Australian Adventure (July 14 - 15, 2013)

40 Days Down Under (Day 31 & 32)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We woke up super early (before sunrise) to make the bone jarring 1.5 hour drive through Warroora Station into Coral Bay to meet up with our Marine Ecotour. We saw many kangaroos out and hopping along the road. Poor Kris was having to play dodge the roo.

When we finally got into town (right at 8am), we found out that our tour had not met the minimum number of people to go. They had emailed us earlier that morning to let us know, but we were already on the road and didn't have a way to check email anyway. They offered to move us to a 3 hour turtle sanctuary and snorkeling excursion leaving at 12:30pm instead. I have to be honest. I was very disappointed.  I had done a lot of research at home months before and determined that the marine ecotour excursion offered the most value for our money. I largely had based our entire Western Australia itinerary on this excursion too.  Kris and I had already snorkeled with amazingly large turtles in Maui for free.  I doubted any turtle excursion could top it - ever. The tour we had originally booked also talked of viewing whales, dugongs (manatees/sea cow), turtles, and other large marine creatures in addition to swimming with the manta rays (the real draw). We hesitantly agreed to go on the turtle expedition largely because we wanted to do something, and it was all they were offering us. We did get a refund for the difference between the original tour and the turtle tour.

We had some time to kill while waiting for 12:30 in the afternoon, so we went to find alternate lodging for the evening. We were glad to have experienced a farm stay, but we were not about to drive on the roads to Warroora Station again. Can you imagine shaking for an hour and a half as you ride down the road? It wasn't something we wanted to experience a third time. Luckily, the People's Caravan Park had a site for us with a view of the beach. We lazied around a bit, made lunch, then went to join our excursion.

There were only eight of us on the boat trip along with the captain and skipper.

The first stop was the turtle sanctuary. We saw two smallish turtles swim underneath the glass bottom boat. I am still surprised that we didn't see more turtles in the turtle sanctuary. The advertisements say things like, "watch turtles grazing on seagrass in their native environment." Unfortunately, we didn't get to see turtle chow time.

The next stop was a section of coral reef where people could snorkel. They gave you two options - do a guided swim a distance away to see an area where sharks go to get their teeth cleaned by cleaner fish or snorkel between certain boundaries on your own. After I heard the word shark, I took option three - stay on the boat huddled in my jacket and watch whatever happened to pass underneath the glass bottom of the boat. I saw a lot of coral and fish and another turtle.

Kris enjoyed the snorkel. He's brave. You couldn't have paid me to get into that water after our guide said shark unless there was an impressive sea mammal (manta ray, whale, whale shark, dugong, seal, sea lion, etc.) in the water. In my little world, ignorance is often bliss. I honestly had every intention of snorkeling until they mentioned the sharks. Just the fact that sharks definitely hung out in the area where we were anchored meant I would not be participating. I would have had the same reaction if they had mentioned a man-of-war.

When everyone got back on the boat, they served fruitcake and lukewarm tea and coffee to help warm them up.

Our next stop was a shallower part of the reef. This didn't look like anything special from the glass bottom. It was just some grouper and other non-colorful fish. I opted not to go in again. I was still freaked out. Afterall, there are still sharks out there you know. Kris said the snorkel was even more impressive, but you had to move far away from the boat. He got some nice photos.

I wound up seeing a lot of the types of things he saw through the glass bottom boat while we made our way back to shore. Parts of the coral on the south end of the Ningaloo reef are quite special. It's nice how the glass bottom boats can hover over the reef.

Our tour boat

So, for me, the $75 per person wasn't worth the money. The extra hour for the turtle sanctuary was unfortunately a waste of funds. But Kris enjoyed himself. The $75 was worth it for him.  If you are debating what trips to take, don't do the turtle one. Do a two hour glass bottom boat tour that includes snorkeling. You'll save $25 and will still see turtles.

After our tour was complete, we decided to walk the shoreline to the other side of Coral Bay to the shark sanctuary. Kris found a baby reef shark. We also got to see a few manta rays while standing on shore.

Manta ray

We contentedly watched the gorgeous sunset over the stunning waters of Coral Bay before heading back to prepare dinner. I don't think I'd ever get tired of staring at that water.

Monday, July 15, 2013
We have just over a week left to this remarkable vacation. I'm saddened by this. I don't know if a month has ever gone by so quickly.

After one last peek at the beach of Coral Bay, we headed back toward Carnarvon. Parts of Carnarvon had the most enticing aroma. It smelled like a mixture of wood smoke and citrus.

The Gascoyne region is known for producing 80% of the fruits and vegetables for Western Australian, and many of the farms/plantations have roadside stalls or plantation shops where you can buy fresh fruits and veggies or products made of the fresh fruit and veg.

You can also see a giant Humpty Dumpty (pre fall).

We'd been craving some fresh fruit, so we decided to visit a few plantation shops. Our first stop was at Bumbak's Farm for some amazing banana smoothies. The Carnarvon bananas are small bananas that are quite sweet and taste as bananas should. These bananas make one heck of a smoothie. I bet they'd make some stellar banana bread. We also bought salsa for Kris and an orange for me. Kris really likes the salsa (no tomatoes).

Our next stop was at a roadside stall with some difference produce. We bought a bag of bananas, an avocado, and a giant zucchini.

We passed the big banana advertising the small Carnarvon lunchbox bananas.

Speaking of big...towering in the Carnarvon sky sits the OTC Dish (dubbed the 'Big Dish'). 87 feet in diameter, this dish was important for global communications from 1966 to 1987. It was used by nine space agencies - including NASA. We got up close. The sucker is huge!

After leaving the Big Dish, we made a quick detour to the Chinaman's Pool which used to be the town's source of fresh water. Now it's a popular swimming hole.

Most of our meals this trip have been granola bars, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grilled cheese, or pasta. We had some extra time today, so we decided to go shopping at Woolworth's to get items so we could cook up some grilled chicken tacos. We figured they would go well with my avocado and Kris's salsa.

We got the ingredients, checked into the Coral Coast Tourist Park (we were there on the way up to Carnarvon too), and Kris got use a full-fledged Aussie barbie. The food was awesome!

We wanted something sweet after lunch, so we went to Morels Farm for ice cream. I got the chocolate covered custard apple, and Kris got a chocolate covered sapote. (A sapote is type of fruit that actually tastes a bit like chocolate. It's in the persimmon family.)

Bellies full, we went over to Pelican Point to walk around and get a good view of the One Mile Jetty. I caught some people breaking the rules. No dogs on the beach, but they had dogs. Don't drive past this point, but they did. Silly people.

We decided to go see the One Mile Jetty up close, so we headed toward the entrance which exists next door to the Jetty Train Museum & Shearer's Hall of Fame.

After determining that we didn't want to pay to walk the longer-than-a-mile jetty, we opted to walk into town and along the fascine.

After walking awhile in the heat of the day, we opted to head back to our lodging - Coral Coast Tourist Park - to relax and/or read. I finished Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia.

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