Planet View: S23°08.670′ E113°46.246′
Street View: S23°08.670′ E113°46.246′
My mum and her partner Steve met us for a brilliant week in the sleepy resort town of Coral Bay. After our trek around Cape Range from Exmouth it was great to relax for a few days in the relative luxury of the spacious beachfront apartment that Mum had organized. My dad sent a batch of beautiful wines along with Mum and Steve as well as a couple of tasty Muscats, Lisa was almost drooling at the selection of reds she was going to be able to sample when they arrived!
Prior to Mum and Steve arriving Lisa and I ventured south from Coral Bay through the dunes to a nearby secluded cove and the waters above Five Finger Reef. It was the deepest sand we’d driven in with The Tank, after letting some air out of the tires we didn’t have too much of a problem in low-range, a fun bit of driving through the dunes. We had the beach all to ourselves for the morning, a very picturesque spot, the water color is amazing along the reef. I took my spear out with us when we snorkeled over the reef, Five Finger Reef is outside of the Coral Bay sanctuary zone and it seems the fish know it. I saw some good-sized Spangled Emperors cruising over the reef but there was no way they were letting me anywhere near them!
We found ourselves staying in Coral Bay on Melbourne Cup Day. There are no racecourses anywhere near Coral Bay so in the spirit of the big event our hotel, Ningaloo Reef Resort, holds annual crab races. Punters can purchase one of the crabs, which are caught the night before, in an auction-like event where all the money not doled out in prizemoney goes to support local charities. With first place receiving almost $700 there was quite a bit of interest in the race, most of the crabs sold for at least $100 and the crowd was all cheers once the race got underway.
My dive instructor on Ko Tao suggested that I should definitely try to put my newly acquired SCUBA Open Water Certification to use along Ningaloo Reef. The four of us organized a day of diving with Ningaloo Reef Dive, Coral Bay’s sole dive shop, Steve and I went diving while the girls spent the day snorkeling. Our first dive was near Five Finger Reef where Lisa and I had explored in The Tank, seeing both Hammerhead and Grey Reef Sharks in the water whilst diving sure got my adrenaline pumping! From our spot near Five Finger Reef we trolled past Coral Bay to the reef at the tip of Cape Maud. There are a number of ‘cleaning stations’ for Manta Rays dotted across the reef around Coral Bay: the huge animals come into the shallows to areas of the reef where small Cleaner Wrasse reside, the Cleaner Wrasse swim into the gills and mouths of the huge rays to clean any unwanted deposits. (I got quite annoyed with Cleaner Wrasse on Ko Tao, it seems there weren’t enough large fish to keep them occupied so instead they found their way into my ears a number of times whilst diving!) The Manta Rays are a huge draw for tourists to Coral Bay, surprisingly they seem quite comfortable with snorkelers observing them at close range while they hold still for a cleaning. The four of us were part of a group of 10 snorkelers swimming with the rays, we hovered above the cleaning station observing a Manta which would have been at least 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) between the tips of its wings. While we were watching another one of the huge rays came in for a clean, an awesome experience to see these huge animals up close in the wild. Our second dive was near the edge of the outer reef, a fantastic location with huge walls of coral and an amazing array of fish life: massive schools of Trevally and Darts and some giant Spangled Emperors who enjoyed hovering beneath the shadow made by the hull of the dive boat. At our second dive site there was another ‘cleaning station’, this one a shark station, we were lucky enough to see a couple of smaller Black-Tip Reef Sharks as well as a sizeable Grey Reef Shark cruising the deeps. It was a fantastic day, I remember how excited sharks made the employees of the dive shop on Ko Tao, we didn’t see any in Thailand but scored several close sightings on our two dives in Coral Bay.
On our last day in Coral Bay we all piled into The Tank for a third trip to Five Finger Reef. On our first two trips I’d come up with nothing more than a small King George Whiting with the spear and Mum hadn’t seen the beautiful beach next to the reef, so a third trip was in order. I was determined to come home with some dinner for us all! In my attempt to drive as close as possible to the beach I managed to get The Tank in quite a precarious valley in-between some very soft sand dunes, I’m pretty sure we all were thinking we’d be walking back to Coral Bay after numerous attempts to get The Tank to climb its way out of trouble. With everyone except me out of the vehicle, tires let down to almost 15PSI, differential locks engaged and as much momentum as I could muster The Tank climbed its way out of trouble (sigh of relief…). It would have been a long walk back to town! I also managed to score a nice Spangled Emperor and a bream for dinner to boot.
This entry was posted on Friday, November 6th, 2009 at 8:18 PM and is filed under Australia, Western Australia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.