Exploring Exmouth, Western Australia
Exmouth in Western Australia is remote. It is a small, coastal town situated on a hot, dry, cyclone prone peninsula.
Much of the cape is protected and has UNESCO World Heritage status. The Cape Range National Park covers the western half of the peninsula and the Ningaloo Marine Park protects the Ningaloo Reef, Australia’s ‘other’ barrier reef. In addition, there are smaller reserves along the coast, which means there is plenty to see and do.
Game fishing is very popular. Exmouth has a marina and there are several public launching points along the coast. Most fishing is done from boats along the Ningaloo Reef and in the Gulf to the east of the cape. These can be hired or chartered as can all the necessary fishing gear.
It is important to become acquainted with the restrictions and regulations, as they are different for different stretches of the coast. In the designated reserves, fishing is forbidden altogether to protect the endangered flora and fauna and the fines are hefty.
For those who’d rather observe, snorkelling is another popular activity. It requires minimal equipment and there is an abundance of things to see. In addition to the coral gardens, there is a wealth of marine life to observe. It is not uncommon to see stingrays, manta rays and mask rays as well as reef sharks and other large fish.
Whale Sharks, the largest fish in the ocean and quite harmless, congregate along the Ningaloo Reef during June to October. It is possible to dive and/or snorkel with these graceful leviathans. This is mostly done as an organised tour as this activity is tightly controlled.
Whales and dolphins also make the reef their home. You can spot them from the shore but to get up close and personal you will need to take an escorted tour. Like the whale sharks, their presence is often seasonal and is dependent on the species.
Explore the Cape Ranges
Heading inland to the Cape Ranges brings its own rewards. Heat, naked rock and scrub create a landscape in the raw. Flash floods, intermittent streams and creeks have carved out deep canyons in the soft sandstone. Few roads head into this wilderness and for most, you will need to hire a four-wheel drive vehicle.
However, if you’d rather explore on foot there are several marked hiking trails of varying difficulty that explore the Cape Range. Often these will pass through areas where you will see some of the wildlife of the area. Heed the warnings about water, sunscreen and hats, as conditions can be extreme.
Sunset at the Vlamingh Head
At the northern tip of the Cape Ranges is the Vlamingh Head lighthouse. What better way to end a stay in Exmouth than to watch the sun setting in the west as you look along the Ningaloo Coast. It was once Australia’s most isolated lighthouse until World War II when an early warning radar, part of the defence against Japanese invasion, was sited there.
Dusk at Jurabi Beach Turtle Reserve
A short distance from the lighthouse is Jurabi Beach an important turtle nesting site. Arrive at dusk and you will have a chance to observe turtles laying their eggs or see hundreds of turtle hatchlings emerging from the sand and heading to the sea. Around the time of a full moon is the best time to see either of these events.
Exmouth might be remote but there is enough to keep anyone with an adventurous spirit happy. As with all adventure activities it is wise to check whether you are covered by your travel insurance.
Gordon Lethbridge is a travel writer and blogger who posts on http://www.travelunpacked.co.uk