Letho's Blog

Archive for Mai, 2011

Karijini National Park – day three

by on Mai.13, 2011, under Pilbara Region

Friday, 13th May 2011

On the third day it was Goodbye early in the morning since the other group was on a schedule and had to be back in Perth the following day. Fortunately, we could stay longer and after having gotten the reassurance from the visitor centre that we could climb into the gorges with a little bit of forecasted rain off we went again to the next gorge.

Kalamina Gorge was quite a relaxing track mostly flat through the gorge to the rock arch and in the other direction towards a little waterfall. The challenge was to find a dry way through the gorge since it was often flooded. But this only makes it more fun!

Joffre Gorge started off over the top of the waterfalls and the class 5 track led about 30 metres down to the bottom of the waterfall.

Here’s a view right from above the falls into the Joffre Gorge:

Interesting enough it just started to drizzle when we were on our way down – imagine how we felt climbing down on Friday the 13th…!! I know you didn’t expect anything else but all went well and we finished the walk being a little bit exhausted and filled with lots of great images of the landscape.

We decided to skip Knox Gorge and went back to Tom Price to get fuel and groceries and thinking we would leave the National Park to head north. After a chat with the information centre we decided to make the quite heavy detour and drive the dirt road to the Hamersley Gorge and it was the right decision! This gorge impressed us with its colours and shapes as well as having everything the heart desires – a gorge filled with water, small waterfalls, a pool to swim in and rocks to climb over – simply amazing.

Conclusion: I have to say this was the most amazing and fascinating National Park in terms of the beautiful scenery and challenging tracks that I have seen in Australia and (and in my life), I am already working on the plan to take it home to Germany! Awesome!

PS: Interesting enough one factor was incredibly bad – the camp spots. Actually not worth to be named camp spot; camping was hardly possible since the hard iron ore soil sabotaged all attemps to put pegs into it. A very frustrating experience and very much in contrast with the other experiences in the park.

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Karijini National Park – day two

by on Mai.12, 2011, under Pilbara Region

Thursday, 12th May 2011

Track number two into Weano Gorge followed the next day and consisted of a little longer part of class 4 walk through Weano gorge that was quite easy and pleasant and again avoided swimming through the water by climbing the rocks.

The class 5 track led through a small and a little slippery gorge sideways down a waterfall (fortunately, somebody had mounted a handrail) down to Handrail Pool where some of us took a bath.

This was followed by a rather adventurous trip on extremely slippery rocks that were along the rock walls in the water. Some of us had left some clothes at the pool because everybody expected to fall into the water since the track was so difficult but everybody made it back safe, sound and dry (except for the legs).

And back we went from Handrail Pool to the normal track:

We needed to cross the water part again when I thought why not take the other way and started climbing along the rock walls on the left followed by Sebastian:

After Weano Gorge we stepped onto one of the Lookout platforms and tried to figure out where we had been before:

A slightly less exercising but quite longer track was done in the afternoon in the Dales Gorge where we went down to the Circular Pool, through the beautiful Dales Gorge to the Fortescue Falls, further on to the Fern Pool and finally along the rim of the gorge back to the car park. What a great adventure and another successful day!

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Karijini National Park – day one

by on Mai.11, 2011, under Pilbara Region

Wednesday, 11th May 2011

Having started our trip Tuesday afternoon from Exmouth with one overnight stop we finally arrived at the little town Tom Price close to the Karijini National Park Wednesday afternoon after some exhausting 550 kilometres. Shopping and filling up petrol was quickly done and after a good lunch we drove the last 90 kilometres to the National Park.

Track number one was into Hancock Gorge – at the beginning with a quite easy class 3 walk and then down the ladder into the Gorge onto the class 5 walk / hike.

Up and down to the beautiful Amphitheatre with a little waterfall where we climbed along the rockwalls instead of wading / swimming through the water.

Through the Spider walk, a quite narrow part of the gorge to Kermits Pool, the end of the walk. Only well equipped and professionally guided tours have access to the part that lies beyond that point. Regans Pool that followed after Kermits Pool in the restricted area was named in honour of the rescuer Jim Reagan who was swept away by a flash flood being on a rescue mission in 2004.

