Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

NIngaloo BeachIt’s winter across Aus’ and for my international readers… winter does not alway mean cold, but more chill nights and shorter days in so many places in Australia.  The east coast is shivering under a cold front which has moved in… to say it is chill on the east side now is an understatement. But here on the west side, the sunset side of the Aus’ continent, we have our winter warmth. The Man and I are currently camped up above the Tropic of Capricorn and the only thing chill is the wind. When the wind is quiet, the days are perfect, with blue skies, vast horizons and the delightful warm winter sun.

Screen Shot 2014-04-11 at 8.06.03 amWestern Australia, or WA as it is often called in the largest of our national States. It is around 1/3 of the Australian Continent and yet only has the population the size of one of our smaller eastern coast cities, one such as Brisbane. This population is sprinkled across the entire State, though most people live down in the South West corner of WA. There the trees are tall, the hills roll and the beaches are gorgeous which is similar to the East side, or the sunrise side of Aus’. Our winter heat though, generally sits above the Tropic of Capricorn and it’s a welcome warmth to a winter days while the alpine regions of Aus’ shiver in the deep blanket of winter snow further south on the eastern side.

Ningaloo map.pngAt the moment we are enjoying the glorious winter sun at Ningaloo Station, camped in the sand dunes of a 50,000 hectare pastoral lease. Its a sheep and cattle run largely, that also supports goats and kangaroo’s. Western Australia is a world of sand, rich reds, golden yellows and creamy clays. Here, where we are camped on the Station shoreline, the sand is golden. Ningaloo Homestead sits below the World Heritage region of Cape Range National Park and the Station location and climate offers some exceptional experiences for the holiday maker and traveller.

The historical homestead is made of tin and sand, with bricks of limestone propping it up and even the building is now the rusty colours of the earth, dabbled with paint to make its seat on the land notable. Despite its lazy lean into the sand, it is a-typically colonial Australian and I love it. The Station welcomes travellers and holiday makers onto its sandy dunes and plains. They cluster in select areas around the long golden stretches of beach, fenced from the rest of the station in the hope that they won’t interfere with the other industries of the holding. It is well organised, well monitored, and each visitor is allocated a campsite of generous proportions amongst the coastal dunes that border the beach.

Ningaloo homesteadSo why would you take the 25klm track from the Highway tar, in along the sandy and often corrugated track of the Homestead? A track suited only to 4×4. What draws the self contained traveller onto the Homestead to register a campsite in a place where there are no amenities, but strict guidelines to follow as you camp on the coastal stretch of the station with offers access to the largest fringing reef in the world.

Ningaloo campEach of the designated campsites that stretch along the coastline has a feature, be that fishing, walking, boating or snorkelling. Each campsite is regulated, but you are also camped along the dunes in the depth of a wilderness and it is glorious! But be warned, there are no amenities aside from the sun, sea and sheltered reefs, those also as famous in the Ningaloo National Park ocean reserve.

We are camped up at South LeFroy, and as mentioned the campsites are generous. We are tucked in behind the sand dunes and this is the campsite for snorkelers and swimmers. The winter water is warm and the sand beach a soft golden colour. You can sit high on the sand-hills and watch the creatures of the sea weave in and out of the reefs. Dugongs, turtles and reef sharks are alway an attraction within the sheltered reef. A reef that is hugged and sheltered by the long outer reef in the distance, where the waves crash endlessly rolling in from the deeper Indian ocean currents. Beyond the reef the giants of the ocean, the whale sharks and manta rays swim and there is a spot further south where you can join them in their travels, this out from Coral Bay which is another destination.

