Turquoise Drift. (Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia)

Exmouth Day 3.

As I enjoyed my brekky al fresco this morning a couple of kids at a nearby campsite started getting stuck into each other. Mummymode clicked on automatically and I was halfway out of my seat to go break it up before I stopped and thought, hang on; not my problem! Yippee!

I was missing the boys, but not as much as I’d expected, and I decided I wasn’t going to feel guilty about that. Instead I relished the freedom of having only myself to look after, make decisions for and entertain, and as a result decided to go back to Turquoise Bay and be a beach bum for the day.

Alllllllll day!
Alllllllll day!

It’s over 60km from town so I needed a car. Found the rental place eventually – the sign got blown down in the last cyclone. Dammit Olwyn! Picked up my clunker which I was assured was good to go despite a sticky accelerator and a limp seatbelt. The shop bloke also mentioned the fan belt might make a bit of noise when I started her up… YOU DON’T SAY? I would never have noticed the sound of a dozen dying bush pigs squealing under the bonnet if he hadn’t mentioned it.

Drove out to the Cape Range NP, realising on the way that it was the first time I’d driven on a proper remote country road all by myself! And I only thought of the movie Wolf Creek once or twice.

Why did the giant chicken cross the road? ... Who knows? It's none of my business. I'm not about to question a giant velocirapchook.
Why did the giant chicken cross the road? … Who knows? It’s none of my business. I’m not about to question a giant velocirapchook.

I’d heard about Turquoise Bay from Dave on the safari tour and had also been warned about it  at the visitor centres. It’s one of WA’s best beaches and fantastic for snorkelling but is unpatrolled by lifesavers, and it’s best if you do some research before you go.  Where the north and south beaches meet at a large sandbank there’s a gap in the Ningaloo Reef. On the southern side the current will carry you north over the reef parallel with the beach and you can relax and drift along with it, hopping out before the sandbank and walking back down the beach. But with big tides or swell the rip current can get very strong and you need to make sure you don’t get pulled past the sandbank as all the water in the bay is rushing out of the gap in the reef… as the locals like to say, you’ll end up in Africa.

Enjoying the view from my makeshift sun shelter; a stick, the fence line and my sarong. Glad I had something; even in midwinter the sun was vicious and there is no shade. Stuff getting shipwrecked around here!
Enjoying the view from my makeshift sun shelter; a stick, the fence line and my sarong. Glad I had something; even in midwinter the sun was vicious and there is no shade. Stuff getting shipwrecked around here!

I’m a good swimmer and had brought my snorkelling gear so I was confident doing the drift loop on the southern side. I headed in and could feel the slight drag of the current as I pulled on my flippers, but it wasn’t enough to push me over. I swam out about 50 metres and started exploring, checking my position regularly by the beach.

In the deep turquoise...
In the deep turquoise…
One of two large coral outcrops in the southern part of the bay.
One of two large coral outcrops in the southern part of the bay.
My underwater photography is still in its infancy - most of these shots are stills from movies shot on my GoPro. Still, I'm chuffed - it's a hell of a lot better than what I'd've gotten on a disposable camera.
My underwater photography is still in its infancy – most of these shots are stills from movies shot on my GoPro. Still, I’m chuffed – it’s a hell of a lot better than what I’d’ve gotten on a disposable camera.

About 2pm.

Am currently lounging on the sand enjoying the breeze on my face and listening to the distant rumbling of waves breaking on the outer reef. They’re maybe… half a kilometre away? Maybe more. They look huge.

Plenty of fish life – little black and white damselfish, neon blue fish, huge rainbow parrot fish, sea stars, slugs, trevally and snapper and heaps of other reef fish, plus a couple of small black tip reef sharks and a groper hiding under a coral shelf. I saw an octopus too – speckled brown and black like a piece of rock, and his head was about as big as my head, plus all those long legs – I didn’t want to get closer for a photo. I was really hoping to spot a turtle but they were elsewhere today.

blue neon fish, coral

blue neon coral closer

blue neon fish Turquoise Bay Ningaloo Reef

blue neon fish Turquoise Bay Ningaloo Reef
These little blues are my favourite. Don’t know their proper name but I call them Adorbz.

