Western Australia: Where adventure never ends

It took me embarrassingly long time to get to this post. Simply because I didn’t know how to start this wonderful story. Maybe introducing the changing sceneries I saw, the wild life I got near to or the new adventures I jumped into. Perhaps sharing all the hassle to actually get a visa or all the thankfulness to the person, who generously showed me his country.  In all scenarios, even for those very insufficient few days I had, Western Australia showed me a mesmerising world that I can’t wait to see more of one day soon.

I arrived in Perth on a very chilly early May morning. I knew autumn was just kicking in but still the change from hot Singapore to 9 degrees dawn was a bit shocking. Luckily in the next two weeks we had the most amazing hot and sunny weather, despite that the rest of the country was suffering severe rains!

Quickly we were on the road, chasing the Northern sunshine, on our way to great adventures. It took me few moments to believe I was actually here. Maybe because 10 hours ago I was almost on my way to Thailand as I still didn’t have that visa or because I actually got that visa and I was literary on this side of the world! Wild excitement was all over me when I spotted my very first kangaroo road sign, because, YEAH!, I made it to AUSTRALIA!

We had our itinerary planned already. Our ultimate goal was Exmouth, but before reaching it we had some 1,200 km packed of wondrous adventures to go through. So here we are, driving on the Indian Ocean Drive. (Isn’t this the best name for a road!) Craving for a coffee our first stop was Lancelin. We stopped at the cutest little café run by the kindest couple, that was just how I would have imaged a blissful Aussie beach town café. Of course, it was called the Lobster Trap! Creamy cappuccino and some raw energy balls later, we were heading to Lancelin Sand Dunes.

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The Sand Dunes were incredible! It felt like we were in the middle of a sandy desert but it was stunning how we could see the ocean in the distance.

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Of course we had to get a board and try sandboarding. I am really convinced it was the board’s fault, but sandboarding didn’t really word for me.

With sandy shoes (and pants) we left the dunes and headed to our next stop – the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.

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The Pinnacles in Nambung National Park.

Now this place was truly surreal. The change from the cold white sandy dunes to this open shining yellow desert, covered with thousands of mysterious limestone pillars of all shapes and sizes, was dramatic. It is incredible that these structures date back to some 30,000 years ago! We took a long stroll through this unique surrounding and we even spotted my very first emu!

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We headed back to the road and soon we reached our home for the night in Garaldton. It was too late and too dark to figure out where exactly we were. But I could feel the salty breeze and hear the ocean waves. And that was just enough.

The next morning we woke up early and headed on the road to Carnarvon on the N.W. Coastal Highway. (I love those roads’ names!) Reaching Shark Bay, we stopped to explore Hamelin Pool. Hamelin Pool is protected natural reserve that holds the most diverse examples of living fossils (stromatolites) in the world, representing life over 3,500 million years ago! Quite spectacular!

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Hamelin Pool

We continued our journey, passing Parallel 26 and we reached Carnarvon in the early afternoon. Carnarvon has such a peaceful vibe. A walk along the bay at sunset is a must as was having my very first Aussie pub dinner. What I found very cool about Carnarvon is that it produced 80% of WA’s fruits and veggies! The next morning, we went to check out one of the biggest mango and banana plantations. In love with everything mango, I ended up buying all sorts of mango jams and chutneys, as well as bags of the best dried mango! On our way back to Perth, we explored some more of the area, but more on that later.

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Carnarvon from above

Next on the agenda – Ningaloo reef. A true marine life paradise! Ningaloo reef is the largest fringing reef in Australia and actually one of the largest in the world. Home of whale sharks, humpback whales, manta rays, turtles, reef sharks, more than 500 fish species, over 200 corals species, hundreds types of molluscs, sponges and other living things I have no clue of. The 300 km long reef reveals a whole new world, only steps away from the beach. Our first stop to snorkel into this blue universe was at Coral Bay. Coral Bay welcomed us with wide sandy beaches and crystal clear water that tempts you explore. It took us exactly two steps into the shallow waters to meet some of the most graceful inhabitants of the bay – the colourful bluespotted rays! Snorkeling in Coral Bay, wandering through the soft sandy dunes and finding our own piece of beach heaven was simply an unforgettable experience. This however was just a warm-up for what was coming up in the next few days.

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After spending a wonderful sunny day at the beach we headed 150 km north to Exmouth. Exmouth is an adorable little town with such a laid-back, salty hair and sandy toes vibe. The people everywhere were incredibly chilled and friendly, as were the few emu birds we saw peacefully walking down the main street! We ended up having dinner at the Froth Craft Brewery. Unaware of the date we ended up on a Cinco de Mayo feast with dozens of Frida Kahlo, mariachis, burritos and colourful piñatas.

Exmouth biggest attraction for sure is meeting the biggest fish in the ocean – the spotty whale shark!  While the exact migration pattern of the whale sharks is still a mystery, Ningaloo reef is the only place on Earth where large numbers of these large creatures are known to visit every year from April to July. And we were lucky enough to be on this side of the planet exactly that time. We went on a whale shark tour with 3 Island Whale Sharks Dive and I would highly recommend it.

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We woke up quite early for the day and how could we not, knowing what a day was ahead of us! The 3 Island bus picked us up from our hotel and we headed to the other side of the peninsula where we boarded our boat. Soon after we started cruising through crystal waters, we were joined by three playful dolphins, that swam along with us, showing off some graceful spins! From our boat we also saw turtles and a ray but we knew the biggest adventure was just about to begin. First we had snorkeling warm-up to test our gear and to explore the beautiful reef below us. Hundreds of curious colourful fish, few Nemos and a reef shark later, we were back on board, preparing for our first whale shark randez-vous.