Ningaloo snorkleMost people snorkelling the reef wait for the low tide to venture out to explore this fascinating fringing reef, a reef a step from the beach which is the longest fringing reef in the world. Here you can step out into a beautiful world from the sandy shoreline, in itself a unique experience. We found a playground of fish, little blue neons glowing brighter than I have ever seen. Sleek fat bream and schools of gar that we swam amongst. Large coral trout swam about in the waters between the coral before our eyes and in the ridges and small dark caves of the beautiful coral bommies, moray eels and often the larger of the shore fish, the gigantors of the reef, sheltered and hid.

dugongYou can fish in these waters, but most choose to swim and snorkel instead. The fish are not only dinner, but guests in your day. Reef sharks are shy, though still dangerous… their long dark shadows draw attention from the shores so you don’t look for the shadow that might follow you… they don’t like noisey things bigger than themselves and a slap in the water will send them scattering back into the reef. Instead you look for the small knot of crowds on the shore watching the dark shadow cross the current of the beach and there you know not to venture for the time. Dugongs on the move, as with turtles are shadows too… that can be seen from the shore. They are often sleek and a silver grey… surfacing and ducking for air as they make their way over the sea grass beds. It is a beautiful world.

beach stretch
It is a world of campers, tents and canvas mostly, families come here and kids play freely in these sheltered waters. There are the off-road caravans too, who make their way up the long stretch of coastal 4×4 tracks carefully. Phone reception is sketchy and there are those that climb into the highest of dunes with their phones in the quiet times, seeking precarious links to the world outside. The campsites are littered with tall antenna and the Aussie flags strung high in the dunes to mark the passage of sand vehicles on the move, down though the camp sites. Dune riding is not allowed, this is a fragile environment and one carefully tended… it is a special place.

We will venture further north soon, but as it is “holiday time” for the school kids we will not be making our way into the beautiful Cape Range National park and the sheltered reefs of the public reserve of Ningaloo … we have had a taste of the Ningaloo reef for the moment and so we will leave it to the crowds of holiday makers… but we will be back… when the season is quieter than it is in the school holiday time. We will return to this sheltered paradise to swim again in its warm waters… Another spot of the promise of tomorrow.

Travel Well

The Politics of Ningaloo Homestead

Seventh heaven for an independent traveler is a place where the world is pristine, a place where the sun seems to shine eternally and where the water is crystal clear, warm and offers not only reprieve from the touch of a hot summer, but also the warm caress of the currents in a brisk sandy wind. This is Ningaloo Station in WA, on the sunset side of our world in Aus’.

NingalooThis was our world in the pre-history of the Australian tribal people, those who predate colonisation. These wild and unique pockets of paradise can be still found up and down the western seaboard in Western Australia. Many of the old colonial land holdings and stations are now able to offer accommodation for the travellers, and many do just this, in a world where Aussies love the independence and self sufficiency demanded of such campers and travellers. These generations of experienced travellers, from families to eternal nomads, help the outback settlements to survive in what are arguably some of the most remote of places on this earth.

Our world has changed from mono-cosims, where towns and settlements were able to sustain themselves largely, to multi-cossims where trade is collective, development remotely dictated, despite whether their influences are for the better or worse. As seen in my last posting where Government bureaucratic decisions made in an effort to control harvest and trade with questionable wheat quota’ that near drove a remote station to ruin, and to the point where Australia now has a Principality, still retains this heavy handed approach of our Governing bureaucracy, that will lead to great losses for Australia.

Such is the case at Ningaloo Station and Homestead, a remote and breathtakingly beautiful place, one still largely undiscovered along the vast Western Australian coastline. This coastal Station and vast holding sits comfortably below the beautiful Cape Range National Park, which also encapsulates the treasured off-shore or fringing reef that is known as Ningaloo. This reef is breathtaking, vast and an outstanding asset to the World Heritage Listings. It is popular with travellers and holidayers, despite its remoteness. Large swathes of the Ningaloo Reef are confidently under the control of the National Parks and World Heritage authorities, but sections are treasured by private Aussies, allowing access not restricted by National Parks. Access that allows you to bring your dog and bring with you private vehicles, horses etc. To many this is a treasured access.

