After (more) hundreds of miles on the road, we reached Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. With my bum knee, hiking was out of the question, but eager to do something even remotely active, I figured I could do water sports, like kayaking and snorkeling. So, we pulled into Coral Bay, surprisingly found a parking spot (peak season and the town was packed to overflowing) near the beach, and walked up to the lookout to make out a game plan. We decided to get the kayak out and start at Purdy Point, first kayaking to it, then snorkeling back. However, this turned out to be a bit more than we bargained for.
We got out to the point just fine, but with the wind, we started drifting pretty quickly in the kayak. Since I was in front and sitting under the water skirt, I had Jonathan get in the water first. He chose to get in without his flippers on, planning to put them on in the water. I had gotten both our flippers out, expecting to hand him his right away. Contrary to my silent expectations, though, he began to putt around trying to get a hang of his snorkel (I realized a bit too late that I don’t think he had really ever snorkeled before). Since he was doing his own thing, I decided to try and organize things around me by putting on my goggles (while trying not to lose the paddles or other gear). After I got them on, though, I realized I didn’t have snorkel attached. Removing the goggles, I suddenly noticed that one of Jonathan’s flippers was floating in the water by itself (not on the kayak where I had left it). So I shouted at him to grab it, which he did very quickly. Then I realized that I didn’t have either of my flippers…
We glanced around, but didn’t see them and decided they were sinkers, not floaters. Dismayed, we stated several ideas on how to find them, but ended up with Jonathan towing the kayak against the drift to try and locate them (which, by the way, wasn’t part of any of the suggestions). By this point, we are both frustrated and have no clue if we are even in the general vicinity of the flippers. I tell him that I am fine without the flippers and that we should just go ahead and snorkel. But, since we have drifted so far down the shore already, perhaps we should relocate again. So he hops in the kayak (perpendicular to how one normally rides in a kayak), and we set off. However, the refractive index is playing havoc with our depth perception in the water, and every time we think to get out of the kayak, it seems like the coral is (much) less than 6 feet below us. Disconcerted, frustrated, and a bit angry, we make the call to take a break. Fortunately, it was close to lunch time, so not a complete waste of time.
Buoyed by the break from the water, we decide to try again; this time without the kayak (didn’t want to complicate matters and wanted Jonathan to get some practice before we involved the kayak again). This time we walked to the point and just let our bodies drift with the current. After a while, I tell Jonathan that we should try to swim to about where I was when I realized I didn’t have the flippers anymore. So we head off in the general direction, without much expectations. I had prayed to be reunited with the flippers (they are kinda expensive here). Suddenly, Jonathan yells my name and points. He found the flippers! In that large expanse, we had swam right to them! Divine guidance, anyone? Jonathan rescued them for me (so I wouldn’t have to kick my way down into the depths), and I put them on for the remainder of the snorkeling adventure. But then I wondered why I wanted them back. They are painful! Hopefully my flipper socks, which I have mail-ordered, will fix the issue.
The most of the next day was spent traveling to Exmouth and Cape Range National Park, but we did fit in some sightseeing.
Then, the main attraction, whale sharks! We had a false start or two before we finally got to see one. We had the same 6-7m male for all 5 viewings/swims, but it was still great.
Jonathan and I actually both struggled with motion sickness while we out chasing the humpback whale. The swells were probably around 2 m high, making it a bit rough for us at times. I just did a bit of deep breathing and keeping my head in the wind and eyes out on the horizon to manage it. But on the 2nd swim with the whale shark, Jonathan really started to feel green and skipped out on the last 2 swims and snorkeling. I went in on the 3rd, and started swimming with the whale shark, but suddenly got overwhelmed with nausea and called for the water taxi. After a few minutes, I was fine.
After another snorkel, the trip was done for the day and we were ready to go back and rest at our campsite. The next day, we stopped drove up to a small gorge, but our stay on the Ningaloo coast was done and we started out of the peninsula to the isolated Pilbara region.