Incredible Coral Bay, Western Australia
My first trip of 2012 began on the 2nd January and consisted of a 12 hour road trip from Perth, Western Australia to Coral Bay.
With my wife and good mates Fredrico & Sasha (names changed for all government agencies out there) we took to the road at 8pm. Fredrico owns a single cab Toyota Landcruiser with a canopy on the back, loaded up to the nines with fishing gear, swags, fridges, cookers and a couple of wild turkeys. Actually a couple of slabs of Wild Turkey, which may not be as useful as the turkeys themselves if we broke down and needed to eat, or ride to a nearby town. Speaking of towns, I will tell you now that if you are in Perth, Western Australia and planning to drive for 12 hours north to coral bay, don’t expect to see many (towns or turkeys). This drive would have to be one of the most boring I’ve ever done, with the road being straight and flat for nearly the entire way. The landscape which we missed on the way up in the dark, we experienced on the way back, and I will say it is one I only need to see once. Small trees turn to shrubs, which then turn back to small trees and there is barely a hill or a bump for most of the drive.
On a positive note, my old mate Fredrico knew heaps about the few small towns on the way up which included the Hutt River Province, an actual country within Australia due to a cheeky cocky (farmer) from back in the forties who found a loophole in the law books and claimed his land exclusively as his own nation. Sadly it was midnight and we weren’t exactly on top of the province and we heard he has a large army of goats and boxing kangaroos so we thought it best not to bother him. Apparently though he is a great old chap who is getting on now but still stamps your passport before making you drink his home-brew and fight his kangaroos.
Another place to note on the way is of course Kalbari which is a small detour to the coast and a place I will be sure to make a halfway stop next time. The seaside town is famous for pristine beaches and great fish and many other things I cannot remember since my last visit was when I was 12. You may think this is a copout but since this is a post about Coral Bay I say you’ll just have to wait.
Driving through the night and keeping each other awake via the two-way radio, we reached a rest stop just outside Carnarvon by sunrise. Rolling out the swags and crashing out for a couple of hours before the morning sun warmed up, we recharged enough for the final leg. I would not recommend tackling the entire drive in one go, even with two drivers as we did on the way back. I will definitely include a stop overnight next time. Having said that, driving at night was largely a good idea, being cooler and quieter on the road, albeit for the kangaroos and foxes. Thankfully though, Fredrico drove up front and alerted us to any wildlife hovering by the roadside, I’m sure the Holden Viva would have turned in to an accordion if we hit something.
Passing through Carnarvon we tried to buy some bananas, the one thing the place is famous for, alas we did not find one farm selling them. Disgruntled and low on potassium we tackled the final stretch to arrive in Coral Bay. This one-street town is like an oasis after the 12 hours of shrubs and to see a pristine beach with ultramarine water makes it all worth while.
There are only a few options when it comes to accommodation in Coral Bay, being the back packers and a couple of caravan parks including the Bayview where options range from tent and caravan spots, to one bed villas up to multi-room dwellings. Prices are reasonable with a one bed villa with small kitchen and living room only $130 AUD per night for 4 adults. The living room has a single bed and trundle but being the bush boy that he is, Fredrico laid his swag out on the floor.
By the time we checked in it was close to 2 o’clock and over 30 degrees so we went down to the pool in the camp grounds and had a much deserved drink, which we were lucky to have the foresight to bring, since Coral Bay has no bottle shop. Fredrico devised a plan to load the ute up full of cartons on our next trip up here, a kind of black market import business where we can charge outrageous prices for liquor to unprepared campers.
With only a couple of days here in Coral Bay, we grabbed our snorkel gear and headed down to the beach. Ningaloo Reef runs from Coral Bay all the way up to Exmouth around 150kms north and is one of only a few places where the magnificent Whale Shark is known to frequent. Unfortunately for us, this mysterious creature can be found here from March to June so we had to entertain ourselves with the other marine life in the shallow reef off the beach. Parrot fish, Snapper, Stingrays and the odd turtle are frequent inhabitants amongst the giant purple and blue coral and sea grasses. My wife dived straight back into the snorkelling since her last time in Florida almost 18 months ago and calls it: “the best snorkelling I have ever done” largely due to the great coral and marine species as well as the reef’s close proximity to the beach.
Fredrico spent a lot of his time in the water worried about being taken by a tiger shark, especially after a dusk fishing session. Over near the Coral Bay boat ramp, we parked the 4×4 on the rocky headland in a spot we scoped out earlier in the day. The half-metre deep water was teeming with schools of fish that afternoon so we thought it a spot we couldn’t go wrong. On arrival at sundown, Jen and I followed some kangaroos and wild sheep along the cliff line. Fredrico and Sasha threw a line in and caught a small reef fish in seconds. Fredrico then peed into the shallow water and minutes later the pair witnessed a 1.5 metre tiger shark move in and circle the area below them. When we returned we threw a line in, the sun now set. We spent an hour casting out and received nothing, not even a bite.
We returned that night empty-handed, disappointed we were not feasting on the pink snapper we have been diving with, and resort to a diet of Wild Turkey. As any good camping trip needs, we spend the night playing UNO and board games. On our final day we do much the same, snorkelling and soaking up the sun and 30 degree weather. From the shark incident, Fredrico is not the same in the water and is furious when i inform him of my need to go (pee) in the water. With a final swim and no further shark sightings we say goodbye to our friends who continued on to Exmouth.
Coral Bay is an incredible place if you enjoy swimming, snorkelling and sun baking and for Jen (my wife) and I it was the perfect escape no matter how brief. If you need a bit more, Exmouth is the place to go with pubs, restaurants and better fishing. Sasha and Fredrico were lucky enough to witness the turtle egg laying season (January), where they saw 12 turtles slowly crawl on to the beach the second the moon came out. With Coral Bay providing a great escape, I know it will be a place I will return to again perhaps even this whale shark season.
Get in touch when you make it ‘down under’ my foreign friends!