Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Road Trip to Coral Coast, Western Australia Part 4 Exmouth

We rose up very early, while the sky was still dark to get everyone ready for the long 9 hours trip up to Exmouth. The girls were tired out from the previous day so we could not bear to wake them up from their slumber. We picked them up and placed them in their car-seats, before folding up the beds and pillows. We drove carefully out of the caravan park and after a while on the road, the sun was seen spreading its light across the horizon. Yipee, a brand new day! As we approached Coral Bay, a very intriguing sight appeared. Thousands and thousands of small 'hills' stretched across the plains. What on earth was that? We got off the motorhome to examine these new specimens and it took us a while before we realized that they are termites nests. Oh my, they were taller than me! How many termites could there be on this land? We calculated the distance as we drove by and these termites nests spread over a distance of about 200km! And this does not even include the width of which they cover. That is a lot of termites. I felt dwarfed by these nests and suddenly, goosebumps started to appear on my arms. 200 km was sure a long distance to get out of termite land. Then again, we reckon it was still safe as we did see people taking photographs with them. We did not see any termites crawling around too. Maybe it was because I ran back to the motorhome too quickly. We checked with the locals and they seemed rather non-chalant about it so I suppose it is not that big a deal. Part of nature, maybe.

Sunrise while on way to Exmouth
One of the many, many, many termite nests.
The girls woke up in the late morning and we made a few pit stops for them to have their breakast, morning play and exercise. We had to stop by for diesel and that took up some time too. By the time we got to Exmouth, it was almost 3pm. We stocked up on our groceries, hooked up the motorhome to the power supply at Exmouth Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort (, chatted with some motorhomers staying around us and were all ready for the next 6 days at Exmouth.

Exmouth is famous for Cape Range National Park and Ningaloo Marine Park. Ningaloo Marine Park is home to many marine animals such as manta rays and humpback whales. The month of June happens to be the whale shark season and there was no way I was going to miss that. Not after driving so many hours up from Perth. I had made a reservation with a whale shark tour operation while in Singapore and my swim with the whale sharks was scheduled for the day after my arrival in Exmouth. When I reached the caravan park, I was in doubt. I had to make the rest of the payment the day before the tour and there I was, at Exmouth but I was having butterflies in my stomach. What on earth was I doing? Swimming with whale sharks?? I sure know how big these creatures are and I want to throw myself in their path??!! I mulled over it for the next 2 hours and finally figured that if I missed it, I would probably regret it more than if I had gone. Just do it! I would take whatever comes. I went to 3 Islands Whale Shark Dive company ( , which is located within Exmouth Ningaloo Caravan and Holiday Resort, made the payment and prepared myself mentally for the big day. I emailed a few whale shark dive tour operators while back in Singapore and decided on 3 Islands very quickly because the staff were very kind and pleasant over the emails. The prices for many of the operators are similar so cost was not one of the factors for the selection. Plus, this company was highly recommended by one of the Australian locals I met during the NATAS fair. She loves nature and hopped onto a dive tour with 3 Islands. She, too, was happy with their warm service. Now, it was up to me to experience it. I cooked breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next day (boiled eggs, vegetables and meat) so the girls would not go hungry when I went away for the whole day. Had an early sleep and got myself ready for the 730am meet up.

I was the only Asian on the tour. Tourists from France, Italy and other parts of Australia filled up the rest of the group. We had a snorkelling refresher course on board and safety measures explained. We were to stay 3 metres away from the whale sharks on the side and 4 metres from the tail. They are very shy animals and we would not want to give them unnecessary stress. We had a morning snorkel to get our body warmed up before some snack. Spotters planes were out looking for the whale sharks and there were a lot of other tour boats around in the Ningaloo Marine Park area. On the way, we saw manta rays, dugongs and a mummy humpback whale guiding her baby humpback how to swim! Cool. Every moment on board was magical. I almost teared when I saw the humpback whales, twice! It was like a dream come true. Fine, for those of you who have seen humpback whales, you will probably think nothing of my sighting. Yet, for me, they were precious, especially when I see the bond between the baby and the mummy humpback whales. Oh, I missed my daughters already. Around 11am, we were all ready for the whale sharks. The first swim with the whale sharks was amazing. As the first one swam passed us, everyone just wanted to move forward to get a closer look at it. We had 3 different swims and the whale sharks just got bigger each time. There were so many whale sharks there that every tour operator just needed to focus on a few. We did not see the biggest recorded (they can grow up to 18 metres long) but the ones we swam with seemed big enough at 8 metres long. I was so so glad I went ahead with the tour, and I still am. No regrets. Yes, it is expensive at AUD$375 per person (includes morning snack and lunch) but for such an experience, it is all worth it. Plus, our group was really fortunate to have seen the Big Three of Ningaloo Marine Park - Humpback Whales, Manta Rays and Whale Sharks! Hmm, the only thing I wished was better was my tolerance to the wind. The water was warm but once I got out, I was shivering from the cold wind and had to wrap myself up in layers. The embarrassing thing was that I was the only one feeling that way. Everyone else was enjoying the 'breeze'. I attribute that to the fact that I was the only Asian on board and hence I am more used to heat than cold. Anyway, I went away with fond memories and a certificate to prove that I overcame my fear and swam with the big guys.
Perfect weather for a swim with the biggest fish in the world!

