Stations of Ningaloo Marine Park
… or … Swimming with Whale (and other) Sharks
Avoiding the start of the school holidays, the Sparewheel and I decided to take some time exploring what I call “The Stations of Ningaloo” i.e. a trip that would including staying on each of the pastoral leases along the Ningaloo Marine Park.
This marine park protects the world-famous Ningaloo Reef – Australia’s largest and most accessible fringing reef – certainly much easier to get to compared with the Great Barrier Reef, with options to camp right on the coast, with coral gardens a swim off the dazzling white sandy beaches.
Stretching 300 kilometres, the Ningaloo Marine Park begins at Bundegi Reef in the Exmouth Gulf, skirts around North West Cape and ends at the southern gateway to Australia’s Ningaloo Reef at Red Bluff (north of Carnarvon). It extends 10 nautical miles seaward and encompasses over 5,000 square kilometres of ocean. There is rumour that Parks and Wildlife will resume 4kms of coast along the reef, which will no doubt change the accessibility in some cases for the better and in some cases more restrictive.
Have stayed many times in Cape Range national park, we elected to start our trip south of that on the first station – Ningaloo, camping on the beach at South Lefroy Bay. Snorkelling was good but not great, but “ah, the serenity”. This has to be one of the cheapest station stays at $20 pp for 4 nights, or $35 per week. Unfortunate, that translates into semi-permanent “Rooster” who squat for months on end – in an area with absolutely no facilities, and consequent impact on the environment. Fortunately, we were early in the season and only had to share the beach with ½ dozen or so others.
The next station south is Cardabia Station which doesn’t appear to have any camping, but does hold the famous Coral Bay. Here our son “Thing 2” joined us for a few days and we went out on a Whale Shark dive/swim on the most perfect of days weatherwise – the experience is best described in two words – astonishingstarastoundingstarawesomestarbreathtakingstarfantasticstarincrediblestar
Next south is Warroora Station (pronounced Warra), which has a number of camping spots – the northern area (14 mile) was full of Roosters, so we ventured south of the homestead and enjoyed absolute solitude overlooking the beach at “Toms Lookout”. Snorkelling here in the shallows I encountered another sharks within a couple of metres – at first, I was convinced is at least 2m and had mal-intent, but the next day, after good sleep, reality dawned that it was probably only a 1.5 m harmless reef shark, so I went looking for him again to take some photos.
Next south is Gnaraloo Station, which is by far the best of them. The camping area is only about 40km as the crow flies from Warroora, but the road between the stations is closed/non-existant, so we had to head inland, south then north – a trip of 300kms! Most frustrating. Gnaraloo Bay on the north side of the station is one of the finest beaches anywhere, and the camp site at 3 mile had a coral lagoon within 50 metres of our campsite. Hot showers, fluhing loos, and a Hotel Hilton too.
We took a slow 20kms coastal track from here to Red Bluff, on Quobba Station, which marks ther southern extremity of the Ningaloo Marine Park. Great beach, great snorkelling and I’m told the best fishing.
What a trip, and a must-do-again for us. See it while you can. For some useful links to stations and other attractions in the area see here … https://ultimatepigpen.wordpress.com/urls/exmouth-region/