Our Karijini tour makes the press – part one
Great Walks editor Brent McKean experienced our Karijini National Park Walk and Ningaloo Reef pack-free guided walk. Here is part one of his story.
“Go, go, go!”
It was the three words we were waiting for. As soon as the person in front of me jumped in the choppy waters of Ningaloo Reef from the boat, I followed, quickly swimming in line with the others. Through my facemask I began scouring the ocean looking for the great fish I had come all this way to swim with.
That voice again. I followed the guide’s direction and suddenly out of the blue, maybe four metres from me and only a metre below the water’s surface the massive whale shark silently glided past.
“You have to swim if you want to keep up with it.”
Another instruction we had been given during an earlier briefing on the boat. Whale sharks don’t stop so you have to swim with them, but no closer than two metres and no duckdiving as this can startle them, then they’ll dive deep and that will be that. Quickly catching up with the whale shark, I stared in awe at the sheer size (5-6 metres!) and magnificence of this marine creature. I had to remember to breathe through the snorkel, stay calm and appreciate this very special moment. I swam with this one for a good 10 minutes and we saw three whale sharks that day, plus we had a few reef dives to spot reef sharks, turtles, a hundred other types of fish plus colourful, living coral. What a day!
Swimming with whale sharks might not sound like something you’d do on a walking holiday but Life’s An Adventure’s 7-day Karijini National Park and Ningaloo Reef pack-free guided walk is no ordinary walking holiday. It’s a full immersive experience. From the spectacular red gorges and spinifex rangelands of the Pilbara through to the vibrant, turquoise waters and rich reefs of the Indian Ocean, this tour takes in some of the most remarkable scenery in Western Australia. For us the tour started off in the ocean then headed north (some tours start in Karijini NP then head south).
I’d met my two Life’s Adventure guides Glen and Janaya and the other guests the previous afternoon in Exmouth. We had drinks at Vlamingh Lighthouse watching the sun drop over the World Heritage-listed reef, one of the largest, most reliable and best-managed whale shark aggregations in the world. An estimated 300-500 whale sharks make their way to Ningaloo annually between March and August. We were at the end of the season and there were still whale sharks around, but like anything in life nothing is guaranteed.
The day after our memorable whale shark encounter the offroad tour bus was waiting for us outside our accommodation. Exmouth Escape offers large comfy rooms, a pool and the main restaurant is excellent. We ate dinner there twice and the bucket of local tiger prawns I ordered could have fed a family. Challenge accepted!
Next stop was Cape Range National Park for the 8km Badjirrajirra Walk through ancient limestone gorges. Now if you didn’t know what you were looking at you’d enjoy the views but probably not appreciate the dramatic events millions of years ago that created the very tracks you walk on. Fortunately, we had Glen who knew all about the fascinating geology of this part of WA and gave us bite-sized bits of information every day.
After that lovely walk and a tasty lunch we were back on the bus for a couple of hours driving to Cheela Plains Station, part working cattle station, part outback accommodation. From the top of Cheela Plains’ Sunset Lookout a big sinking sun put on a show and we toasted another great day coming to an end.
Read part two of Brent’s story here.
Words and photos_Brent McKean