 

I tried to dive down closer but due to the buoyant salty water and my ridiculously floatatious body I had to kick really hard to stay down and of course would scare all the fish off. Found I could get closer if I swam upstream then dived and drifted with the current. Several bold black ones were darting at the camera as if it was food; the first time they did it they scared the absolute shit out of me.

He looks photoshopped on doesn't he? This reminds me of that so-crap-it's-awesome bit in Jaws 3 where the shark 'swims' (he wasn't moving so he must've been drifting) at the underwater observatory and smashes in the glass. This fish was way scarier than that shark was.
He looks photoshopped on doesn’t he? This reminds me of that so-crap-it’s-awesome bit in Jaws 3 where the shark ‘swims’ (he wasn’t moving so he must’ve been drifting) at the underwater observatory and smashes in the glass. This fish was way scarier than that shark was.
HAHAHAHAHAAAA Bruce! You're such a card! By the way happy birthday - welcome to the 40 club mate.
HAHAHAHAHAAAA Bruce! You’re such a card! By the way happy birthday – welcome to the 40 club mate.
See those little damsels? They're not in distress, they're in dis coral.
See those little damsels? They’re not in distress, they’re in dis coral.

Had a couple of good laughs today – first I heard someone sneeze through her snorkel. All her mates plus me were pissing ourselves. Then I cracked myself up as I resurfaced after diving one time; I blew out hard to clear my snorkel of water, and accidentally farted, also quite hard. Bubbles shot out of my arse at the exactly the same time as out of my mouthpiece, and when I pictured it I started laughing hysterically, my mask and snorkel flooded, and I nearly drowned myself. Thankfully no-one else was around, besides the fishies, and they were too polite to say anything.

Turquoise Bay from the water, Ningaloo Reef

 

A bit later still:

Nearly everyone’s gone, the sea breeze is up and snorkelling means getting constantly slapped in the head by little choppy waves so I’ve called it a day. Have noticed the moon has risen; the bastard won’t set until 0430 tomorrow morning, which puts a dent in my night photography plans.

… Shit it’s  5 o’clock, I’d better get going or I’ll miss the sunset!!

 

– Michelle

Next post: Sky porn at Vlamingh Head Lighthouse!

 

By the way, here’s some helpful tips for snorkelling the Ningaloo Reef:

  • If at all concerned about your swimming or snorkelling abilities – snorkel the Bay Loop on the northern side of the bay instead, or any of the other bays in the park where the reef is just as close but the current is gentler.
  • Use snorkel and fins – either BYO or you can rent/buy them in town or the Milyering Visitor Centre. Fins will help you keep out of trouble. So will reading the warning signs, listening to locals’ advice, and not being an idiot.
  • Please don’t stand on the reef, not even the rocky bits; you could cause damage that’ll take over 50 years to regenerate. Don’t take shells home, not even empty ones, as it is a protected reserve. I wouldn’t even recommend picking up shells because along with various other wildlife-you-do-not-want-to-fuck-with, cone shell snails live on this reef.
  • When you come here, take care of this place – it looks harsh but it’s so very fragile. Leave only footprints and take only photos, so when my kids and your kids and their kids visit it’s just as beautiful for them as it was for us.

Exmouth Visitor Centre

UNESCO World Heritage Ningaloo Coast

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6 Comments Add yours

  1. Nothing wrong with video stills! Doesn’t matter what you use to get the shot as long as you get it, I say. That fish you caught dead on looks so grumpy, lol.

    I really ought to get myself a GoPro one of these days. I have a little waterproof Fujifilm that takes surprisingly good photos and video for how much it cost, but I’m always envious of other people’s amazingly clear GoPro footage.

    Like

    1. Michelle says:

      He does look grumpy doesn’t he? He looks like he has his ‘angry eyes’ in, like a Mr Potato Head, or a Muppet.
      I heartily recommend the GoPro – I haven’t had a proper DSLR with an underwater housing so am not sure how it’d compare but when you’re busily swimming/experiencing/enjoying it’s nice to just switch on the video and go. The screen goes black after a minute or so so I couldn’t see what I was filming most of the time but I just aimed in the general direction of the interesting thing and hoped for the best. … Which was pretty awesome!

      Liked by 1 person

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