Tag Archives: whale

Carnarvon – Western Australia

Sometimes it’s nice to holiday in your own country. I have always been a big believer in exploring one’s own country before yearning to see the rest of the world. I have been somewhat lucky in life as I grew up in a family that worked in rotating roles so travel was not uncommon as a kid. Subsequently, I found myself in my own transitional role as a writer in outback Australia. Being opportunistic, this was my chance to see some of the beautiful places and experience some of the amazing things this sunburnt country, Australia, had to offer, right from my backdoor.

Another traveller checking out the hot springs, east of Carnarvon.

First, in my lineage of four hour drives to meet random destinations, was Carnarvon. This is where I had my home and was my centre of operations for a number of years. From there I could make a trip to some of Australia’s and the world’s most idyllic destinations such as Coral Bay, Exmouth with the Whale Sharks, Karijini National Park and the coastline along the Ningaloo Reef. All of which were within a five hour drive.

To start, Carnarvon, as a home, is only a small town reliant on the fishing and tourism industries. Most of the towns along this western strip of Australia are built around those two industries. However, Carnarvon is rapidly becoming a fruitbowl industry with its massive banana plantations and great crop-wielding soil. Carnarvon markets itself on this aspect by hosting premier black tie country events such as the Taste of the Gascoyne and other such food-inspired celebrations which generally fall around harvest season.

The town has a perfect layout of one main street with the age-old hotels and pubs lined along the wide streets, and has a number of cafes and restaurants. At the end of the main street is an amazing view of the marina, which backs on to the main part of town and is lined with palm trees. The best place for a ‘surf and turf’ (fresh prawns on steak) is the Gascoyne Hotel which a lot of the notable locals drink and eat at most nights. However there is also the Crab Shack for fresh seafood and the Harbour Side Cafe to drink at. For a place to stay, the Wintersun Caravan Park is one of the largest and nicest in the area and caters for people needing on site accommodation, or just power.

Another great place to visit is the Gascoyne Aboriginal Heritage and Cultural Centre, located at the entrance to the main part of town. It gives visitors an insight into the indigenous cultures of the area and gives you an idea as to the history of the area and its origins. The Heritage and Cultural Centre always plays host to various artwork provided by indigenous elders, all of which have a story of the area.

The Gascoyne is also popular because of the Gascoyne Dash, a premier desert racing event. My personal favourite event is the Carnarvon Cup, a horse racing event which has the prestige of world class racehorses from Victoria, Dubai and the UK flocking to this little country town to compete for the Cup. It is an amazing event with fashions on the field and a great social atmosphere.

Ningaloo – Western Australia

Prawn trawlers rolled into a fog-laden marina as we ventured out just before sunrise to see the spotted cows of the sea. This is Exmouth, about nine hours north of Perth on one of Australia’s most western tips. Our voyage was set for a spot a few hours from the marina where Australian shelf drops and shallow meets the deep dark waters of the East-Indian Ocean. image.adapt.1663.medium.jpg

This area we were exploring was the Ningaloo Reef, a UNESCO heritage listed area due to it being Australia’s largest fringing coral reef. Amongst the amazing diversity the reef offers, from colourful coral to a crayon box full of colours of vibrant fish, are the whale sharks, which draw tourists from around the world. Hundreds of whale sharks come to the reef between march and june to feed on the large volumes of spores released from coral. Despite being called a shark, they are a class of fish, the biggest of their kind and feed exclusively on fish. Their size averages around 10 – 12 metres and are a phenomenal sight to see with their speckled spots and graceful moves.

After my swim with these gracious beings we travelled in to the shallower end of the Ningaloo Reef, which spans more than 250 kilometres, to dive and view the populated reef culture. There are some amazing fish, octopus, sharks and huge manta rays that come and greet viewers as they go about their busy lives like traffic in a bustling city. It’s not hard to see where Finding Nemo’s creators got their inspiration from.

There are plenty of tour companies to organise the whale shark tour through. I decided to go with Three Islands Tours who provide food and great gear and were nice enough to provide photos.

Coming back from seeing the world underwater hooked me on seeing more underwater biodiversities along Western Australia. There are times when I have not been able to hire any dive gear but have had to use a mask and snorkel, which for areas like coral bay, is more than enough if you go in the water with bread. The tropical fish come from everywhere to eat it.

Exmouth – Western Australia

According to the lovely couple managing the caravan park I stayed at in Exmouth, the town triples in size between March and May because of the whale sharks. It is amazing to see that the industry of an entire town can turn on the back of a giant fish. Still, this town is an amazing little seaside getaway from everything else in the world. It is no wonder people come here to retire.

Just in case you have never seen a Wicked Van, they all have murals spray painted on them. They are very popular on the western coast
They’re proud of their industry in this neck of the woods

In my previous post on the Ningaloo Reef it is easy to see why people come to holiday and never leave. The caravan parks fill up, motel and hotel signs display ‘no vacancy’, and the Wicked Vans are parked on side streets or in parks with weary travellers sleeping inside.

While tourism is a fundamental aspect of this town, chances are if you have ever eaten a prawn in Australia; then it was from Exmouth. The same goes for soft shell crab, of which there is a huge farm east of Exmouth that breeds crabs genetically raised with a soft shell and exports them as a foreign delicacy. This sleepy little town is also a major supplier of pearls, with the millionaire family Kailis ruling the roost on pearl farms and prawn trawlers.

1914329_149449856046_1182789_nDriving into Exmouth is scenic at the worst of times as it is etched into the bay side area with stooping hills lingering behind the town. On the drive in tourists are quickly familiarised with the strong defence presence with an air force base near the entrance and satellite system on the other side of the road. The town itself was built to support the American Navy centre just north of Exmouth, of which is host to an eclectic base with a baseball pitch, bowling alley and diner. This is built next to the communications towers, which are the strongest in the southern hemisphere.

Plenty of wildlife around

On the southern side of the town is the premiere Ningaloo Novotel Resort, which caters for the more classy visitors. As far as hotels go this one has had careful planning as staff showed me where plants native to other areas of Australia had been imported specifically to provide a full Australian feel in one place. The resort backs onto the beach with a pool in the centre of it. Essentially it is just a more luxurious version of everything else, and still backing the beach.

I spent time as a kid in Exmouth, going to school, cycling through the main street and learning to surf and fish on the weekends. I have always had a soft spot for the place but whenever I visit it is hard to see it as so many tourists do. Perhaps after travelling the world, seeing city after city, sight after sight, I will be able to come back and appreciate the beach dynasty that has long left its print on this beautiful part of the world.