We left Wooramel early the next morning and went into Carnarvon for breakfast. While we were sitting having breakfast, we looked through some brochures we had picked up at the Information Centre and discovered there was a Space Museum on the edge of town on what had been a Space Tracking Base for the Mercury and Apollo missions for NASA. It was an interesting mix of facts, entertainment and even kitsch. We all had a fun time there for about an hour. And then, I added Tim and Moira to my photo just because I could!
Our first two-night stay was at Coral Bay in a motel unit that was on the hill at the back of the caravan park, so it had a view out to the ocean through the palm trees. We had a lovely BBQ with Time and Moira on the first night and a great meal at Bill’s the second night. The sunset from our unit was quite special.
During the first morning there, we had a good look around this small village that is mostly tourist resorts and associated businesses. There was some wildlife, a port with a boat ramp, a bay with places for anyone who wanted to be in or by the sea, and even some wind turbines that only had two blades.
One of our touristy tours, which we had booked, was a 2-hour glass-bottomed boat journey that included snorkelling within the reef on Ningaloo Bay. It was a beautiful day and we set out at 1.30pm. There were six passengers – an older couple who, would you believe come from Griffith, grow grapes for Bill Calabria and live about ten minutes away from where Peter grew up! A small world! The others were two lovely young women, who had been supposed to go on a turtle swimming tour, but it had been cancelled so they came on ours instead. One of them was an absolute turtle fanatic and it was also her birthday.
The reefs in this bay have been destroyed by a natural disaster. The last spawning was trapped in the bay by a cyclone and pushed in towards the shore forming a blanket on the surface of the water so thick it excluded light and allowed the coral to be invaded by algae that is killing it. As well, within the same time, they had an extended period of heavy rainfall and the erosion from the surrounding shoreline hills laden with minerals also clouded the waters for weeks. The formations of the coral were still there, and this particular fringe reef is fairly neutrally coloured, so not colourful anyway. The variety of the formations was immense. There was still a wide variety of marine life present, and we could see them swimming every which way through the glass bottom. It was fascinating viewing. The photos were taken through the green glass of the boat which doesn’t show the true colours of the reef currently, that is a dull brown because of the algae There are some small patches of colour showing through but sadly, not much.
We stopped for snorkelling. I gave it a go, but my weak legs meant I couldn’t use the flippers so once I was in the water, I felt helpless and had to be helped back into the boat. The two young people, the skipper and the tour guide were so understanding and helpful. Peter went in for a short while but struggled to use the snorkel, so he came back on board. While the other four continued, we sat and chatted with the crew and discovered all kinds of things we had in common.
We sailed out across the bay a little further and the other four snorkelled while we watched from the boat. They came back on board and we were about to turn for shore when the young female tour guide (who is a qualified marine biologist) spotted a large turtle breaking the surface of the water about 50 metres in front of the boat. The young guy driving the boat moved in a little closer and quite suddenly we found out the reason for the turtle’s behaviour. It was being menaced by a Tiger shark.
We followed the pair of them for about the next 25 minutes. We all experienced a huge range of emotions. It was exciting, but also frightening to see how easily the shark could circle around this large turtle, slashing its shell quite viciously. Over and over the turtle escaped and was still able to swim quickly away. Several times we thought the shark had given up and we cheered as we thought the turtle might just escape, but a few minutes, back it would come, circling it, pulling it under then releasing it. We all felt that the shark was not hungry and was playing a “cat and mouse” game with the turtle. At one point, the shark swam right under the boat!
Eventually, after about 25 minutes, the turtle seemed to escape. A great cheer went up from all of us on board. Even though we realised it was a natural part of the ‘Circle of Life’, it was still great to see the prey escape. We can only hope that the predator gave up on its game and left the bay. We estimated he was about three metres long!
It was certainly an unexpected addition to our glass-bottomed boat tour and one we won’t ever forget.
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