Morning snorkel

Morning snack after snorkel

Everyone is ready for the whale sharks

Whale Sharks!! And this is not even the largest we saw that day!
I returned to the motorhome to hear the girls' exciting happenings for the day. They built sandcastles and saw kangaroos hopping on the beach, played at the caravan park's playground and ran around the huge grass lawn just in front of our powered site. Sounded interesting. I was glad the girls had as much fun as I did.

Girls playing in the sun. Didn't matter who drove past. (saw the 4WD at the background?)
A kangeroo did hop by but he was too quick for any photo to be taken.

The two lovely sisters

Loving the wind in her face

No lack of shells wherever they go

Early morning sandplay at the playground within the caravan park

The little lion roars
The next day, we ventured out into Cape Range National Park (entry fee applies) where canyons were beautifully sculpted, beaches inviting and the seas, blue and alluring. We focused mainly on Turquoise Bay, Mangrove Bay and Oyster Bay. The waters were clear and just step into the shallow waters and the fishes would swim around your feet, welcoming you into their kingdom. One doesn't even need to snorkel far to see these amazing creatures and corals. Water is shallow so you need to be careful not to kick the corals. Needless to say, the trip out into the water was magical.

Oyster Bay

I thought it was a big fish but no, it was a giant clam!

Blue-Spotted Stingray

Octopus in hiding

Colorful Nudibranch

If you are not for snorkelling, you can explore other parts of Exmouth. Canyons within Cape Range National Park are also beautiful. We could not visit a lot of canyons because some of the roads are very steep and rocky, which is not very recommended for motorhomes and caravans. If you are keen to explore these canyons, do rent a 4WD instead. You can also drive up to the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse and look over Exmouth. Not enough? Head down to Jurabi Turtle Centre. It was a pity that our visit did not coincide with the nesting season of the marine turtles (November to April) otherwise it would be a real treat. The whole place is rather sparse and the centre looks like a tent. I attributed the lack of development to the fact that they need to keep the surrounding as natural as possible. Turtles are sensitive to light and noise during nesting and the locals need to ensure that the turtles would be undisturbed. There are also small information panels put up along the path towards the beach, educating the visitors how to help these turtles. There is a turtle display at the centre and the girls were very intrigued by it. Should you want to participate in the guided turtle tour during nesting season, you can always approach Exmouth Visitor Centre for more details.

Vlamingh Head Lighthouse

Jurabi Turtle Centre

Lots of Information panels along the way

More playtime at the playground in the caravan park

See how high they can go!

For our last day in Exmouth, we decided to give ourselves a treat and stay at Novotel Ningaloo Resort Exmouth for a night. Well, the stay was complimentary as we are Accor members and I must say it is one of the best deals simply because we did not have to pay AUD$320 for the room! The hotel has a nice and relaxing resort feel. Daddy dropped me and the girls at the hotel early so he could explore more great snorkelling places. We were too early for check in but the hotel lobby has a small children's play area so A was kept entertained for a long time while K had her morning nap. Hotel was beautiful. Pool was inviting but we were too scared of the cold. We were told that they have a heating system within the pool but we passed on it. Not with the kids at least since they are more senstive to temperature changes. The last thing I wanted was for them to fall ill on a trip. Room was fantasically spacious. Bathroom was equally spacious. Just the thing we needed when we had been crammed up in a motorhome for about 2 weeks. Of course, the kids loved it too. For once, they could run freely without worrying about banging into each other. I declared it a 'No Cooking Day' and we had our meals in the hotel's restaurant. It is a fine restaurant so it was a bit challenging with 2 young kids running around. We did our part to restrain and explain to the girls the appropriate behavior but of course, expecting them to sit through the whole dinner was a big challenge. Thankfully, the staff was kind and understanding enough. The night's rest was great, just the thing we needed before continuing our journey the next morning.

Playarea in Novotel Ningaloo Resort Exmouth

Hotel rooms from the lobby


View from our room
Our spacious room

She sure made the food look more yummy :p
Our stay in Exmouth was definitely the highlight for this roadtrip. It was worth all the long hours on the road.

3 Cheers for Exmouth!