Cape Range National Park
Near Exmouth in Western Australia is Cape Range National Park which is known for its fringing coral reef 260km. Blessed by the warm Leuwinn current which runs southward, it creates the ideal condition for corals which results in one of the longest fringing coral reefs in the world. In fact, the reef in some places are only a hundred metres from the shore with plenty of corals all the way out as well. So it is a heaven for beach snorkelers. Together with Ningaloo reef, it is part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage site.
There are quite a number of beaches to try out including the famous Turqoise Bay which is picture postcard perfect. One thing you can only try at Turquoise Bay is drift snorkeling. This is where you swim out to where the current starts and then let the current drift you north over the coral bombies. The only thing you have to watch out for is to stop at the sand bar. This is where sometimes there are strong currents and you would want to avoid that. Otherwise, it’s so relaxing you don’t even realize how quickly you move along the beach.
However, our all time favourite spot is Oyster stacks. It’s a kind of rocky outcrop which is only suitable for snorkeling in high tide but it was unbelievable. Rainbow Wrasses, large Parrotfish, Butterflyfish, Gobies, Rockcods, even Stingrays! However, the tides made it tricky and we ended up only going to Oyster stacks once. I didn’t know this but the tides changed quickly enough such that for every other day in the week we were there, it was either too early in the morning or late at night.
In addition to snorkeling and swimming, we also drop in on Yardie Creek Gorge. Located about 38km south, once you enter the National Park, it’s the only gorge in the area that contains water trapped by a huge sandbar at the end that prevents water from flowing out. It is beautiful with its deep blue waters and red coloured limestone cliffs. I don’t remember the last time we were told the water flowed out into the ocean but it would have to take a lot of rain for that to happen. There were also people fishing off the side and I wished we had brought our fishing rods!!
Of course with the gorge and water, there was also a boat cruise which lasted about an hour. We didn’t go very far due to the shallowness of the water but puttering along at a snail’s pace, it was a nice way to take in the views. On the ride, we were introduced to the Black Footed Rock Wallaby. Being only about half a metre tall, they are much tinier than I thought compared to the red kangaroos and unless they were pointed out to you, they could have easily been missed. They blended easily into the cliffs but once you know what to look for, we had fun trying to spot and count them with the binoculars. They are not in abundance (rated as vulnerable) and over here are one of the few habitats left to them.
Of course, where there is a gorge, there is also a walk. It starts off pretty easy just walking along the top of the gorge’s vertical walls but got a bit more challenging later on with its ups and downs. It took us about an hour in the end and we were amply rewarded by the view.