Exmouth reminded us of a post-apocalyptic world where the dust had finally settled and the surviving population had finally gotten its sh*t together and started to rebuild, creating a tropical paradise in a desolate, red-sanded wasteland.
Everywhere you look, there's orange-red, dusty sand. Throw in the sporadic palm tree and a beautiful coastline, and you have Exmouth (as well as greater northern WA...).
You drive in after hours on the bush-flanked highway and think, "where are we??" ...And then you get to the water.
The water in Exmouth, which envelops the spectacular Ningaloo Reef, is beautiful, turquoise and very clear. (We'd heard it one-upped the GBR and, after seeing both, we'd have to agree!)
We’d picked up a map in the visitor centre and saw that there was a surf beach. On the way to check it out, Mike said, “what if this is just like a perfect, overhead paradise wave.” I smiled, hoping there would at least be some swell.
Well, we arrived and it was exactly what he’d hoped it would be. Clear water breaking off the rocky shore.
Apparently there hadn’t been a decent swell for a year?! Talk about right place at the right time.
After surfing, we headed to the caravan park where we’d stay for the night. We swam in the pool while our laundry ran and then drank beers next to the van while it dried. Van life isn’t so bad.
The next day, we were picked up by the tour group that would take us out to swim with whale sharks. We already knew that swimming with whale sharks is amazing after our less-than-ideal experience in Philippines. So, we were taking a second crack at it.
This time, it would be responsible, aiding in conservation efforts for the massive fish. Unfortunately, because we're still in Australia, that also came with a hefty price tag.
Our first stop of the day was the inner Ningaloo Reef for a snorkel, mainly to test out the rented equipment before jumping in with the sharks.
Then, it was finally time!
Because they’re not feeding them or anything, the sharks don’t come to you, you have to find them. Luckily, there are spotter planes flying above that see the whales and let the boats know where to go.
We found one quickly, in the first five to 10 minutes, and before we knew it, we were sitting on the back platform of the boat about to jump in. Unlike the whale sharks we'd seen in Philippines, these were healthier and faster. They were all juveniles, about 4-7m long. That sounds big, until you realize that whale sharks can grow up to 12 m long! Those are the ones we hope to run into on a future dive.
It was wonderful swimming with three different wild whale sharks. (Key word: wild!) We also saw a bunch of dolphins, a few green sea turtles and a giant manta ray from the boat.
Overall, a great day out on the water that made Exmouth an even more memorable stop.
All underwater photos taken by MJ of Little Wave Photography - check her out!