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Snorkeling in Ningaloo reef

We had our detailed whale shark code of conduct briefing and the big waiting begun. After nearly an hour the spotter plane above us gave us a signal that a shark has been seen and the boat was suddenly floated with buzzing excitement, perhaps mixed up with a bit of anxiety about what was about to happen. Snorkels and fins on and into the water! Following the crew’s instructions was vital to ensure that we don’t bother or interfere with Mr or Mrs Whale Shark own business in any way. Therefore, once we were given a signal to dive in, we were waiting on the side for the whale shark to pass us by so that we can either swim alongside it or behind it. Now this was the most important rule we had to remember, of course unless you meet a naughty whale shark who suddenly decided to change direction and looks right into the eyes those who were behind it just a second ago. And I mean ME here!!

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Our first whale shark

Although we were keeping a generous distance from the whale shark we could still appreciate how big these creatures are. Whale sharks can reach up to 12 m long and weight up to 20 tons! Still they were so graceful and so fast that it was so hard to keep up with them for long time. Because they are sharks, they can dive really deep, without the need to go above water. No one actually knows how deep they dive and no tracking system has survived the water pressure to actually measure the depth! Their spotted skin gives them a beautiful camouflage when the sun rays reflect in the water, although unfortunately as with most of this marvellous species, humans are their biggest treat… It is quite interesting that their spots act like fingerprints to humans – every single whale shark in the ocean has a unique spotty pattern!

We were lucky to swim with 4 beautiful whale sharks! It was once in a lifetime experience, that I still struggle to find the words to describe it! The whale shark swim was actually an early birthday present (one of many I need to say) and surely one of most memorable I have ever had. After these 4 intense and unbelievable encounters, we had a generous and well deserved lunch and an afternoon snorkel around the reef to finish this magical day! DSC_7574We had a dinner at Mantaray Beach Resort, which had a great open terrace and a lovely ambiance. On our way back to our hotel, we had a long stroll under the beautiful filled with so many stars sky. I was gazing at it with awe and wonder as if it was my first time seeing stars shine so bright. And then I realised it! I had never seen this sky! It was a whole new world and it was captivating.

 

The next day we decided to go back to the west side of the peninsula. We spent the day exploring the marine world and the sandy dunes of Turquoise bay. In the afternoon we went to Vlaming Head Lighthouse, just on time to admire the perfect sunset over the wide Indian ocean.

Our time in Exmouth was truly amazing and I could have easily stayed here weeks to explore more of its magical wonders. Time was upon us unfortunately and we had to head back south.

It wasn’t that unfortunate however, as the next pages of my wondrous book of WA adventures were quickly filling in. On our way back to Perth, we passed Carnarvon again. This time however we explored the Coral Coast from above!

A heli ride to a secluded beach with lunch and plenty of snorkeling spots to explore was next on the agenda and I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT! The scenery from above was spectacular. The contrast between the warm sandy dunes and the clear turquoise waters was breathtaking.  We landed at our own little bay, and embraced the peacefulness and beauty of this place to the fullest. 

IMG_3327Filled with excitement and adrenaline from the flight we headed back on the road.

We decided to power through the drive home and very late at night we arrived in Fremantle. The next day we had time to feel Freo’s bohemian vibe with its stunning beaches, colourful healthy cafes and creative street art.

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In the afternoon we went to Caversham Wildlife Park.  Being a total tourist, I was overly excited that I am going to see more of Australia’s unique animal world.

 

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Pretending to be a Joey at Caversham Wildlife Park

Koala bears of course being on top of my list. Frankie, our new koala acquaintance, was more interested in his daily eucalyptus leaves intake than us lovingly scratching his back, but still I was happier than a kid in a candy store!

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Kangaroos hop freely around the park with lots of kangaroo food around for us to grab and feed them!

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And make roo-slefies session , because how can you not!

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Along with kangaroos and koalas, we saw wallabies, wombats, snakes, lizards, cool birds and so many other curious species. We only didn’t see the hiding Tassie devil, buh oh well, I had one just right next to me 🙂  For dinner we went to the Raw Kitchen which was absolutely delicious!

The next day another amazing adventure was lining up and I couldn’t wait. We headed to Rottnest island, which is located only 18 km away from Fremantle. Rottnest island is a true paradise, with picturesque views, pristine beaches, crystal clear water, abundance of marine life and the gorgeous QUAKKAS!

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Riding a bike (preferably barefoot with snorkeling fins in the back) is the best way to explore the island, look for your favourite beach and meet the island unique inhabitants – the cute quokkas. You can imagine my excitement when we saw them!

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Quokka selfie – unsuccessful 

I can’t think of anything cutter than these always smiling creatures! They are often called the happiest animals on the planet and honestly how can they not be living on this perfect island!

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We cycled around the bays, stopped here and there for a swim with the fish, continued through the hills and quokka-abundant forests. I just can’t describe how beautiful this day was. Every single part of it.

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The only down side was that my time in Western Australia was very soon coming to an end, which is actually the hardest part to put on this white sheet. In those nearly nine months after this journey I often return to those blissful few days. Perhaps because every day was packed with unbelievable adventure or because I was way too spoiled in every second, it felt like I was in a parallel universe, where time, worries, past or future didn’t exist. Being present in the moment was all that mattered, because every moment was simply perfect.

On my last day, we had a walk around Freo’s arty markets, accompanied with some yummy brunch at Duck Duck Bruce.  It was soon time to head to the airport and to say Bye to Australia. But not Good Bye. Just until the next time. xxx

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