  Kia had an absolute blast and even discovered talking under water through his snorkel so he and Daddy could converse as they floated along. It is another world altogether down there - the fish are so oblivious to your presence so you feel like a fly on the fall as you watch them go about their little lives!  So many colours! We had cloudy days, but when the sun shone through it lighted up the view with such brilliance. We missed out snorkelling the Oyster Stacks - gotta save something new for next time!

Out of peak season, Exmouth is a peaceful town.  We spent 2 nights in a caravan park there - our main mission was whale hunting (with a camera of course). Now the zodiac is very very handy - it's light and packs down very well, it fits the 4 of us (just barely), doesn't need a boat trailer and can be launched very easily from the beach. What it ain't got is a lot of power and speed.  On our first outing we spotted 2 different groups of whales (2-3 animals each) breaching and tail slapping, but try as we might, we couldn't get close enough.  The following day, after yet another fruitless chase, we were finally rewarded with a close sighting of a family unit (2 adults and a baby) - we got a fabulous view of their tail slapping show! It was sooooooooo cool - voted one of our favourite experiences so far.

 

Kia at Tulki Beach - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (15Oct11)Resident wildlife at Tulki - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (15Oct11)A bit of forced snorkelling for Tiran (I pushed him into the water fully clothed!) - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (15Oct11)Lakeside Beach - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)
Digging out Ironhide at Mesa Beach - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)Mesa Beach - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)Turtles resting on the beach - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)Trying to get away from those pesky males! - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)
Treated to an X-Rated show - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (17Oct11)Magnificent Turquoise Bay - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (18Oct11)Heading down to the Drift Snorkel at Turquoise Bay - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (18Oct11)Getting ready to snorkel the Drift - Cape Range National Park, Exmouth, WA (18Oct11)
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