Rest Day - Coral Bay

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Today’s rest day has been much anticipated not just by me but by many on our trip as today is the day we go swimming with the whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef. For me it’s been a bucket list item for ages so it was with much anticipation that we set off by boat into the calm waters off Coral Bay to begin our day’s journey out on the ocean. No lycra to be seen!

Leaving a few of our crew behind to enjoy a relaxing day in the small Coral Bay community, the rest of us travelled the short journey to the reef to begin our first snorkelling experience of the day. Part of the logistics of getting to this point of the day was working out how a 2-armed wetsuit would work for me. The last thing I wanted was water pouring into an empty right sleeve. Thank goodness for gaffa tape. We were able to roll the sleeve right up and tape it together where it worked a treat all day!

The snorkelling on the reef was amazing. The water was mild and incredibly clear and allowed us to watch a myriad of fish both small and large, some blending into the colours of the reef and sand, while others shining brightly and almost fluorescently. The highlights though were the 4 reef sharks and huge stingrays that simply went about their business seemingly not noticing us at all floating on the surface above.

After 30 minutes in the water it was back on the boat and we headed out over the reef into the stunning blue waters of the Indian Ocean with one mission, to find whale sharks. It was a 2 hour boat ride before the circling spotter plane above advised us by radio that there was a whale shark looming. This meant a very fast assembling of 2 smaller groups of snorkelers and sitting on the back of the boat for the appropriate moment to jump in and follow this giant fish of the ocean. After a couple of hit and misses with the whale sharks diving out of sight before we could get in, finally everyone had their opportunity. And boy, it was worth it! What a beautiful and majestic creature! Although the experience was short, probably less than a minute, I could not believe what I was seeing. These incredible creatures grow to 18m long and can live up to 100 years. The ones we sighted today were juveniles around 4-5m in length. It was a spectacular sigh to see these gentle giants peacefully cruising along before disappearing into the dark blue depths.

The return journey to the reef was a rolling affair in the boat causing some to lose their stomachs, and turning others off eating lunch. Once back on the lagoon side of the reef and in the calm waters everyone’s spirits lifted. Especially as we were able to spot close up a tiger shark, some playful dolphins, rays and a turtle.

Back on shore after an epic and long day on the water everyone agreed it was a special experience and a great day out away from the bikes.

Today was the day we also said goodbye to cyclists Amanda and Robert who leave us here and say hi to new member Phil who joined us today.

This is short-lived though as preparations begin for stage 3 (and the final stage) of Perth to Broome begins tomorrow – The Pilbara Explorer. There is still around 1700km’s to cycle to reach Broome, with many big days ahead. Time to get ready for the next 6 days cycling in a row.

More photos to come soon....

Richard Cooke