October 13, 2018
Yardie Campground – Cape Range National Park
(Ningaloo Reef UNESCO Site)
Nowhere else in Australia is the coral reef so vibrant and healthy – and luckily for divers and snorkelers, so close to beaches. Turtles who left these beaches as hatchlings return 20 years later to dig deep holes and deposit up to 130 eggs.
Having said all that, the turtles who we heard were mating nearby must have had a sudden fit of shyness and were nowhere to be seen, and we are saving our snorkeling for a boat cruise next week.
But the stars! We have seen Mars, Saturn, Jupiter and Venus and the new moon this week. On one shivering middle of the night outing to the toilet – down the ladder, pad along the campsite road to the single toilet, no headlamp – I was once again overcome by the beauty and immensity of the stars and Milky Way. We mortals are but grains in the sand in the universe, yet we are each precious too.
Aside from the night sky the highlight was the Yardie Creek boat tour hosted by Peter Meier who has lived in Exmouth since childhood. The creek is separated from the sea by a sand bar at the mouth. Every 20 years or so a cyclone or storm opens up the mouth and floods the creek with salt water allowing fish to swim in and out, refreshing the water and creatures who live in the creek.
We saw rock wallabies scrambling along the cliff walls and a nest with a baby egret. One osprey nest still in use today was first documented in 1898! Clearly a valuable real estate property.
Yardie Creek is a birders paradise. The bower bird nests here too. Peter told the story of a local woman whose home backed on to the bush. She was outside cleaning her jewelry when the phone rang. A few minutes later as she returned several pieces had vanished. Knowing the male bower bird’s predilection for nest decoration she headed out to the bush and in a very nicely decorated nest found her missing jewelry.
Exmouth was home to a large defence base during WWII when Japanese planes were a danger to western Australia. From this area a team of Australian and British intelligence officers smeared with oil to make their skin brown and wearing Indonesian clothing sailed the Krait an Indonesian fishing boat into Singapore harbor, attached limpet explosives to ships and got out safely, destroying 37,000 tons of shipping and setting off a furious and fruitless Japanese investigation into which locals were responsible.
More beach swims, snorkeling for Celia and a tour of the outstanding Visitor Centre with an aquarium, cyclone room, reef photos and local history. Cyclone Vance in 1995 destroyed much of the town. At 290 km/hour (estimated) it had the highest recorded winds in Australia.
Celia treated us to a fine dinner at Whalers the night before we dropped her off at the airport Friday morning. The small one room gate at the airport was filled with Fifos, workers who fly in and fly out but live elsewhere.
Fun sighting – an emu casually wandering through the campground!