Whale SharkThere are other such places as can compare with the spectacular Ningaloo reef, which is the largest fringing reef in the world running for some 250klm, this is the Great Barrier Reef which we all know and love on the sunrise side of Aus. Our eastern reef, that makes up the 2,500klm that is the stretch of the Great Barrier Reef,  is now under considerable threat from mining, shipping and climate change and our Government bureaucracy is slow to protect our priceless natural assets, wanting to risk their destruction for international profit. This is a profit that provides us with a questionable return at a huge cost to our country, our heritage and our cherished reef as well as its future, and ours.

Ningaloo snorkleNingaloo Reef on the other hand is much more remote, and much less well known even though it is equally as beautiful. On a whole, Western Australia is an enigma to many Aussies. The experience for most of us is largely confined to the SW corner of WA, which is the most familiar with its tall timbers, rolling hills and popular holiday destinations the like of  Perth, and the southern destinations of Margaret River, Dunsborough and Albany and then north to Yanchep or west into the Perth Hills.

When you cross the Topic of Capricorn in WA, where the sun can sit directly overhead, the world takes on a particular character and here it is WA’s own. The lands become flatter, less assessable, the world vast and the distances breathtakingly endless from Derby in the far north WA to Carnarvon in the south.

Five R Lookout

Western Australia is 1/3 of our continent and its lands are some of the oldest still above water on the Earth. Its sands and deserts are those which once lay at the bottom of vast shallow oceans which built much of the mineral wealth exploited in the past decades.

Our Government bureaucracy now turns it attentions to bargaining off WA’s most treasured assets to international control, leasing out our precious water and bargaining away our beautiful World Heritage features. Chinese interests are now bidding for exclusive access to sections of the Ningaloo Reefs. They want the Stations bores, the beaches and the reefs of Ningaloo Station to develop their interests and this is at the expense of all Australians who have treasured these things down through generations. The private lease is up on Ningaloo Station and the Government bodies are bargaining away our lands to international bodies.

Ningaloo campLeasehold land is a tenuous thing on our Australian Shores and it is this arrangement that allows Government to bargain away our treasures. Taking from generations of Aussies who have learnt to value the land and its assets, be they traditional owners, or land managers from a colonial past and it is this tenuous leasehold that has such a devastating impact on our fragile treasures. The bureaucracy that wants to hand over such treasures to international interests, seeing only a temporary gain, there is no permanent and long lasting advantage here for Australians. This is what will deny Aussies access to one our most beautiful regions.

If this proposal was made on the Eastern Coastline, it would be is as though international interests would be offered exclusive control of the Whitsunday region, its lands, its water, its islands and reefs… what the hell are they thinking?

As is seen with the Qld development of the Adani Carmichael mine, which could easily destroy our beautiful Barrier Reef and spiral our farmers into a greater water crisis than they already struggle with, we are witnessing the underside of Government deals. The bureaucracy of the day is splashing around public monies and insane promises betraying our future to prop up what is truly a destructive and failing industry in fossil fuels… it truly brings into question the sanity and integrity of what is a our governing bureaucracy.

Ningaloo snorkleNingaloo is facing one of its greatest challenges and Australians one of their greatest losses if we are to loose access and control of such a large magnificent stretch of our Australian Coastline. Gone would be control of parts of the largest and most pristine of off-shore or fringing reef in the world.

Currently the Ningaloo Station is managed by Australians, who have managed it for generations. The management is protective and commendable, as was seen in the International Court, in a challenge for the resumption of the Station when the Government of the day attempted to gain exclusive control and to bargain this away. The fight goes on and it is hoped that the Western Australian Government will see sense and stop representing those interests that covet our land and natural assets, and start to represent Australians and our interests instead.

Now wouldn’t that be a nice trend.

Travel Well

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One thought on “Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia

  1. Pingback: The Red Pilbara, Karijini NP in WA | Jan Hawkins Author

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