Living in a Marsupial World
 
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Turquoise Bay, Cape Range NP
Successfully restocked and needing to get moving down the coast, we left Karratha for a bit more atmosphere. We had heard from numerous Australians and travelers that the small town of Exmouth was definitely worth a look, so we made it our next destination. The town itself is nice, but not exactly what we had expected. It had been described to us as an old port town, but was instead situated further inland and didn’t really exude any “oceanside town” vibes. However, Cape Range National Park, just a few kilometers away, did stretch along the coastline and was absolutely spectacular. In terms of land planning it felt like they had set up the town a bit haphazardly and saved the best parts of the peninsula for the national park. 


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Ready for action.
All along the coast the park had at least 9 different beachside camping areas as well as entry points for snorkeling the adjacent Ningaloo Reef, which is famous worldwide as a spot to swim with the great whale shark and manta ray. Obviously for these activities one needs to book a tour, but there was plenty of awesome marine reef life to see just by walking into the water and swimming out about 50 meters. Certain areas were designated as areas for “drift snorkeling” where the tide takes you along the reef from one sandbar to another. Turquoise Bay was one of these locations and it was where we spent our day at Cape Range. Unfortunately it was a bit windy and chilly, but that didn’t stop us from venturing out into the crystal blue waters. We also only had two sets of flippers and one snorkel mask between the three of us, so Ben purchased a $3 set of children’s snorkel facial wear for the day. He wowed the beach crowds with his fashionable eye turtles.


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Men of action, back in action.
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Eugene H. Krabs, owner of the Krusty Krab.
Meanwhile, cruising along the reef, Devin found himself in the company of several black-tipped reef sharks casually clumped together, but wisely left the area when they became a bit too curious. Since I was without snorkel equipment, I walked through the water still able to look down at the schools of bright, large silver fish following me and waiting for handouts. Another fabulous thing we observed was fish surfing – more than once we watched as a large reef fish would ride the top of the incoming wave across the water towards the beach. Righteous!


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A rare Australian amber ale, from Little Creatures
That evening we enjoyed the fabulous sunset on the dunes near our campsite along with a few of our favorite Australian microbrews. The next morning, we decided to move on to the tiny coastal town of Coral Bay, another recommended spot, where we had been told we could do a bit of free beach camping (and more snorkeling).

Coral Bay was incredibly tiny, the whole town mainly comprised by the two caravan parks and a few tour shops. The surrounding beaches were pristine, with most locals and visitors sticking to Bill’s Bay accessible right from the main street. We spent our first afternoon here, enjoying the warmer weather and water, spotting sting rays and even a cuttlefish which instantly became transparent, squirted ink, and shot away as soon as Devin’s underwater camera entered the water! 


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He can fly, he can fly, he can fly!
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Bill's Bay at Coral Bay
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Paradise Beach
The next day we ventured around the southern point of the bay, far from the crowds, to the gorgeous Paradise Beach. We were shocked but thrilled that we had this fantastic strip of snorkeling real estate all to ourselves! We had rented snorkel gear for all of us at a really cheap rate, so without hesitation we flew into the crystal waters to visit the fishies. There were some incredible fish along this part of the Ningaloo, parrotfish, angelfish, pink snapper, and many that we had never seen before. This reef seemed to be brimming with giant clams, and we had a blast duck diving to pester them. While swimming along a shallow point, only inches from the rock bed below, I alerted Ben that his unmentionables were dangerously close to a giant clam mouth he happened to be floating above. With that disaster averted, we spotted a cluster of four or five cuttlefish hovering a few meters away and instantly changing color as they moved near different types of rock and coral. Ben spent much of the afternoon fly-fishing the reef, unfortunately without much success due to the winds, but still in an unbeatable, beautiful location. 


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After soaking in far too much sun, we retreated to a northern point of the Coral Bay area known as Maud’s Landing. Fairly isolated, you needed to drive a ways down a dirt road to get there, and after speaking with a few backpackers that morning, determined it would be a good, safe place to guerilla camp. We nestled our tents among the dunes to stay out of sight and left our car at the parking area on the top of the hill. The beach next to where we camped was also a turtle rookery. It was just in the beginning of egg-laying season, so there were no turtles spotted, to our dismay. Just after sunset as we were sitting along the coast, I spotted a weird fin shape jutting out of the water in the surf. It disappeared, but minutes later we saw it again and realized it was a 3-4 foot reef shark! We followed it for a few meters as it coasted right along the edge of the water, so close that it seemed it was at risk of beaching itself. 


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This seagull totally has an eyebrow. But just one. He must be up to no good.
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Devin works on his Karate Kid impression
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We awoke to watch the sunrise the next morning, had breakfast on the beach, and packed up before any day visitors arrived. We then continued our journey south, ready for our next wwoofing adventure we had scheduled on an island in Shark Bay.


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