On our way back it happened – somebody fell into the water.  But the camera was safe… : )

Größere Kartenansicht

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The Cape Range National Park

by on Mai.10, 2011, under Along The Coral Coast

May 10, 2011

On our last day some of us decided to take the opportunity and spend some final time at the Cape Range NP which takes up most of the Vlaming Head peninsula. We went all the way down to Yardie Creek Gorge and were surprised to find the probably most beautiful place in the whole national park.

We saw some nice wildlife, e.g. an Australian Osprey resting on a rock ledge, as well as a black-footed rock wallaby in an almost impossible location. Only itself knows how it got there and how to get off there. After all, it is a rock wallaby. 🙂

We did the Yardie Gorge Trail which involved some nice, but easy climbing over rocks here and there. More impressive than that were the views from the cliff ledges down into the gorge and as far as to the Indian Ocean:

See the following panorama for an overall impression:

Panorama of Yardie Creek Gorge

Panorama of Yardie Creek GorgeA

There’s a short clip, too:

Afterwards we took a few quick looks at Turqoise Bay and Sandy Bay. Very nice and pristine beaches, but we did not spend any time snorkeling or swimming. You can easily see the outer parts of the Ningaloo Reef since all the ocean waves break there:

After so much time at the Coral Coast of Western Australia we headed inwards back into the mainland for our next destination: the Karijini National Park.

The way to Karijini NP, accompanied by countless termite mounds

The way to Karijini NP, accompanied by countless termite mounds

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Coral Bay and swimming with whale sharks

by on Mai.09, 2011, under Along The Coral Coast

May 08, 2011

We woke up very early at the Warroora Station campground at 14 Mile Beach, intending to drive back to the nearby Coral Bay.

Quickly get away before the caretaker catches us .. :)

Quickly get away before the caretaker catches us .. 🙂

In Coral Bay we had breakfast and were soon ready to hop into the water for some great snorkeling. Only a few meters away from the beach lies what we came here for: the Ningaloo Reef. Similar to the Great Barrier Reef it is a coral reef stretching along the Western Australian coast from below Jurien Bay all the way up to Exmouth. This means we had almost been going along the coral coast all the time since we started in Perth a week ago!

Although the Ningaloo Reef is not as big as the Great Barrier Reef, it has a lot of spectacular marine life to offer: turtles, rays, sharks, dugongs and lots of tropical fish in its beautiful coral gardens. Coral Bay’s outstanding feature is that you can get into the water on one side of the beach, let the current take you with it and swim along the coral reef to the other side of the beach. It’s actually called „drift snorkeling“.

So we stepped into the crystal-clear water, negotiated some sandy areas, large patches of seaweed and finally arrived at the coral gardens only 100 meters or less away from the beach. Although not as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef (e.g. no swim-throughs or big coral walls) the ocean floor was covered all over with beautiful corals in all shapes and colours, without any disruptions and as far as our eyes could see. And we saw a lot of tropical fish, e.g. damsel fish, parrot fish, wrasses etc. We accompanied a lovely sea turtle for roughly 20 minutes swimming and grazing in the gardens, occasionally resurfacing for a fresh breath of air. We had no luck with rays or sharks today, however, this was a fantastic time in the water just as we had wished it to be at the Ningaloo Reef. 🙂

At noon we hit the road again to be in Exmouth in time to book a very special trip – see below. We had enough time to take a look at the Charles Knife Gorge where we drove along the rims of the gorge with some amazing views of the land- and seascape.

Charles Knife Gorge

Charles Knife Gorge

We took some panorama shots for you to enjoy, here’s the first one:

Charles Knife Gorge panorama no. 1

Charles Knife Gorge panorama no. 1

And the second panorama:

Charles Knife Gorge panorama no. 2

Charles Knife Gorge panorama no. 2

After arriving in Exmouth we hurried to research for the next big thing: boat trips where we could swim with whale sharks! We had already learned before that the trips would cost us much more than we had expected. On the other hand we reckoned that this was a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There are only a few spots in the world where you are allowed to swim with whale sharks, and we were exactly here at the best time of the year to do it.

Whale sharks aren’t really whales. In fact they are the largest fish in the world up to 18 meters long, therefore their name is derived from their unbelievable size. Although technically being sharks they pose no threat to humans: they employ a technique called filter feeding, very similar to whales, whereby microscopic food as e.g. plankton, krill or algae is extracted from the sea water via the shark’s gills.

