From the Log of David McGuire, Field Associate
Driving at sunset the red dirt and the red light makes the landscape feel like Mars. The road is littered with the carcasses of Kangaroos and the occasional Emu and the ravens and eagles dine on the road kill. Now at sunset we see many kangaroos at the roads edge and some standing statue-like in the road and we must carefully avoid running them down. Like deer, the Kangaroos dart across the road at night and most of the vehicles have “roo bars” to avoid the serious damage a large kangaroo can inflict on a vehicle (not to mention the Kangaroo).
Here in the Antipodes it is close to the winter solstice and the twilight casts a low red glow for nearly an hour, guiding us through the Roos and into Coral By, the entry point to the tourist Mecca of Ningaloo Bay. Here we camp in our first Caravan Park among the gentry of the camping set, replete with power, hot showers, an internet café and watered lawns. The park of over 200 sites is full so we are guided to a small spot off the grid: no power but we revel in the first fresh water showers and first salt free towels since Fremantle.
The next morning we rent kayaks and set off to explore the outer reef. Most of this area is a marine park, Australian’s term for protected areas, but much of the area allows recreational fishing. Our permit allows us to collect in Sanctuaries but we are still careful to paddle out beyond the no take zone. The reef is more diverse and we freedive the coral bommies for our target species but again no luck.
After the kayak excursion out to the fringing reef we packed the combi and headed north along the narrow highway. The landscape is vast and flat with a low green scrub and dotted with red termite mounds resembling islands of life in an otherwise featureless terrain. 150 kilometers further north and we arrive in Exmouth, the heart of the Ningaloo tourism but a heartless looking place with new developments and harbors and tourist signs advertising whale shark tours at every corner. Stopping at the dive shop for information and air fills we exit town and head away from the strong east winds to the lee of the west side.