We compared different companies, negotiated, waited for feedback and a few hours later we had booked our trip: one day on the Ningaloo Reef with a company called Ningaloo Reef Dreaming, including one scuba dive trip on the reef – and all that for the best price in town! That was after we informed them what their competitors in town had offered us before. 😉

We stayed at the Yardie Homestead in the Cape Range National Park for the night, eagerly waiting for our trip the next day.

May 09, 2011

We were picked up at Ningaloo Reef Dreaming headquarters early in the morning. On the way to the Tantabiddi beach (where all the other companies have their boats as well) we stopped shortly at the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse.

Also on the way was the „Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station“, a very large communication grid used to communicate with submarines in the Indian Ocean. Interestingly the facility’s towers are higher than 300 meters – that is higher than e.g. the Eiffel tower!

Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station

Harold E. Holt Naval Communication Station

We arrived at Tantabiddi Beach and were taken to our primary vessel in small inflatable dinghys:

The itinerary for the day was: scuba-diving first, then hunting for whale sharks. Thus we set up our scuba gear, were briefed and shortly after that arrived at the dive site:

The dive itself was really good fun: we saw not only lots of fish, but also turtles, a white-tip reef shark, a big ray with 1.5-2 meters wingspan and a tawny nurse shark. In our opinion we found scuba diving at the Great Barrier Reef to be more exciting, but then we had dived only at a single spot at the Ningaloo Reef.

One key-argument to choose Ningalo Reef Dreaming was that they have an own spotter plane:

The company's own spotter plane
The company’s own spotter plane

Meaning they don’t hire or share a plane with other companies. The plane’s only job is to detect sharks (big, dark, moving shades below the water surface) and notify the sea vessels. Back on the boat from the dive it took only minutes until one of the crew members shouted out: „Whale shark spotted!“ This was the signal for us to get ready ASAP. The vessel’s engines roared as it gained speed to get quickly to the shark’s location. As previously announced it was a hectic atmosphere: snorkelers getting in their gear, skipper and crew rushing to get to the desired location and spot the whale shark, instructors coordinating their efforts to direct the snorkelers…

And then we were in the right position to be dropped into the water. The spotter (a crew member swimming closely to the shark all the time) jumped in, then did we. What we saw next really blew our minds .. I was later in the water as almost everyone else. Crew members shouted at me to get out of the way and pointed to the water. When I looked through my mask and below the water surface, I encountered this 10 meter male whale shark swimming almost directly towards me!

After paddling away a bit I tried to follow the other snorkelers and the shark, but soon lost sight of the shark. After being picked up by the boat again, I was once more released into the water and in front of the shark. And this time I managed to get straight to the spotter’s right side – there was this giant fish peacefully floating along, and we with it. We swam with it for almost half an hour, enough time to very carefully observe every detail: the shark itself, its white speckles, the fish schools hiding under his belly or swimming next to him to gain some extra food from the shark’s leftovers .. an incredible experience and nearly indescribable!

We were picked up by the boat after some time. The shark was given to another boat of the same company in order to share the experience. And what happened? It dived down into the deep sea! 🙂 So it was gone at first, but soon rediscovered by the spotter plane. We had a second turn with the shark, and again we swam along with it for almost half an hour. This time I switched positions to observe it from its left side and its back. Again – an awesome experience!

After having spent a full hour (the maximum allowed per boat and shark) we „gave“ the shark to other companies. Now we finally realized how lucky we actually had been today: we were only 10 people instead of the usual 20 on our boat, so we could all jump into the water at the same time without waiting. Furthermore we were not only the first ones, but the only ones at this day to discover a whale shark. When we had already done a full hour of swimming with this gorgeous giant all the other companies and the snorkelers aboard were still waiting for their first look at a whale shark! Simply unbelievable. We later learned that the whale shark trips in the following days were all canceled due to bad weather – double luck for us. 🙂

We went for some final snorkeling on the reef:

We returned to Tantabiddi Beach, totally happy with our experience.

To complete an extraordinary day we made a good barbecue and drank a couple of beers, again at the Yardie Homestead.

Beer and Barbie

Beer and Barbie

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